« PredošláPokračovať »
is most concerned, for it will have to submit to Parliament the measures necessary to give the federation effect.
But in fact the decision of the question rests with the colonies themselves. It is scarcely conceivable that they will propose anything that the Imperial Government cannot accept, and it would be signally impolitic for English Ministers to assert a right of interference. But it would be widely different to making such a claim if the colonies concerned asked Mr. Chamberlain to assist and preside over a conference to smooth away any obstacles that presented themselves. Local differences, though they may appear to possess little importance, are exceedingly difficult of adjustment. More especially is this the case when a conference is presided over by a representative interested in one of the phases of the difficulty. The Secretary of State for the Colonies would be free of any local bias, and would be in a position to offer valuable suggestions.
If we recollect rightly, Lord Carnarvon when he occupied the position now held by Mr. Chamberlain materially aided the Federation of Canada, by presiding over a conference of delegates from the several provinces. When the Doniinion was finally established, the assistance Lord Carnarvon had rendered was acknowledged with hearty gratitude. Another instance may be mentioned: Admiral Tryon succeeded in bringing the Australasian colonies separately to a favourable feeling towards a united contribution to the cost of defence. But a wide difference of opinion existed as to how the scheme could be worked. With admirable patience and tact Lord Knutsford, then Secretary of State, at several conference meetings with the colonial representatives, succeeded in smoothing over all difficulties, and a scheme was decided on for submission to the colonies separately, which they subsequently approved.
There is little doubt but that, if Mr. Chamberlain's aid is enlisted, he will be able to materially help in surmounting any obstacles that stand in the way of Australian Federation. The uncertainty that hangs round this question impedes the definite consideration of more intimate relations between the different parts of the Empire both as regards federation and common defence.
The second work of the same character to which we have alluded is on a smaller scale, though of great importance. The Federation of the British American Colonies is incomplete whilst Newfoundland remains outside the combination. Negotiations have for some time past proceeded between Canada and Newfoundland, and both parties seem to be favourable to a union. But it is understood that some difficulty remains to be overcome. This is a task which no one could better perform than Mr. Chamberlain. The completed Federation of the British North American Colonies would be a splendid conclusion to the great work that has already been done.
Some of the Premiers, it is said, find it difficult to come to England owing to the stress of public business. We hope these instances are few, but any Prime Minister who finds the obstacles insuperable might be invited to nominate one of his colleagues to represent him.
Although neither the Home Government nor the Governments of Greater Britain may have any specific proposals to make respecting the Federation of the Empire, their meeting in London will possess extraordinary interest. At present their position is that of waiting with a benevolent hope that something can be done, but with the fear that premature action may be mischievous. There is no objection to, but on the contrary a leaning towards, a discussion of the question with open minds, but without willingness at present to undertake the responsibility of making, accepting, or rejecting specific proposals. The opportunity will be presented of paving the way to future action of a more definite nature. If the road to such action is opened, we take leave to think that, of all the incidents of this memorable year, none will be more vividly enduring than the recollection that it was the means of leading to the consolidation of the Empire. We venture to believe that no object can be dearer to the Queen's heart or more acceptable to her subjects.
FIGHTING THE FAMINE IN INDIA
of a cold weather traveller in India that his mother in England, seeing in the papers how famine prevailed in the land, sent him a telegram to this effect, Whenever you find a difficulty in obtaining food, don't hesitate, make at once for the coast.' The picture of a tourist sitting anywhere along some thousands of miles of coast, and waving a white umbrella over the breakers to a passing ship, will amuse the large and increasing numbers of those who know something of the conditions of modern India, and the story indicates, no doubt, the maximum of misunderstanding. Yet the phases and degrees of misconception are so multitudinous that a brief description may not be superfluous of the manner in which the Imperial Government of India puts forth its strength to meet its most frequent and most deadly foe. The horrors of famine need no heightening, and a little light thrown on its dark places may serve to dispel the illusion of universal desolation and despair.
Let us begin at the capital. A resident in Calcutta will learn from his servants, if not otherwise, that prices are high. They will ask him for an extra rupee. But thus far in Bengal it is only in the north-west corner, hundreds of miles away, that distress exists, which is officially recognised as famine. And here be it at once understood that the State takes cognisance of famine, and that its servants lie under the most stringent orders to deal with it, before its actual advent. The now, alas ! familiar heading, The Government and the Famine, should properly run, The Government and the Fight with Famine.' * The Famine Code' is the code for the prevention of starvation;' the colossal totals of units in receipt of relief are those of our fellowsubjects, saved from the pangs of hunger, preserved, it may be, from the most lingering and painful of deaths, the most dolorous exit from a life of patient industry. In times of plenty the Government prepares for evil days. After every famine of the last quarter of a century, the ablest officers in India of their day have concerted measures of defence. In ordinary years the changeful seasons are watched, the crops recorded, the ruling prices noted, and from these statistics an analysis of each district is prepared with special reference to its security from famine. Irrigated tracts are wholly exempt, others enjoy vary
ing degrees of immunity, many, nay most, are only too liable to suffer. Thanks to the generally provident character of the Indian poor, they can bear a bad season, and can, as a rule, face even two successive lean years, but a third proves too great a strain, and the labouring classes and smaller cultivators would succumb, but for the unparalleled exertions of the Government, whose avowed policy it is, to quote Lord Elgin's last pronouncement, 'that the full resources of the Empire shall be made available for the saving of life.'
