“The loss of life on account of famine, caused by the failure of the monsoon rains, has been terrific in some years. Canals and reservoirs for irrigation as well as navigation have been built in order to remove this evil. In 1874 L16,000,000 was expended in the relief of sufferers by the government. Since that time a famine fund has been established; and in years of plenty a million and a half sterling has been set aside for this object.
“The excessive density of the population has induced the government to favor emigration; and over a hundred thousand have gone to British Guiana and the West Indies, and other countries. The currency of India will be likely to bother you a little. The silver rupee is the unit; though when you see ‘R.x.’ over or at the left of a column of figures, it means tens of rupees. The nominal value of a rupee is two shillings, about half a dollar of your money; but it is never worth that in gold, the standard of England in recent years. It was some years ago at a premium of twopence, but for the last three years it has averaged only 1_s_. 5-1/8_d_. Its value varies with the gold price of silver in London.
“There is also a government paper currency in circulation, amounting to L16,000,000 sterling. The smallest copper coin is the pie, worth half a farthing, equal to a quarter of a cent of your money. Three of them make a pice, a farthing and a half, three-quarters of a cent. Four pice make an anna, a penny and a half, three cents. Sixteen annas make a rupee. Sixteen rupees make a gold mohur.”
“Those small pieces are about as insignificant as those of Egypt,” suggested Mr. Woolridge.
“There are not many millionaires among the natives, and these smaller coins are mostly used among them. They are convenient also to the stingy Englishman when the plate is passed around in church,” added his lordship with a chuckle, which pleased Uncle Moses more than the remark. India has a public debt of about L200,000,000, contracted for railways, canals, war, and other purposes. The revenue last year was L84,932,100, and the expenditures were L84,661,700. Not a large margin; but you must multiply the pounds by five, or nearly that, to reduce them to dollars.
“The poppy is extensively cultivated in India; and the export tax in Calcutta amounts to six and a quarter millions, in Bombay, to three and a half millions, on the manufactured opium. The producer sends his crop to the government factory, whence it is sold to the exporter; all this to prevent frauds on the revenue.
“Wages and prices have gone up under British rule. The best class of laborers get four annas a day, and others not more than two,—six to twelve cents a day. Grain for food is a penny for two pounds,—a cent a pound. Women and children earn small wages. The clothing of the poor is scanty and cheap; fuel costs nothing; and rent for dwellings is hardly known. The masses in the country, not laborers, live on the land as owners or lessees. There has never been anything like a poor-law, and ordinarily there is no need of such.