Gódávari/Chapter 12

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CHAPTER XII.

SALT, ABKARI AND MISCELLANEOUS REVENUE.


Salt— The systems of administration - Methods of manufacture — Markets — Salt for Yanam — Fish-curing yards — Contraband sail-earth. ABKARI AND OPIUM —Arrack —Arrack in the Agency — Toddy- Toddy in the Agency — Foreign liquor — Opium and hemp-drugs — In the Agency. CUSTOMS — Land-customs — Sea-customs. Income-tax. Stamps.

Three systems of administering the Government salt monopoly are in force in the Gódávari district; namely, the excise system, the monopoly system and the modified excise system.

Under the first of these, which is in force in the factory at Jagannáthapuram (Jagannaikpur) and the major part of that at Penugudúru (these are the only two factories in the district), the salt is manufactured by licensees who are allowed, subject to certain restrictions, to make any quantity they choose, and dispose of it how and when they like, after they have paid to Government the excise duty on it, plus a small cess per maund to cover interest on the capital cost of permanent works connected with storage and manufacture which have been carried out by Government. This system was introduced into the district in 1885-86. It has two drawbacks; namely, that the quantity manufactured by the licensees may be inadequate to the demand, and that by manipulating the market the licensees (or outside capitalists) may unduly raise the price of salt. The former of these disadvantages is met by the provision of penalties for neglect to manufacture, and the latter by the retention of a part of the Penugudúru factory under the old monopoly system, the second of the two systems above referred to.

Under this, the pans are worked by license-holders who are required to hand over all the salt they make to Government, and are paid for it a stated rate per garce called the kudiváram ('cultivator's share') which is calculated to cover all expenses of manufacture and leave the license-holder a reasonable profit.

Of late years the third of the above systems, the modified excise system, has been introduced in an extension of the Penugudúru factory- Under this, the Board of Revenue announce, before the manufacturing season begins, what quantity (if any) Government is prepared to buy, and the licensees are bound to make and deliver this quantity. Having done so, they are allowed to manufacture on their own account in the same manner as under the excise system.

The figures in the margin show the extent in the two factories which is worked under each of these three systems. The Jagannáthapuram factory is within Cocanada municipality and that at Penugudúru is near that town. In both of them, the salt is made by the ordinary methods. The pans are supplied with brine from channels connecting with the sea or tidal creeks, and not from brinepits- At Jagannáthapuram a steam pump is used for lifting the brine, and, at Penugudúru, picottahs. The soil at Penugudúru is nearly all of a clayey description, and is sandy in only a very few parts. The result is that the salt made there is dark in colour and rather dirty. That made at Jagannáthapuram is also darker than usual. In both places, however, the quality is good and the salt has the commercial advantage of being rather light, which, since salt is bought wholesale at the factories by weight and retailed in the bazaars by measure, renders it popular with the dealers. The Jagannáthapuram factory used to be worked entirely by the Oriental Salt Company, Limited, which endeavoured, by the use of certain patent processes, to purify the local product so as to enable it to compete in the Calcutta market with 'Liverpool' salt. The attempt failed and the company was voluntarily wound up at the end of 1904. The factory is now worked, under a lease running for 20 years from January 1889, by Messrs. Hall, Wilson & Co., who have been recognized as receivers on behalf of the debenture-holders in the company.

Acres. Cents.
Jagannathapuram, excise 127 8
Penuguduru, excise 669 87
Do. , monopoly 77 8
Do. , modified excise. 88 18

The salt made in the two factories is largely consumed within the district itself. Out of 780,000 maunds of salt manufactured there in 1905-06, nearly half was consumed within it. The balance was sent to Vizagapatam, Kistna, the Central Provinces and Orissa. The exports by sea used formerly to include large quantities sent to Rangoon; but in recent years cheap salt, mostly from Germany, has reached that town and reduced prices to a stage which leaves no profit on this trade. When the stock of Bombay salt is short, salt is sometimes exported from Cocanada to Calcutta, In 1903-04 about 126,000 maunds were sent there; but this figure is quite exceptional, and the exports by sea rarely exceed 50,000 maunds in all.

The supply of salt to the French Settlement of Yanam is governed by the rules which apply to the other French Settlements in this Presidency. Under a treaty of 1815 between France and England, modified by two subsequent conventions entered into in 1818 and 1837 between the Governments of Madras and the French Possessions,1[1] it was agreed that the French, in consideration of an annual payment, should undertake to manufacture no salt in their territories, that the Madras Government should supply them with such salt as they required 'for domestic use and consumption' at cost price, and that they should retail this 'at nearly the same price' as it fetches in adjoining British territory.

In Gódávari, as elsewhere, fish-curing yards have been established in which salt is sold at a little over cost price for use in the curing of fish caught in the sea. There are four of these; namely, at Coringa, Gudarugunta (near Cocanada), Uppada (near Pithápuram) and Konappapéta, further north up the coast. At least three-quarters of the fish cured are small. The larger kinds chiefly include mango fish, sharks and skates. The demand for salted fish is great and exceeds the supply, though the method of curing is primitive if not inadequate. Prices, however, are kept down by the merchants, who make the fishermen advances and so have them in their power.