Leaving Calcutta, and travelling by rail as far as the junction for Benares, a traveller passes through a country where the crops are poor, but still exist. Across the yellow flowering indigo, patches of delicate white poppy, and fields of wheat and pulse, he sees the villages half hidden in bamboo brakes. Along the line here and there are little gardens of oleander and hibiscus, and standard sunflowers. The shadow of famine has not fallen on this tract. Beyond Benares Junction the country becomes more parched, and even indifferent crops are the exception. Yet the people do not look distressed. And so on to Allahabad, the capital of the two provinces, which fortunately at this crisis are in the equally capable and zealous hands of Lord Elgin's lieutenant, Sir Anthony MacDonnell, Governor of the North-western Provinces and of Oudh.
In the middle of last October Sir John Woodburn, the Home member of the Government, publicly stated that if no rain fell in time for the sowing of the spring crops, severe distress would probably be felt in large tracts in Oudh and the North-western Provinces, that prices were already very high, and that if they continued to rise measures for the assistance and relief of the poorer classes would become necessary, not only in those territories, but in parts of the Punjab, Central Provinces, Burma, and Bombay. He also observed that in the twenty years which have elapsed since the last great visitation the forces of Government available for the struggle with famine in the affected localities had increased by upwards of 10,000 miles of irrigation canals and distributories, and by upwards of 3,700 miles of railway, that there were good reasons for believing that the grain supply, indigenous and imported, would prove sufficient, and that the Government was prepared with schemes of railways, of canal projects, and of lesser works upon which vast numbers of labourers could be employed. Lord Elgin on the same occasion referred to the greater capacity of the Government of to-day for dealing with famine on a large scale, and in the light of what has since occurred it is worthy of note that he stated 'how cordially he welcomed nonofficial co-operation, such as even then was forthcoming in India.
In October and November the situation looked more and more serious, when fortunately at the end of the latter month, and in December, timely rain mitigated what promised to be the greatest calamity of the century. Still the North-western Provinces had lost VoL, XLI-No. 241
half their autumn crops, in a year following one in which 300,000 of the population had been on relief, there was distress in parts of the Panjab, Rajputana, Central India, Bombay, Bengal, Madras, and Burma, while in the Central Provinces the sudden cessation of the monsoon in a season following two years of partial but widespread failure had made the situation even more serious than elsewhere. The famine affects the largest numbers in the North-western Provinces, the population of which is nearly equal to that of Austria, Hungary, and Belgium combined, and the distress probably is most acute in the Central Provinces, comprising an area of upwards of 86,000 square miles, or just under that of England, Wales, and Scotland, with a sparse and scattered population of 125 per square mile, or ten and three-quarter millions, a tract without irrigation, and owing to its natural and economic conditions less forward in regard to communications, and other attributes of civilisation, than richer provinces of the Empire. Upwards of 70,000 miles in the Central Provinces are affected, and of this area a great deal is hill and forest, whose inhabitants mix little with the population of the plains, and the scattered nature of whose villages makes it specially difficult to ascertain their necessities or to organise relief.
It will not be possible within the narrow limits of a paper of this description to do more than briefly sketch the manner in which the Government of India meets famine when its approach is evident, with brief descriptions drawn upon the spot of the actual operation of its code and rules in that behalf provided.
First, then, test works are opened on which employment is offered to the needy, to which it is found as a fact only the needy resort.
Programmes of works of varying size and character, maintained ready for use in regard to all areas considered insecure, are either accepted or modified as occasion requires, staffs are strengthened, loans are given to agriculturists, the payment of revenue is suspended, circle officers make known to the people the places at which work is offered, and feed distressed wanderers or forward them to poorhouse or relief work as occasion requires. Lists are prepared by the village officials of persons from age, sex, sickness or occupation entitled to gratuitous relief, and they are thenceforward rationed at their homes. This provision meets the extremely, almost despairingly, difficult case of people who will not stir themselves to save their own lives, whose apathy is greater than their need. Its wide application, after almost house-to-house visitations, has been a special feature of Sir Anthony MacDonnell's administration of famine, and Mr. Lyall, in the Central Provinces, has for some time past been working, under greater difficulties owing to geographical and economic conditions, upon similar lines. Thus, again to quote Lord Elgin, 'rules have been framed to reach the really necessitous, both the able-bodied poor and those unable to share in the ordinary forms of active