1. It will seek to divert into more profitable channels the steadily increasing torrent of immigration from the villages to the towns.
2. It will re-direct and re-distribute the masses of the Submerged Tenth who already exist in every large city.
Like his English representative, the Indian village bumpkin has a natural aversion to town life. Peculiarities in his dialect, dress, and manners make him the laughing-stock of the clever Cockney townsman. His simplicity and ignorance of the world cause him to be easily victimised by the city sharper, for whom he is no match in the struggle of life. He sighs for his green fields, and longs to get away from the bustle that everywhere surrounds and bewilders him. He surrenders these preferences only, because starvation is staring him in the face, and he has better chances of working, begging, or stealing in the city than in his village.
And yet within a few miles of his birthplace there are frequently tracts of waste land amply sufficient to support him and thousands more. He could reduce it to cultivation if he had the chance. He would infinitely prefer eking out the scantiest existence in this manner to flinging himself into the turbulent whirlpool of town life. Strangely enough the “Sirkar” (Government), to whom these tracts belong, is equally anxious that the land in question should be cultivated. It would yield in the course of a few years as rich a revenue as the acres of exactly similar soil that have been brought under cultivation in the neighbourhood. But the difficulties in the way are well nigh insuperable:
1. The congested labor consists almost entirely of those castes which are looked upon as inferior. The very idea of their emancipation is distasteful to the higher castes, who enjoy in most parts of India an almost exclusive monopoly of the land. Hence any effort to obtain a grant of waste land is met with strong and often bitter opposition, and it is next door to impossible for any one in the position of the Submerged Tenth to fight the battle through.
2. Of course, under the British Government these caste distinctions are not officially recognised. But as a matter of fact they still carry great weight. Anybody can, it is true, petition the Government for a grant of this land, but to secure favourable consideration is almost impossible. During the last four or five years I have personally interested myself in several petitions, with a view to assisting the petitioners, whom I knew to be thoroughly deserving of success. And yet after going through a weary tissue of formalities, seldom lasting less than a year, I have not known of a single favourable answer, nor have these advances met with the least sort of encouragement. The Government officials to whom these vast estates are entrusted are mostly so preoccupied with other work that it is impossible for them to give to the subject the personal attention that it requires, and they are guided by the reports of interested and sometimes bribed subordinates. The very fact that they are entitled to draw exactly the same salary whether the public estate improves or not, removes the incentive that would otherwise exist, even if they were the absentee landlords of the property, while the constant liability to be transferred from one district to another aggravates the difficulty of the situation.