IN DEFENCE OF INDIA
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
[Correspondents are requested to keep their letters as brief as is reasonably possible. The most suitable length is that of one of our " News of the Week" paragraphs. Signed letters are given a preference over those bearing a pseudonym, and the latter must be accompaniid by the name and address of the author, which will be treatedas canfidential.—Ed. THE SPE:TA:in-2.j [To the Editor of THE SPECTATOR.] Sin,—The letter you published under the abOve heading in your issue Of June 12th from A. Macnair is vague, confusing, and most unfortunate. The latter, because it is liable to be read by Indians and interpreted by them as proof that all India's troubles are due to what Mr. Gandhi is said to have called " the Satanic British Government." Is Mr. Macnair also of this opinion, as his letter would appear to imply ? He says that in his travels out here he saw everywhere " poverty,- malnutrition, and disease," and appears to think that Swaraj would, in some miraculous way, be an immediate cure.
He would see much the same in the slums of London and other large cities at home. But this by the way. Does he imagine that these are due to the fact that British rule is existent ? Does he think that such conditions never prevailed before we entered India ? Is he quite blind to the immense improvements effected in former conditions ? In what way does he imagine that Swaraj is going to rectify these unhappy. conditions, which were a hundredfold worse before British ride prevailed ? How does he imagine that our absence would confer wealth, plentiful and wholesome food all round, and vigorous health ? If " Mother India is on the rack " now, it must be a comfortable and downy couch compared to what it was in the past !
Admitting that the Government is not perfect, as none is,
the benefits of British rule have been incalculable. It is not so simple a matter as Mr. Macnair appears to think to ensure perfect happiness, health, and comfort to each one of con- siderably over 850 million human beings. As regards poverty, such must always exist amongst certain members of every large community, yet here there has been vast improvement. Much of the poverty of the lower classes here is due to the rapacity of their own wealthier kind, who graciously advance loans under unheard-of rates of interest, ensuring permanent poverty to their creditors. The " Satanic British Govern! ment " is trying to improve this by Co-operative Banks, which lend at fair rates. Anyone can now display his wealth without the expectation of being imprisoned and " squeezed," as was common under Indian rule. The immense irrigation works all over India have brought wealth and affluence to thousands who would have been hard put to live before, and brought thousands of sores of former desert under cultivation.
The mass famines of almost annual recurrence in the past are unknown now, thanks to the prompt measures always taken by the " Satanic British Government" to ensure supplies of food being available. Much is being done, to instruct the masses in the art of proper nutrition, a science even now quite unknown to thousands in England, and certainly never taught under Indian rule out here, unless, PoSsibly, in some remote and unknown past. As regards disease, the improved conditions are almost past belief. Here again, almost annually, immense outbreaks of cholera, carrying off hundreds of thousands, if not millions, let alone outbreaks of plague, onallpox, dysentery, _malaria, &c., have been largely con- trolled, all through the activities of that same benign Govern- ment, which has established innumerable hospitals with free treatment, taught : medicine, hygiene, improvements in agriculture, trades, introduced railways, made roads and canals, abolished suttee, the West Coast piracies, thuggee, and many other evils against which no slightest effort was ever made in the past. From where I am sitting can be seen, just round the corner, the remains of a fort overlooking a precipice, over which Tippoo, " The Tiger of Mysore," used to hurl his victims at his whim. _ Fancy if the benign British Government did such things 1 Well, why was no effort made before to control the above- mentioned evils ? Partly at least because India is not, as so many people persist in imagining (just becauke we haVe painted it one uniform red on the map), one
country. Even Indians err thus. Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru is reported, only last week, as having stated in a -speech, that India is one and indivisible." That's 'lust *hat it
is not ! It is, like Europe, a conglomeration of numerous different nations and peoples and tribes, some bitterly hostile to each other, of different languages, customs . and religions. Such oneness and indivisibility as may exist are due -solely to the efforts and pacifying administration of the Benign British Government, and, even so, communal riots, chiefly between Hindoos and Mahomedans, are of almost daily occurrence. One thing, alone, will show the improved rate
of conditions in. the Indian Peninsula, viz., the now constant. increase in population, some ten.millions or more at each census., If Mr. Macnair has any panacea for the -still further good* the country he should let it be widely known. In the meanl.
time the shopkeepers, servant class, and underlings of all kinds; who form no inconsiderable proportion of the community_ (omitting the large class of agriculturists pure and simple), are anticipating with fear and trembling the downfall of the British Raj, and make no secret of it, in fear of what their.
fate would be under the rule of their own kind. As regards the agricultural community, they were, till quite recent years, perfectly happy, satisfied and content, and most loyal and well-disposed towards the Sirkar. The wholesale spread of sedition, and the poisoning of their minds by lying propa- ganda has, unhappily, made many of them, entertain different feelings.
The unfortunate thing is that little is done to counteract or contradict these statements. Why doesn't Government do a little propaganda of its own ?—I am, Sir, yours faithfully, .