To-day, most of our educated sections would promptly cite our traditional .agriculture asia clear case in evidence for the centuries of stagnation and decay that are supposed to characterize our traditional society, prior to the dawn of modern civilization here. This is but natural, as one meets, almost everyday and everywhere, emphatic assertions that it is the age-old, unscientific, backward and primitive character of our agriculture which has been (and remains) the cause of widespread hunger, malnutrition and poverty in our country. For the same reason, most people accept on faith the view that our salvation mainly lies in calling upon modern science and technology to perform their widely publicized miracles such as the Green Revolution on as large a scale as possible, with utmost haste and priority.

Before considering Indian agriculture as it was at the turn of the century, it is first very [essential to realize that the above view is, curiously enough, one of rather recent origin it jarose mainly in the later half of the 19th century. We shall first, briefly trace the evolution of this view on Indian agriculture, which has now got seeped into the consciousness of the educated Indian and forms the backdrop of much of their views regarding the past, present and future of our country.


Agriculture has always been accorded the prime position in the Indian society. There are endless evidences (including British/European accounts), to show the flourishing state of our agriculture in the pre-British period . As regards the technical aspects of Indian agriculture, the British/European observers of 17-18th centuries were in no position to appreciate, or even comment on them. Several of the indigenous practices which were perfected centuries ago, such as the rotation oflcrops, the practice of drill husbandry etc., were relatively unknown in the 17th [century Europe, and are in fact often cited as the major advances achieved during the 18th century 'agricultural revolution' in Europe.

Thus the sophistication of Indian agriculture was considerably beyond the comprehension of the British administrators of the 18th and early 19th centuries. For example, Captain Thos Halcott, who was one of the earliest to take notice of the practice of drill husbandry in India, in 1797, frankly acknowledged that:

Although, it [i.e., drill husbandry] has been practiced under the eyes of everybody in the Guntoor Circar, no one that I mentioned [it] to [had] ever observed it before, nor did I observe it myself till lately .

The all round excellence of Indian agriculture was perhaps first documented in detail by Alexander Walker in a report written around 1820 . In 1832, while testifying before a Committee of the British House of Commons, Dr. Wallick, the Superintendent of the Royal Botanical Gardens in India, was asked, 'Whether Indian agriculture was susceptible of any great improvement? . And his reply :

Certainly, but not to so great an extent as is generally imagined; for instance, the rice cultivation, I should, think, if we were to live for another thousand years, we should hardly see any improvement in that branch of cultivation.

Very similar views were expressed by several authorities, all through, right into the second half of the 19th century.

However, it must be emphasized that the state of affairs was fast getting transformed under the weight of the colonial rule. We shall now mention, very briefly, the kind of "changes that were brought about in Indian agriculture in the 18th and 19th centuries

a) Restructuring of the agrarian society

Right from 1769 (when" the assault on Indian silk manufactures was launched),
the policies of the East India Company were deliberately designed so as to wipe out the various indigenous manufactures of this country, to provide a market for British goods. However, the colonial Government could not contemplate a similar policy regarding Indian agriculture, short of killing the goose that laid the golden egg. For the Government to realize a substantial land revenue—and the revenues realized were indeed substantial—it was imperative that Indian agriculture should 'be productive, as before. But, while the indigenous agricultural technology largely escaped such direct assault, the indigenous agrarian social order was completely uprooted and transformed. ,With the introduction of the British notion of private property arid the British from of landlordism, the Indian farmer totally lost his earlier status—which was essentially that of a peasant-proprietor cum independent manufacturer. With the introduction of a highly centralised administrative and judicial machinery, with the taking away of the entire revenue by the central authority and with the destruction of the constant unity between agriculture and manufacture that characterized our traditional society, our villages lost their autonomy and self-sufficiency, and the various village and other local institutions were rendered defunct. With the ruthless extraction of a land revenue, which sometimes | even exceeded 50% of the produce, and the appropriation by the state of all local resources, such as forests, grazing lands etc., the Indian farmers were reduced 19 a state of utmost deprivation. We must clearly recognize that at no stage in its earlier history' had Indian agriculture been subjected to such overwhelming [constraints.

