He tells me that the weavers have assured him that when husband and wife are working hard from early to late, they cannot make more than four annas profit a day by their weaving, since the mills have come into the country and then they have to pay a commission to some one to sell their cloth for them, or spend a considerable time travelling about the country finding a market for it themselves. A piece of cloth which would fetch nine rupees a few years ago, is now only worth three and a half or four rupees.
Bearing in mind, therefore, the above facts, I should consider that if India’s submerged tenth are to be granted, even nothing better than a “bullock charter,” the lowest fraction which could be named for the minimum claimable by all would be one anna a day, or two rupees a month for each adult. As a matter of fact, I have no hesitation in saying, that there are many millions in India who do not get even half this pittance from year’s end to year’s end, and yet toil on with scarcely a murmur, sharing their scanty morsel with those even poorer than themselves, until disease finds their weakened bodies an easy prey, and death gives them their release from a poverty-stricken existence; which scarcely deserves the name of “life.”
Who are the submerged tenth?
By classifying and grading the various orders that constitute Indian Society according to their average earnings, and by considering their minimum, standard of existence, I have sought to prepare the way for a more careful investigation of those who actually constitute the Darkest India, which we are seeking to describe. I have narrowed down our inquiry to the fifty millions, or whatever may be their number, who are either absolutely destitute, or so closely on the border-land of starvation as to need our immediate sympathy and assistance.
Strictly speaking it is with the former alone, the absolutely destitute, numbering as I have supposed some twenty-five millions, that we are at present concerned. I have, however, found it impossible to exclude some reference to the poverty-stricken laboring classes, earning less than five rupees a month for the support of each family, inasmuch as they are probably far more numerous than I have supposed, and their miseries are but one degree removed from those of the utterly destitute. Indeed we scarcely know which is the most to be pitied, the beggar who, if he has nothing, has perhaps at least the comfort that nobody is dependent on him, or the poor coolie who with his three or four rupees a month has from five to eight, or more, mouths to fill! Fill did I say? They are never filled! The most that can be done in such cases is to prolong life and to keep actual starvation at bay, and that only it may be for a time!
Nevertheless, I have restricted the term “Submerged Tenth” to the absolutely destitute, whom I now proceed to still further analyse.