5. Extravagance in marriage expenses is still one of the principal curses of Indian society. Considerable efforts to secure reform have been made by various castes during recent years, but, as yet, small results only have been attained. The editor has seen numerous painful examples of the wreck of fine estates by young proprietors assuming the management after a long term of the careful stewardship of the Court of Wards.
The Purveyance System,
We left Jubbulpore on the morning of the 20th November, 1835, and came on ten miles to Baghauri. Several of our friends of the 29th Native Infantry accompanied us this first stage, where they had a good day’s shooting. In 1830 I established here some venders in wood to save the people from the miseries of the purveyance system; but I now found that a native collector, soon after I had resigned the civil charge of the district, and gone to Sagar, in order to ingratiate himself with the officers and get from them favourable testimonials, gave two regiments, as they marched over this road, free permission to help themselves gratis out of the store-rooms of these poor men, whom I had set up with a loan from the public treasury, declaring that it must be the wish and intention of Government to supply their public officers free of cost; and consequently that no excuses could be attended to. From that time shops and shopkeepers have disappeared. Wood for all public officers and establishments passing this road has ever since, as in former times, been collected from the surrounding villages gratis, under the purveyance system, in which all native public officers delight, and which, I am afraid, is encouraged by European officers, either from their ignorance or their indolence. They do not like the trouble of seeing the men paid either for their wood or their labour; and their head servants of the kitchen or the wardrobe weary and worry them out of their best resolutions on the subject. They make the poor men sit aloof by telling them that their master is a tiger before breakfast, and will eat them if they approach; and they tell their masters that there is no hope of getting the poor men to come for their money till they have bathed or taken their breakfast. The latter wait in hopes that the gentleman will come out or send for them as soon as he has been tamed by his breakfast; but this meal has put him in good humour with all the world, and he is now no longer unwilling to trust the payment of the poor men to his butler, or his valet de chambre. They keep the poor wretches waiting, declaring that they have as yet received no orders to pay them, till, hungry and weary, in the afternoon they all walk back to their homes in utter despair of getting anything.