(b) Efforts to 'improve' Indian agriculture

Apart from the above there were also efforts made by the British to 'improve' Indian agriculture itself, during the 18-19th centuries. Normally; under this heading come" the story of the setting up of the Royal Botanical Gardens and the Botanical! Survey of India (to acclimatize crops of commercial importance here) , the attempts to extend the cultivation of (existing) commercial crops and the introduction of new crops such as tea, the various (abortive) efforts to grow the long-stapled American variety of cotton here, and above all the growth of plantations run by Europeans, etc. The above list clearly indicates the kind of ‘improvement’ that was envisaged by the British administration. In the second half of 19th century there started the talk of effecting 'large-scale' improvements in Indian agriculture. All this talk merely led to the establishment of a few experimental farms and some agricultural schools . The Central Department of Revenue. Agriculture and Commerce was set up in 1871, and was followed by
various provincial Departments in the 1880's. Some idea of what was) achieved by ait these efforts, can be had from the following observation of the FinanceCommission of 1887:

'Quite apart from any indirect benefit that might have accrued to agriculture, their [i.e., the Agricultural Departments] establishment has been amply justified and has resulted in the addition of a considerable increase of revenue to the state.'

In all this, what is important to note is not merely that, during this period, the modern European science had hardly any (direct) influence on Indian agriculture but more significantly that little was done to systematically enquire into and understand (let alone 'improve' upon) the traditional practice of 'agriculture. One of the earliest such enquiries was the one conducted by Dr. J. A. Voelcker during 1889-91, and in his report Voelcker categorically declares that:

'The ."agricultural analysis"... has, up to the present time, been confined to the collection of Land Revenue statistics, and of information regarding the S liability of districts to famine, and there has been no enquiry into agricultural methods with a view to agricultural improvement'

I may also say, without fear of contradiction, that, as regards India, comparatively little is known of its agricultural methods, and that they have only been, so far, the subject of casual and isolated enquiry by individuals [emphasis-ours].

Thus, while hardly anything was known (to the Britishers) about Indian -agriculture, it does seem strange that from around the middle of '19th century British administrators start declaring vociferously that Indian agriculture is unscientific,,backward, primitive, etc One of the earliest expressions of the concern of the British administration that Indian agriculture has by and large continued along its traditional lines, and that large-scale improvements are called for, may be found in the dispatch of the court of Directors in 1854 which declared that:

'There is no single advantage that could be afforded to the rural population of India that would equal the introduction of an improved system of agriculture.'

The same theme later recurs in the various reports of the Famine Commissions that were set up after the outbreak of each famine . For instance, the Famine Commission of 1866 sought that large scale 'improvements' be carried out in Indian agriculture. Lord Mayo echoed the same plea in his famous dispatch of 1870, which led to the establishment of the Department of Revenue, Agriculture and Commerce :

'Of all the branches of Indian industry agriculture which constitutes the occupation of the great mass of people, is by far the most important. We believe it to be susceptible of almost indefinite improvement... it cannot be denied that Indian Agriculture Is in a primitive and backward condition, and the Government has not done all it might have done. When the light of science has been properly brought to bear upon Indian Agriculture, the results will be as great as they have been In Europe [emphasis ours],'

Ever since,. very similar opinions and sentiments have been echoed by several eminent authorities; we shall here' cite two of them who .wrote in the same decade as Lord Mayo. E.C. Schottky, in his 'The Principles of Rational Agriculture Applied to India' [(1876) p8], declared :

'In Eastern countries,... we .find that Agriculture, as an art, has been entirely neglected, it being carried on very much in the same way now as it was two 1 to three thousand years ago ; and the backward state of this most important all arts is prominently apparent in India. No advancement, no improvement, ha been, effected during several ages; the implements of husbandry are the sane as before, and so is the mode of cultivation thus reducing a land once boundless wealth to comparative poverty.'

