Darkest India eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 172 pages of information about Darkest India.

But let me enumerate a few of the classes among whom the Indian “Out-of-works” are to be found.  I do not mean of course to imply that the entire castes, or tribes, or professions, referred to, constitute them.  Far from it.  A large proportion are comparatively well off, and though entangled almost universally in debt, are included among the 210 millions with whom we are not now concerned.  None the less it will be admitted, I believe, that it is from these that the ranks of destitution are chiefly recruited.  I call attention to this fact, because it helps in a large measure to remove the religious difficulty which might at first sight appear likely to stand in the way of our being commissioned by the Indian public to undertake these much-needed reforms.  They are almost without exception of either no caste, or of such low caste, that religiously speaking they may justly be regarded as “no man’s land.”  The higher castes and the respectable classes are mostly able to look after themselves, and will not therefore come within the scope of our scheme.

And yet on the threshold of our inquiry we are confronted with an important and increasing class, of “out-of-works” who are being turned out of our educational establishments, unfitted for a life of hard labour, trained for desk service, but without any prospect of suitable employment in the case of a great and continually increasing majority.  I do not see how it will be possible for us to exclude or ignore this class in our regimentation of the unemployed.  Certainly our sympathies go out very greatly after them.  But beyond registering them in our labour bureau, and acting as go-betweens in finding employment for a small fraction of them, I do not see what more can be done.  However, the majority of them have well-to-do relations and friends to whom they can turn, and except in cases of absolute destitution will not fall within the scope of the present effort.

Passing over these we come to the poorest classes of peasant proprietors who, having mortgaged their tiny allotments to the hilt, have finally been sold up by the money-lender.  Add to these again the more respectable sections of day-laborers.  Then there are the destitute among the weavers, tanners, sweepers and other portions of what constitute the low-caste community.  Out of these take now the case of the weaver caste, with whom we happen to be particularly familiar, as our work in Gujarat is largely carried on among them.  Since the introduction of machinery, their lot has come to be particularly pitiable.  In one district it is reckoned that there are 400,000 of them.  Previous to the mills being started, they could get a comfortable competence, but year by year the margin of profit has been narrowed down, till at length absolute starvation is beginning to stare them in the face, and that within measurable distance.

To the above we may add again the various gipsy tribes, who have no settled homes or regular means of livelihood.  Finally, there are the non-religious mendicants, the religious ones being considered as not coming within the scope of our present effort, being provided for in charitable institutions of their own.

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Darkest India from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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