Salt-earth is at present declared to be contraband only in the Pithápuram and Tuni divisions, certain villages in the Tótapalli zamindari in Peddápuram taluk, the Cocanada and Nagaram taluks, and the Amalápuram taluk less the division under the deputy tahsildar of Kottapéta. Elsewhere the saline soils are neither plentiful enough nor rich enough in salt to constitute a danger to the revenue. The Salt Act is not in force in the Agency, but no saline earths exist there and the supply of salt is all obtained from the low country.

No saltpetre is made in the district, either crude or refined.

The abkári revenue consists of that derived from arrack, toddy, foreign liquor and hemp-drugs. Statistics regarding each of these items, and also concerning opium, will be found in the separate Appendix.

The arrack revenue is managed on what is known as the contract distillery supply system, under which the contract for the exclusive privilege of the manufacture and supply of country spirit in the district is disposed of by tender, an excise duty is levied on the spirit issued from the contractor's distillery or warehouse, and the right of retail sale in licensed shops is sold separately by auction every year. Wholesale vend dépôts are opened by the contractor at places fixed by the Collector, and the number of retail shops is definitely limited. The rates at which the spirit should be sold to the retail vendors are fixed by Government and embodied in the terms of the contract. The contract is held at present by Messrs. Parry & Co., Managers of the Deccan Sugar and Abkári Co.'s distillery at Samalkot,1[2] who make the spirit at that distillery from molasses.

The consumption of arrack in Gódávari, when compared with that in other districts in which the still-head duty is the same (Rs. 4-6 per gallon of proof spirit), is moderate. In 1903-04 the average incidence of the arrack revenue per head of population in the district as formerly constituted was as. 2-7 against as. 3-11 in the then Kistna district, as. 2-1 in Nellore, and 3 annas in the Presidency as a whole.

Up to 1900 the arrack consumed in the district was made from toddy and on the out-still system. The change to the spirit made from molasses in the distillery, which was dearer than the other and had a less popular flavour, caused a fall in the consumption and revenue (which however was more than counterbalanced by a rise in the revenue from toddy) and also offered a strong temptation to illicit distillation. The consumption of the molasses arrack, however, is now steadily increasing, and it would seem that the vigilance of the protective staff of the Salt and Abkári department has resulted in the transition from the one system to the other being safely tided over.

In the Agency, the arrack revenue is differently administered. Three systems are in force; namely, the ordinary excise system, the nominal fee system, and the out-still and shop system.

The Abkári Act I of 1886 has been extended to 47 villages in Yellavaram, Chódavaram and Pólavaram — chiefly the more civilized villages near the plains — and the excise system has been introduced into 30 of these — two in Yellavaram, four in Chódavaram and 24 in Pólavaram.

In the rest of the Agency only the old Abkári Act (III of 1864) is in operation, and the abkári administration is in the hands of the Revenue officials. Outside Chódavaram, the second of the two systems above mentioned is in force in the Kóya and Reddi villages, the inhabitants of which are allowed to make arrack for their own consumption on payment of a nominal fee of two annas a head per annum for every male over fourteen years of age. The rules require that the village headman should take out the license and make and supply arrack to the Kóya and Reddi residents, but in practice no actual license is granted. In Chódavaram little abkári revenue is derived from the muttas, since a toddy tax (chigunipannu) is supposed to be included in the quit-rent levied from the muttadars; but the out-still system is in force in some of the muttas.

In all parts of the Agency in which neither of the aforementioned systems is in force, the arrack revenue is managed on the out-still system, whereby the right both to make and to sell arrack in licensed premises is sold annually by auction.

In Bhadráchalam the arrack is distilled from the flowers of the ippa (Bassia latifolia) tree, but elsewhere in the Agency from toddy.

In the plains, the toddy revenue is now managed on the usual tree-tax system, under which a tax is levied on every tree tapped and the right to open retail shops is sold every year to the highest bidder. The toddy is nearly all drawn from date and palmyra palms, the number of each of these which is tapped being about equal. Date toddy is used from October to the end of January and from July to September, when palmyra toddy is scarce. The toddy-drawers are generally of the Idiga and Gamalla castes.

A fair number of trees are tapped for sweet juice in the delta taluks, since the demand for jaggery at the Samalkot distillery and sugar factory is very large. Many more are tapped in the western delta lately transferred to the Kistna district. Licenses have to be taken out for tapping for sweet juice. The low price of jaggery formerly retarded the industry; but recently (probably owing to the effect of the countervailing duties on sugar) the price has risen from Rs. 14 per candy of 500 lb. to Rs. 21 or Rs. 22, and this may result in an extension of sweet-juice tapping. The tappers, however, are very usually in debt to capitalists from whom they have received advances, and are perhaps not likely to benefit much themselves.

In the Agency, the tree-tax system is in force in the 30 villages already mentioned where the excise system of arrack administration has been introduced, but elsewhere no separate revenue is derived from toddy. Toddy is drawn by the hill people from date, palmyra and sago (Caryota urens) palm trees.

