1st—The wealth and aristocracy of the country consisting of those who enjoy a monthly income of one hundred rupees and upwards per family. According to the most sanguine estimate we can hardly suppose that these would number more than forty millions of the population.
middle classes, earning twenty rupees and
upwards, numbering say seventy millions.
well off laboring classes, whose wages are from
five rupees and upwards, numbering say at the most one hundred
stricken laboring classes, earning less than five
rupees a month for the support of their families. These cannot at
the lowest estimate be less than twenty-five millions.
5th.—The destitute and unemployed poor, who earn nothing at all, and who are dependent for their livelihood on the charity of others. These can hardly be less than twenty-five millions, or a little less than one-tenth of the entire population.
The two hundred and ten millions who are supposed to be earning regularly from five rupees and upwards per family, we may dismiss forthwith from consideration. For the time being they are beyond the reach of want, and they are not therefore the objects of our solicitude. At some future date it may be possible to consider schemes for their amelioration.
Indirectly, no doubt, they will benefit immensely by any plans that will relieve them of the dead weight of twenty-five million paupers, hanging round their necks and crippling their resources. But for the present we may say in regard to them, happy is the man who can reckon upon a regular income of five rupees a month for the support of himself and his family, albeit he may have two or three relations dependent on him, and a capricious money lender ever on his track, ready to extort a lion’s share of his scanty earnings. And thrice happy is the man who can boast an income of ten, fifteen, or twenty rupees a month, though the poorest and least skilled laborers in England would reckon themselves badly paid on as much per week.
We turn from these to the workless tenth and to the other tenth who eke out a scanty hand-to-mouth existence on the borders of that great and terrible wilderness. But before enumerating and classifying them, there is one other important question which calls for our consideration.
The minimum standard of existence.
What may reasonably be said to be the minimum scale of existence, below which no Indian should be suffered to descend? Fix it as low as you like, and you will unfortunately find that there are literally millions who do not come up to your standard.