In this context it is very important to realize that there was a tremendous increase (even from the British-Indian standards' in the incidence of famines in India in the second half of 19th century y While there were about 7 famines and 1.4 million victims (as per official ,.estimates) in the period 1800-1850, these figures rose to about 24 and 20 million respectively, in the period 1850-1900. To-day, it is well-known that this rise in the number of t famines was closely related to the great spurt in the export of food grains , (from £ 8,58,000 in 1849 to £ 7.9 million by 1877 to £ 19.3 million by 1914), made possible by the introduction of railways (in the 1850's) and the construction of the Suez Canal (in 1869). The official explanation of the rise in the incidence of famines, obviously, had to lay the blame elsewhere. And, what could indeed be a better explanation for the famines than the simple 'fact' that Indian agriculture was unscientific, backward, primitive, etc

The other authority we cite is no less than A.O. Hume, the father of Indian National Congress, who after retiring as the Secretary of the Department of Revenue, Agriculture and Commerce, wrote a book, 'Agricultural Reform in India', in 1879. While the book does display considerable sympathy for the Indian farmer its broad view on Indian agriculture is no different from those cited above (or, for that matter, from what we hear everywhere to-day), as the following extract
will show :

Looking to the conditions under which they [the Indian farmers labour, their ignorance of scientific method,... the crops that they do produce are, on the whole, surprising. So far as rule-of-thumb goes, the experience of 3000 years has not been wholly wasted...

On the other hand, we must not over-rate their knowledge ; it is wholly empirical and is in many parts of the country, if not everywhere, greatly limited in its application by tradition and superstition. Innumerable quaint couplets, to which a certain reverence is attached,deal with agricultural matters. These, in Upper India at any rate, are true ''household words" amongst all tillers of the soil . These govern their actions to a great extent...

So then, it is not only external, disadvantages against which the Indian cultivator has to contend, it is not only that his knowledge is still in the primary experience stage but that even this knowledge is often rendered of no avail by the traditions of an immemorial religion of agriculture [emphasis ours]'

It is to a description of this supposedly, 'unscientific, backward and primitive agriculture', at feast in the way it was practiced towards the end of the last century, that this article is devoted. The surprising thing is that there appear to be very few sources which present any details of the agricultural practices of this period. Even more curious is the fact that such of those studies, which do go into details of the indigenous agricultural practices, present an entirely different picture of it than what one would have imagined of an unscientific, backward and primitive system of agriculture.

The main source on which this article is based is the 'Report on the Improvement of Indian Agriculture' (hereafter abbreviated RIA, by Dr. John Augustus Voelcker, the Consulting Chemist to the Royal Agricultural! Society of England who was deputed by the British Government to make enquires on Indian agriculture. Voelcker toured the country extensively during his stay here from December 1889 to January 1891, visited most of the provinces twice, once in winter and once ' during the rains. Also taking one district specially .(the Kanpur District of present- day Uttar Pradesh), he visited it repeatedly so as to follow systematically, in one

The 'quaint couplets' that Hume is referring to are the well-known popular sayings current in all parts of India (attributed ,to different mythical folk-figures), which incorporate the essence of the science of agriculture, that everyone was supposed to know.

locality, the progress of the various field crops at the different stages of their growth. His report was published in 1893 . Another important source from which we present extracts is the book 'India in 1887' (hereafter abbreviated IEE) by R.Wallace, another British agricultural scientist who also toured the country extensively, but in .a non-official capacity, and recorded in detail his observations ron our agriculture. Apart from the above two sources, we shall also present [extracts from 'A Text-Book on Indian Agriculture' (hereafter abbreviated T(A), in 3 volumes (published in 1901), by J. Mollison of the Bombay Agricultural Department, who later! became the first Inspector General of Agriculture in India.

Before going to the details of the indigenous practice of agriculture, we shall first present In the next section the- main conclusions drawn by Voeicker on the basis of his detailed study of our agriculture.


Voeicker (as he himself acknowledges in the report) was deputed to enquire and advise upon :

'1st—The. improvement of Indian Agriculture by scientific means. 2nd—The improvement of Indian Agriculture generally.' [RlA,p5]. it is significant that VoeJcker was not specifically asked to report on the economic and political conditions affecting the practice of agriculture. The reason, of course, was not that the British Government was in any sense unaware of the tremendous hardships faced by the Indian farmer as a result of the policies and actions of the Government. 'In fact, later in 1926, when the Royal Commission onAgriculture was formed 'to make recommendations for the improvement of agriculture and to promote the welfare, and prosperity of the rural population', the following warning clause was incorporated right into the terms of reference of the Commission:

It will not be within the scope of the Commission's duties to make recommendations regarding the existing systems of land ownership, and tenancy or of assessment of land (revenue and irrigation charges.'