Six taverns have been opened in Rajahmundry and Cocanada for the sale of foreign liquor to be consumed on the premises. The right to sell in them is disposed of annually by auction. In the Agency, a few shops have been opened on payment of fixed fees.

The sale of opium, preparations of the hemp plant and poppy-heads is controlled under the system usual elsewhere. Supplies are obtained from the Government storehouses. There is an opium storehouse at Rajahmundry, the only one in the Presidency outside Madras. Licenses for wholesale vend dépôts are issued by the Collector on payment of a fee of Rs. 15 per annum, and retail shops are sold annually by auction. The retail price of opium is fixed by Government at 2¼ tolas for a rupee.

The amount of opium consumed is very large. In the old Gódávari district the average consumption per head of the population in 1903-04 was .619 tola against .o82 tola in the Presidency as a whole, and the incidence of the revenue was 2 as. 2 ps. per head against 4 ps. for the whole Presidency. It has been suggested that smuggling to Burma (most difficult to prevent) is responsible for much of this abnormal consumption. Parcels of opium sent by post from this district were seized in Rangoon in 1902-03 and previous years, and the many emigrants who goto Rangoon from Cocanada are believed to smuggle the drug with them. The Rangoon authorities have been particularly on the alert recently. Another explanation is that opium is used in the district as a prophylactic against malaria; but against this is the fact that the drug is not consumed more largely in the malarious than in the healthy taluks.

The consumption of hemp-drugs per head of the population is smaller in Gódávari than usual. In 1903-04 the incidence of revenue in the old Gódávari district per head per annum was one pie against two pies in the Presidency as a whole.

In the Agency, the villages to which Act I of 1886 has been applied are supplied with ganja from two shops in Pólavaram which get their stock from the plains. Elsewhere there are no restrictions on the cultivation of ganja; but as a fact it is little grown or consumed. There are a few opium shops. They are supplied from Rajahmundry and are managed in the ordinary manner, but by the Revenue department instead of by the abkári authorities.

Under native rule, and even in the early years of British administration, land-customs were levied at frequent stations along the main lines of communication, and had the most baneful effects upon trade. In their report of 1787, the Circuit Committee 1[3] wrote:—

'Numerous chowkis are placed on all the roads, where, besides the zamindars' dues, many russooms are exacted, which is the cause of much vexation and inconvenience to the trader. The enormous duties exacted on teak deserve particular notice. From Pólavaram to Yanam they amount to 200 per cent. That carried by the Narasapur branch pays 250 per cent, at nine places. Hence teak timber is frequently brought from Pegu at a cheaper rate than can be afforded by the merchants who trade in this article to Rékapalle,' The only land-customs now collected are those on goods passing into the district from the French Settlement of Yanam. These are levied at two stations (chowkis) established at Nilapalli and Injaram, on the east and west frontiers of the Yanam Settlement. The tariff of rates in force is the same as that for sea-borne imports from foreign countries. The only articles which are ever charged an export duty in this Presidency are paddy and rice; and by an arrangement entered into many years ago the export of these to Yanam, in quantities sufficient for the consumption of its inhabitants, is permitted free of duty.

There is only one considerable port in the district, that of Cocanada, and there a regular sea-customs etablishment is maintained. Coringa is also open to foreign trade, but the business done is very small. The sea-customs work is supervised by the ordinary establishment of the Salt, Abkári and Customs department. The small sub-ports of Uppáda and Bendamúrlanka are open only to coasting trade.

The Income-tax Act does not apply to the Agency tracts. Figures for the rest of the district will be found in the separate Appendix to this volume. The incidence of the tax per head of the population in the present district in the triennium ending 1904-05 was as high as one anna six pies, against 10½ pies in the mufassal districts as a whole. Madura and the exceptional case of the Nilgiris were the only areas in which the figure was higher. Of the various taluks, the incidence was highest in Tuni, Cocanada and Rajahmundry, and lowest in Pithápuram and Rámachandrapuram. The great wealth of the delta taluks comes from agricultural pursuits, the income from which is not liable to tax, and the incidence in several of these is low.

The revenue from stamps is very large in proportion to the population, the receipts per mille of the inhabitants from judicial stamps being higher in only two other districts and those from non-judicial stamps in only four others. Of the total stamp revenue, by far the largest amount is paid by the Cocanada and Rajahmundry taluks, owing no doubt to the existence of the Judge's and Sub-Judge's courts at their head-quarters. Considerable contributions are also made by Amalápuram and Peddápuram, and, to a less extent, by Rámachandrapuram. In the Agency, the revenue from stamps is exceedingly small, especially in Yellavaram and Chódavaram. The Collector (and, during his absence from head-quarters, the Treasury Deputy Collector) have been empowered to affix impressed labels to documents presented by the public.

  1. 1 The first two of these papers are printed in extenso in Aitchison's Treaties, etc. (1892), viii, 214-22.
  2. 1 See Chapter VI, p. iii.
  3. 1 See Chapter XI, p. 162.