27 OCTOBER 1866, Page 14


EDITOR OF THE " SPECTATOR."] SIR,—The following extract from a letter I have just received from a near relative, a landholder in Malabar, should be of interest to some of your readers, as showing what may be done in India by individual energy to stave off the horrors of such a famine as that which that country has had lately to endure.—Your " Now to explain, and I hope in a measure to excuse, my long and unusual silence. Up to the 10th June, the whole country continued to suffer from an absolute want of water for drinking purposes. Animals were dying in hundreds. That evening and night the rains set in.. . In four days the thermometer fell from 88° and 90° to 76° and 74° . . . . This state lasted until the 21st June, when suddenly, in the space of 24 hours, the price of paddy rose to 16Ors. per mil seers, from 8Ors., the price it was when the rains set in. It was clear from such a rise as this that there was no store of paddy in the country, and that the direst famine was close upon us. For even 8Ors. was not an ordinary, but a high scarcity price, at which many of the labouring class must forego their meal of Flee, and take to a meal of leaves and roots. As the coast was closed to ships [by the monsoon] and the inland roads barred to carts [by the rains], relief from any quarter was hopeless for at least three months, until the earliest crop of paddy, the 90 days' crop, already retarded a month by the late drought, should be ripe and fit to cut. During those three months it was clear that, if the people around me were to be kept alive, it must be by my opening my paddy stores, and doling out their contents among them, spreading those contents over all the interposing time, until the seasons should bring the relief of the first crop. This I proceeded to do.on that day, the 21st June, and con- tinued till the 3rd September. I sold daily a certain quantity of paddy to every applicant who brought a quarter of a rupee or half a rupee, to no one more. The immediate effect of this step was that the price of paddy fell at the local grain marts from 16Ors., first to I 45rs., then to 133rs. and 125rs., and never rose higher. When the 90 days' crop came in, the price fell to 11Ors. and 115rs., the present price. Then I ceased selling, and left the bazaar prices to the undisturbed influence of demand and supply. This steady course, together with giving employment at full wages to every man, woman, and child of my own labourers, between 300 and 400 in number, has kept actual famine from our doors. Not a human being in these [5] ams- hunes [i. e., parishes] has died of hunger, while scores, I have strong reason to believe, have died in the neighbouring ones. And although everything whatsoever edible in the shape of fruit or vegetables, ripe or unripe, exposed to depredation has been pilfered, not an approach to robbery of food by violence in any one ease has been brought before me, whether attempted by one individual or by several. The accused brought before me have all been solitary offenders, caught in the sot, with whatever they had purloined in their possession, and who, so far from denying their offence, were the first to confess it, to plead dire want, and to implore mercy. Daring the whole of this trying time, nothing in the shape of crime has been committed here. I have not had a peon e., policeman] disposable. My old and trusty one, whom every one knows, and who has only to lift his finger to be obeyed, has been confined the whole time with fever. It is the people who have kept the peace. At the outset I called together the Nyrs [i. 5., the highest caste among the Hindoos] and Mapillas [i. e., Mussulmans], told them we had a three months' famine before us, and besought their help in preserving order, watching offenders, and keeping the peace. This is their answer to my appeal B—, the collector, was lately mobbed, I hear, in his very capital town, Calient, while Tellicherry, the next town, was left one whole day last week without any rice for sale in

the bazaar The officers at Cannanore raised a famine fund, bought rice, had it made into conjee, and distributed it in the shape of one meal a day to crowds of starving poor. So was peace preserved in the cantonment and large adjoining native town. Savo a hasty week passed at Tellicherry in the beginning of May, I have not stirred a foot from hence since April last. Daring the whole of that time, I have been witnessing, first, all the horrors of an eight months' unparalleled drought upon every form of animal and vegetable life ; following that, and until the beginning of September, all the horrors of a famine, the like to which the country has never known before. When, a century ago, Tippoo, at the head of a large army, invaded Malabar in profound peace, cut down and burnt the grain crops and fruit tree; put to death the male inhabitants he captured, and forcibly deported to Seringapatam 80,000 more of both sexes and all ages, the native staff of life, paddy, reached the then unheard-of price of 10Ors. per mil seers. The next time paddy reached that price was last year, 1865. In June this year, 1866, it sold for 16Ors.! Observe that I have bought the same quantity for 16rs. Commonly, and for years together, I have bought it at 2Ors., 25rs., and 3Ors., the price at which I left it in 1838, when I went to England. When I returned from England in 1856, I found the price had risen to 4Ors. and 45rs., this last price, 45rs. per mil seers, being the fixed com- mutation-rate at which the Madras Government, ever since the year 1800, has been receiving its land-tax."