One cannot expect to find in Voelcker's report an analysis of either the historical circumstances or the various Governmental policies that seriously affected Indian agriculture". Voeicker, even when he takes up such questions, often comes up with curious excuses for the policies pursued. Still his analysis, as it is not completely divorced from a consideration of the socio-political context, does provide us with many interesting insights into the nature of the British policies and the way they had forced the Indian peasantry to a state of extreme deprivation. We may here mention, in particular, Voelcker's discussion of the denudation of Indian forests for the use of cities and railways the anti-agricultural policy of the Forest Department

All! our page references to RIA refer to its second edition, published in 1895'denying the peasant even the bare necessities like fuel, fodder and grazing facilities 1 and how this had forced the peasant to burn cow-dung, which would have been most valuable otherwise as manure ; the decline in fertility of the soil due to the export of valuable manurial constituents like oil-seeds, grains and bones ; the need to see that adequate supplies of water, fuel, manure and fodder are provided to the farmer; the . way the British education system weaned the educated away from agriculture, etc

We shall, in this section, summarize the central points made by Voeicker in his report. In the abstract of his report, Voeicker summarizes the basic conclusion he arrived at, as a result of his investigations, in the following terms :

I explain that I do not share the opinions which have been expressed as to Indian Agriculture being, as a whole, primitive and backward, but believe that in many parts there is little or nothing that can be improved, whilst where agriculture is manifestly inferior, it is more generally the result of the absence of facilities which exist in the better districts than from inherent bad systems of cultivation [emphasis ours]. Nevertheless, that improvement is possible is shown, I think by the differences' of agricultural conditions and practice that exist in different parts of India. These differences I proceed to divide into three classes as follows:

  1. Differences inherent to the people themselves as cultivators, for instance, "caste" and "race" distinctions.

  2. Differences arising from purely external surroundings, for instance, climate and soil, varing facilities for water, manure, wood, grazing, etc.

  3. Differences arising directly from want of knowledge, such as, diversities in
    agricultural practice.

In treating of the above generally, I express my opinion that improvement of agriculture will mainly consist in the modification of the differences which exist and that this will proceed in two directions by the transference of a better indigenous method from one part where it is practiced, to another where it is not; by the modification of the differences which result from physical causes

affecting agriculture emphasis ours].'; [RIA, pvi] The same issues are dealt with in greater detail in Chapter-ll of the report, where Voeicker starts with the question, 'Whether the agriculture of India is capable of improvement ?'. And his answer :

'I must answer both "Yes" and "No". If, for instance I am taken to see the cultivation of parts of Gujarat (Bombay [Presidency]), Mahim in the Thana District of Bombay, the garden culture of Coimbatore in Madras, or that of Meerut in the North-West Provinces and of Gujrat and Hoshiarpur in the Punjab, I may be. inclined to say, "No there is nothing or, at all events, very little that can be bettered here"; but if, instead, I visit parts of Behar, the Dacca district of Eastern Bengal, the Central Provinces generally, Khandesh in Bombay the Tanjore district of Madras, , the Cawnpore district of the North-West, or Hissar and Multan in the Punjab, ' it will not be long before I may be able to indicate a field for improvement .

It would be of interest to study what were the "external' .circumstances which made these regions backward in their agriculture.make bold to say that it has a much easier task to propose improvements in English 'agriculture than to make really valuable suggestions for that of India[emphasis ours]...

On one point there can be no question, viz., that the ideas generally entertained in England, and often given expression to even in India, that Indian agriculture is, as a whole 'primitive and backward, and that little has been done to try and remedy! it, are altogether erroneous the conviction has
forced itself upon me [emphasis ours] that, taking everything together and more especially considering the conditions under which Indian crops are grown, they are ' wonderfully good. At his best the Indian raiyat or cultivator is quite as good as, and, in some (respects, the superior of, the average British farmer, while at his worst it can only be said that this state is brought about largely by an absence of facilities for improvement which is probably unequaled in any other country [emphasis ours], and that the raiyat will struggle on patiently and uncomplainingly in the face of difficulties in a way that no one else would.

