If our scheme grows to the proportions and with the rapidity which we anticipate, this would in itself absorb large numbers of them. And where we could do no more we could obtain a moral influence over them and they would come within the scope of the Advice and Intelligence Bureaux which are described elsewhere. Constituting as they do the cream of the youth of India, full of ardent, though often misdirected, enthusiasm, we should be able to help mould them into happy, independent, prosperous and loyal citizens, who would be a bulwark to the State, instead of leaving them to simmer in their present unfortunate circumstances. “To dig” they don’t know, and “to beg” they are ashamed.
They would in their turn I believe give an important impetus to our scheme and might constitute themselves its fervent apostles helping it to sweep from end to end of India in less time than it is possible for us to conceive.
FOOD FOR ALL—THE FOOD DEPOTS.
In England, owing to the severity and uncertainty of the weather, the food and shelter questions go hand in hand. This is not the case in India, where the shelter is not so important as the food, and there is no such urgency in dealing with the former as with the latter. For instance during nine months out of twelve it is not such a very great hardship to sleep in the open air in most parts of India. I have myself done it frequently and so have many of our Officers. It is true that we should not like it as a regular thing, and still less perhaps, if driven to it by absolute want. Still I am perfectly prepared to admit that the circumstances are totally different to that of England, and that the question of shelter is of secondary importance as compared with food.
The time will come when we shall be obliged to face and deal with it. If our scheme meets with the success that we anticipate, having first satisfied the gnawings of these hunger-bitten stomachs, we shall certainly turn round and think next what we can do to provide them with decent homes for themselves and their families.
But we can safely afford to defer the consideration of this question for the present, in order to throw all our time and energy into the solution of the infinitely more urgent and important problem of a regular and sufficient food supply for these destitutes.
At present as I have already pointed out, they are dependent solely on the help of relations and friends and on the doles of the charitable; or on the proceeds of vice and crime. The insufficiency of these to meet the needs of the case I have also, I believe, proved to demonstration.
Therefore one of the first parts of our City programme will be the establishment of cheap food depots, at which food of various kinds will be supplied at the lowest possible cost price. These depots will be dovetailed in with other parts of our scheme, which have yet to be described, and the one will help to support the other.