In doing so I have been obliged to include several important classes who happily do not exist in England, or who are at any rate so few in number, or so well provided for, as not to merit special attention. I mean the beggars, the destitute debtors, and the victims of opium, famine, and pestilence, without whom our catalogue would certainly be incomplete.
Including the above we may say that the Indian Submerged Tenth consist of the following classes:—
I. The Beggars, excluding religious mendicants.
II. The out-of-works,—the
destitute, but honest, poor, who are
willing and anxious for employment, but unable to obtain it.
III. The Houseless Poor.
IV. The Destitute Debtors.
V. The Victims of Famine and Scarcity.
VI. The Victims of Pestilence.
VII. The Vicious, including
(b) Opium eaters.
VIII. The Criminals, or those who support themselves by crime.
They are alike in one respect, that if they were compelled to be solely dependent upon the proceeds of their labor, it would be impossible for them to exist for a single month.
It is these who constitute the problem which we are endeavouring to solve. Here is the leprous spot of society on which we desire to place our finger. If any think, that it is not so big as we imagine, we will not quarrel with them about its size. Let them cut down our figures to half the amount we have supposed. It will still be large enough to answer the purpose of this inquiry, and should surely serve to arrest the attention of the most callous and indifferent! About its existence no one can have the smallest doubt, nor as to the serious nature of the plague which afflicts our society. As to the character of the remedy, there may be a thousand different opinions but that a remedy is called for, who can question?
One of the chief problems of Indian Society is that of beggary. India is perhaps the most beggar-beridden country to be found. Nor would it be possible under present circumstances to pass any law forbidding beggary. In the absence of a poor-law, it is the last resource of the destitute.
True it is a plague spot in society and a serious reflection both on our humanity and civilisation, to say nothing of our religious professions, to tolerate the continued existence of the present state of things.
And yet I see no reason why the problem should not be firmly and successfully handled in the interests alike of the beggars themselves and those who supply the alms.