Nor need our British farmers be surprised at what 1 say, for it must be remembered that the' natives of India were cultivators of wheat centuries before we in England were. It is not likely, therefore that their practice should be capable of improvement. What does, however, prevent them from t growing larger crops is the limited facilities to which they have access, such as the supply of water and manure [emphasis ours]. But, to take the ordinary acts of husbandry, nowhere would one find better instances of keeping land scrupulously clean from weeds, of: ingenuity in device of water-raising appliances, of knowledge of soils and their capabilities, as welt as of the exact time to sow and to reap, as one would in Indian agriculture, and this not at its best alone, but at its ordinary level [emphasis ours]. It is wonderful, too, how much is known of rotation, jthe system of 'mixed crops', and of fallowing. Certain it is that I, at least, have never seen a more . , perfect picture of careful cultivation, combined with hard labour, perseverance, and fertility of resource, than I have seen at many of the halting places in my tour. Such are the gardens of Mahim, the fields of Nadiad (the centre of the 'garden' of Gujarat, in Bombay [Presidency]), and many others

But to return to the question of improvement; while some have erred by calling
the agriculture primitive, and, forgetting that novelty is not necessarily improvement, have thought that all that was needed was a better plough, a reaper, a threshing machine, or else' artificial manures, to make the land yield as English soil does, Pothers have equally erred by going to the opposite extreme, and have condemned all attempts at improvement, asserting that the raiyat knows his own business best, and that there is nothing to teach him.'

That differences of conditions and practice do exist, constitutes, in my opinion, a ground of belief in the possibility of improvement, and it will be by the . modification of these differences, and the transference of the indigenous methods from one part of the country to another, rather than by the introduction of Western practice, that progress will be made and agriculture be bettered [emphasis ours].


1. Soil

The cultivators' knowledge of soils :

'Although the main geological types of soils are not so varied as in England, thereare a large number of subdivisions, known by local names differing in each district, but the respective qualities of which are clearly understood by the cultivators!'

In this context the following quotation from A.O. Hume's 'Agricultural Reform in India', may be of interest :

'Nothing, indeed, is more perplexing than the enormous number of names applied by native agriculturists to soils, the more so that probably almost every district rejoices in at least a dozen purely local names which are unknown elsewhere. There is no real confusion, however. Native cultivators as keenly appreciate the smallest differences in the relative qualities of different soils as do the best European farmers, but the fact is that independent of names indicative of the quality of the soil (and often to the "entire exclusion of these) they make use, in describing their land, of names having reference to external conditions, the frequency or recency of cultivation therein, its situation as regards inhabited sites, etc., its position as upland or recently-formed . alluvium, its occupation for pasture, fields, or gardens, its external features etc . I Nothing is more common than to hear soils referred to as such, by names which really only indicate features or circumstances altogether external! to the soil itself and independent of its intrinsic quality. This is no doubt inaccurate', but it is very natural since the value of the agriculturist of any land will often depend far more on these external circumstances than on the inherent quality of the soil, which latter, moreover, will, as time goes on, be often greatly modified by the former, as where "bhoor" or' light sandy soil, becomes in course of time, by proximity to a village, constantcultivation and manuring, a kind of "do mut" between garden mould and rich loam.'

Fertility of the soil (from Voeicker's summary) :

'The important question is next dealt with—whether or not the soil of India is becoming exhausted under the present systems of cultivation. It is admitted that there is want of positive evidence in support of exhaustion, but instances are given from Settlement Reports and from the Famine Commission's Report, of a process of deterioration [going on, and it is argued that under existing conditions of export of grain, oil-seeds, and manures, And the burning of cattle -dung for fuel, there must | be a gradual 'deterioration of the soil [emphasis ours]... an increased productiveness of the soil is required, and that this can only be brought about by increasing the manure supply.'

Data on wheat yields:

'When we compare the wheat yields of different countries, we have, as nearly as one can judge, the following :

Country India UK France Germany Russia Canada  USA  Austria
Average yield per
acre in bushels
10 28 17 18 9 14 12.5 11

Taken from the Agricultural Returns of the Board of Agriculture, 1890.
Average of the five years ending 1888-89, as given in the Government of India's statistics. The average yield in 1889-90 was 9.4 bushels only.
Average of the last 40 years. The average of the last eight years was 30 bushels.

