Page:EB1911 - Volume 14.djvu/415

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company. The value of the rubies found has increased rapidly, and the company, which was for some time worked unprofitably under the lease granted in 1896, has now, with the aid of favourable treatment from the government, become more prosperous. Pearls are found off the southern coast of Madras and also in the Mergui archipelago.


The trade of India with foreign countries is conducted partly by sea and partly across the land frontiers; but the frontier trade, though capable of much extension, is only a small fraction of the whole. The sea-borne trade is carried on chiefly through the four great ports of Calcutta, Bombay, Karachi, and Rangoon, of which Calcutta serves the fertile valley of the Ganges and Brahmaputra, Bombay serves the cotton-trade of western India, Karachi exports the wheat crop of the Punjab, and Rangoon the rice crop of Burma. Madras, which has been supplied with an artificial harbour, serves southern India, and Chittagong is rising into prominence as the point of departure for the tea and jute of eastern Bengal and Assam. The land trade is carried on with Persia, Afghanistan, Nepal, Tibet and western China. The new caravan route to Persia from Quetta by way of the Nushki railway offers facilities to traders, of which increasing advantage has been taken, but the trade is still small. Afghanistan under Abdur Rahman imposed prohibitive imposts upon trade, and the present amir followed his father’s policy, but his visit to India in 1907 may result in improved relations. The trade with the tribes lying north of the Malakand Pass has improved considerably since the frontier war of 1897-98, but they are a poor community. Nepal takes the largest share of the frontier trade. The trade with Tibet has slightly improved since the treaty of Lhasa of 1904, but it still amounts to only £90,000 annually. The trade with western China is about half a million annually, and shows signs of development.

A review of Indian trade by the director-general of the statistical department in India is annually presented to parliament, and therefore it is only necessary here to mention the main channels that it has taken of recent years. The chief exports are Exports. raw cotton, cotton goods and yarn, rice, wheat, oil-seeds, raw jute and jute-manufactures, hides and skins, tea, opium and lac. In 1905-1906 there was great activity in both the cotton and jute industries. In Bombay new cotton mills were erected, and old ones extended, high-speed machinery was widely introduced, and 12,000 new looms were set up. Similarly the jute trade far surpassed all records. The crop was a record one, but the demand far exceeded the supply, the cultivators reaped profits of eight millions more than the previous year, and 2000 new looms were set up in Calcutta. The tea outlook was good, and the coffee industry was recovering from the effects of plant disease and Brazilian competition. But both the indigo and opium trades are declining industries, which mean a serious loss to the Indian exchequer. Indigo fell to about one-tenth of its value in the previous decade; and an agreement was come to with China in 1907, by which the area under opium is to be gradually reduced. The total exports for 1905-1906 were valued at £112,000,000.

The chief articles of import are cotton goods, cotton yarn, metals, sugar, mineral oils, machinery and mill-work, woollen manufactures, provisions, hardware and cutlery, silk, liquors, apparel, railway material and chemicals. Cotton manufactures Imports. and yarns are imported almost exclusively from the United Kingdom, and amount to about 40% of the total trade. Metals, including hardware and cutlery, railway material, &c., supply about a fifth. The only other important article of import is sugar, which came to about 5 millions in 1905-1906. The balance of trade is always against India, because she is a debtor country, and has to pay interest on borrowed capital, and the “home charges” for the upkeep of the civil and military services and of the secretary of state’s establishment in London. The total imports for 1905-1906 were valued at 82½ millions sterling, including 14 millions of gold and silver, which are continually hoarded by the people of India.