The wheat-yield in India will vary, not only according to the season, but also with . the conditions under which the crop is grown

On unmanured dry-crop, land [where rainfall is precarious and often insufficent — 7 bushels per acre On manured land in tracts of better rainfall — 10 bushels per acre On manured and irrigated land — 15 to 25 bushels per acre

In comparison with above, it may be mentioned that in the Rothamsted Experiment the produce of land continuously unmanured for 40 years is 12£ bushels per acre, at 61 lbs. per bushel.

A.O. his book 'Agricultural Reform in India' (1879 p 23), compares the wheat yield then with that during Akbar's time, as given in Ain-Akbari :-

Voelckeralso notes, 'It must not be forgotten, it is true that the wheat crop of England is generally a nine months crop, that of India only a five months crop'.

'As the result of scores of careful personal experiments carried out in the Allyghur Mynpooree, and Etawah districts, the writer would state 14 bushels an acre of wheat to be a high average for good fields, i.e., fields with which their cultivators are fairly , satisfied ; in other words, for the more successful fields, of the best land, which alone is used for wheat. The "Ain Akbari" gives 19 bushels as an average yield in those days .

It appears to be the case that the loss of fertility of Indian soils due to the lack of manure during the British period, was indeed considerable.

2. Irrigationd

The varied irrigation systems of India :

The following is the summary, by R. C. Dutt, of the corresponding discussion in Voelcker's report [cited from 'The Economic History of India', Vol 11(1903), p 12 of 1970 edition] :'Every province in India has its distinct irrigation requirements. In the alluvial basins of the Ganges and the Indus the most suitable irrigation works are canals from these rivers; while away from the rivers, we Us are the most suitable. In Bengal with its copious rainfall, shallow ponds are the most suitable works, and these were j( numerous in the olden times, sometimes of very large dimensions. In Madras and Southern India, where the soil is undulating, and the underlying rock retains the water, the most suitable irrigation works are reservoirs made by putting up large embankments, and thus impounding the water descending from the hill slopes. Such were most of the old reservoirs of Madras.'

Inundation Canals—many ancient ones still in operation :

'In the case of the Inundation Canals,......the silt-laden waters of rivers are carried at flood time to the higher lands and thus afford greater benefit to districts where rainfall is deficient. As their name indicates, Inundation Canals are of use only in the rainy season, and they are taken off from rivers the'banks of which are above the level of the surrounding country. Such canals are met with principally, in the Punjab and in Sind. This system was in vogue before the time of the English occupation of India, and many of the canals were constructed and worked by the Natives themselves.'

A very similar system of inundation canals were in existence during pre-British times in the Gangetic delta of Bengal. How these were destroyed during the period of British administration is described in the following extract from G. Emerson's 'Voiceless Millions'

In this connection, we may note that in early 18th century,( wheat yield in England was around 8 bushelsacre. This rose to nearly 20 bushels acre by the end of 18th century. Further increase in wheat yield occurred only after 1840.

'Sir William Willcocks, the distinguished hydraulic engineer, has recently made an investigation of conditions in Bengal . He has discovered that innumerable small destructive rivers of the delta region, constantly changing their course, were originally canals which under the English regime were allowed to escape from their channels and run wild. Formerly these canals distributed the flood waters of the Ganges and provided for proper drainage of,' the land, undoubtedly accounting for that prosperity ''of Bengal which lured the rapacious East India merchants there in the early days of the eighteenth century. Not only was nothing done to utilize and improve the original canal system, but railway embankments were subsequently thrown up, entirely destroy ing it. Some areas, cut off from the supply of loam-bearing Ganges water, have gradually become sterile and non-productive; others improperly drained, show an advanced degree of water-logging, with the inevitable accompaniment of malaria. Nor has any attempt been made to construct proper embankments for the Ganges in its low L course, to prevent the enormous erosion by which villages and groves and cultivated fields are .swallowed up each year. Modern administrators and officials, who, with every opportunity to call in expert technical assistance, have hitherto [i.e., until 1930] done nothing to remedy this' disastrous situation, growing worse from decade to decade.'