Broadly speaking, the greater part of the internal trade remains in the hands of the natives. Europeans control the shipping business and have a share in the collection of some of the more valuable staples of exports, such as cotton, jute, oil-seeds Trading classes. and wheat. But the work of distribution and the adaptation of the supply to the demand of the consumer naturally fall to those who are best acquainted with native wants. The Vaisya, or trading caste of Manu, has no longer any separate existence; but its place is occupied by several well-marked classes. On the western coast the Parsees, by the boldness and extent of their operations, tread close upon the heels of the most prosperous English houses. In the interior of the Bombay presidency, business is mainly divided between two classes, the Bunniahs of Gujarat and the Marwaris from Rajputana. Each of these profess a peculiar form of religion, the former being Vishnuvites of the Vallabhacharí sect, the latter Jains. In the Deccan their place is taken by Lingayats from the south, who again follow their own form of Hinduism, which is an heretical species of Siva worship. Throughout Mysore, and in the north of Madras, Lingayats are still found, but along the eastern sea-board the predominating classes of traders are those named Chetties and Komatis. In Bengal many of the upper castes of Sudras have devoted themselves to general trade; but there again the Jain Marwaris from Rajputana occupy the front rank. Their headquarters are in Murshidabad district, and their agents are to be found throughout the valley of the Brahmaputra, as far up as the unexplored frontier of China.

Local trade is conducted either at the permanent bazaars of great towns, at weekly markets held in certain villages, at annual gatherings primarily held for religious purposes, or by means of travelling brokers and agents. The cultivator himself, Local trade. who is the chief producer and also the chief customer, knows little of the great towns, and expects the dealer to come to his own door. Each village has at least one resident trader, who usually combines in his own person the functions of money-lender, grain dealer and cloth seller. The simple system of rural economy is entirely based upon the dealings of this man, whom it is the fashion sometimes to decry as a usurer, but who is really the one thrifty person among an improvident population. Abolish the money-lender, and the general body of cultivators would have nothing to depend upon but the harvest of a single year. The money-lender deals chiefly in grain and in specie. In those districts where the staples of export are largely grown, the cultivators commonly sell their crops to travelling brokers, who re-sell to larger dealers, and so on until the commodities reach the hands of the agents of the great shipping houses. The wholesale trade thus rests ultimately with a comparatively small number of persons, who have agencies, or rather corresponding firms, at the great central marts. Buying and selling in their aspects most characteristic of India are to be seen, not at these great towns, nor even at the weekly markets, but at the fairs which are held periodically at certain spots in most districts. Religion is always the original pretext of these gatherings or melás, at some of which nothing is done beyond bathing in the river, or performing various superstitious ceremonies. But in the majority of cases religion has become a mere excuse for secular business. Crowds of petty traders attend, bringing all those miscellaneous articles that can be packed into a pedlar’s wallet; and the neighbouring villagers look forward to the occasion to satisfy alike their curiosity and their household wants.

The control of the revenues of India is vested by act of parliament in the secretary of state for India in council. Subject to his control the government of India enjoys a certain discretionary power, but no new expenditure may be incurred without Finance. his sanction. There is a special member for finance in the governor-general’s council, and all important matters are brought before the council. The central government keeps in its own hands certain revenues, such as salt, the post-office, telegraphs, railways, army and Indian Marine, in addition to the districts of Coorg, Ajmere and the North-West Frontier province. The other provinces raise and administer their own revenues, subject to the central control; they are allowed a certain proportion of the revenue to meet their own administrative charges, and so have an interest in economical expenditure. The apportionment of the revenues is settled afresh every five years. In 1893 the Indian mints were closed to the free coinage of silver, and in 1899 the British sovereign was made legal tender at the rate of 1s. 4d. per rupee; so that since that year the finances of India have been practically upon a gold basis. The principal heads of revenue are land, opium, salt, stamps, excise, customs, assessed taxes, forests, registration and tributes from native states; and the chief heads of expenditure are charges of collection, interest, post-office, telegraph and mint, civil departments, famine relief and insurance, railways, irrigation, other public works and army. The point most frequently criticized in the finances of India is the “home charges” which amount on an average to about 18½ millions a year. Of this total about 9½ millions are for interest on railways and other public works, 5 millions for pensions and furlough pay for civil and military officers, 2½ millions for stores and 1½ millions miscellaneous. These charges constitute the home expenditure on revenue account, but there are also other remittances from India on capital account which bring up the total disbursements in England to an annual average of about 21¼ millions.

Public Works.

Public works in India fall under three categories—railways, irrigation, and roads and buildings. The railways are managed in various ways, the other two classes of works are carried out through the agency of separate departments in Madras and Bombay, and of officers of the government of India public works department, either under local or central control, in other provinces.