Wells and water lifting devices :

'Irrigation by wells is at once the most widely-distributed system, and also the one
productive of the finest examples of careful cultivation... Further, as regards wells,one cannot help being struck by the skill with which a supply of water is first found by the native cultivator; then by the construction of the wells, the kinds of wells and their suitability to the surroundings and means of the people; also by the various devices for raising water, each of which has a distinct reason for its adoption. All these are most interesting points with which I am not called on to deal, for" I see little to improve in them which the cultivator does not know perfectly well.'

A very similar opinion was expressed by Wallace:

'In connection with well irrigation there are various native methods, which for
suitability to the conditions, for cheapness, simplicity, and efficiency, cannot be equaled, far less surpassed, by any mechanical contrivance from the European ' world.'

McIUson gives the following description: r 'Water for irrigation may be raised from wells by the lifts in common use. The lifts mostly used throughout the Bombay Presidency are varieties of the leather bag, known in the Deccan as a mot and in Gujarat as kos,'

These are published in his book 'Lectures on the Ancient System of Irrigation in Bengal and its Application to Modern Problems', Calcutta University 1930.

In the coast districts of Bombay where the depth of water in the wells is small, the Persian wheel is largely employed, and its use is general in Sind. In the Karnatak a hand lever and bucket lift is used in wells.'

Tank irrigation

In the eighteenth century, the old Mysore state, with an area of around 29,500 square miles, had more than 38,000 tanks (known as 'Kere's). The main method employed was to construct a chain of tanks, by embanking hillside streams etc., such that the outflow from the one at higher level supplied the next at lower level, and so on all the way down the course of the stream. Referring to these. Sir Charles Elliot, the first Census Commissioner for India remarked in 1870 [see Census of India 1951,

'The ingenious method in which each valley was made to contain a chain of irrigation tanks, and each river to feed a series of irrigation channels, left the British officers who administered the Province little to do but to put the old works in thorough repair.' The same view was expressed by Major Sankey, one of the first (British) engineers of the erstwhile Mysore state [see C.H.Rao, in Mysore Gazetteer vol.

'To such an extent has the principle of storage been followed that it would now require some ingenuity to discover a site within this great area suitable for a new tank. While restorations are of course feasible, any absolutely new work of this description ' would, within this area, be almost certainly found to cut off the supply of another lower down the same basin, and to interfere with vested interests.'

The attitude of the Government :

In the whole of 19th century, several observers repeatedly castigated the British Government for doing nothing even about the maintenance of older irrigation works. G. Thomson noted in 'India and the Colonies' (1838) that:

'The roads and tanks and canals which Hindu or Mussulman Government constructed for the service of the nations and the good of the country have been suffered to fall into dilapidation.'Montgomary Martin expressed the same view in his 'The Indian Empire' (1858):

'[The East India Company] omitted not only to initiate improvements, but even to keep in repair the old works on which the revenue depended.'

In fact, as John Bright remarked in the British House of Commons on June 24, 1858 :

'The single city of Manchester, in the supply of its inhabitants with the single article of water, has spent a larger sum of money than the East India Company has spent in the fourteen years from 1834 to 1848 in public works of every kind throughout the whole of its vast dominions.'

The largest pershaps was Sulekere, with a circumference of about 64 Kms.

It should be remembered that, at the same time, the British Government took away the whole of the revenue leaving nothing for the various local village institutions .which, traditionally, played an important role in the construction and maintenance of irrigation works. In the second half of 19th century some money was spent on providing irrigation facilities, Up to 1900, while the total expenditure on railways (from Government revenues) amounted to £ 225 million that on canals etc., was a meagre £ 25 million. Moreover, while railways were a source of loss to the British Government (but not to the British trading interests) year, after year, irrigation works were taken up only when a return of about 25% could be realized on the outlay, annually, as enhanced revenue and charges. On this issue Voelcker notes :

'There is no doubt that a great deal can be done in improving the water supply in precarious districts, if Government are prepared to look on the measures taken as those of a "protective" and not purely a remunerative nature [emphasis ours]. This is well expressed in a note by Colonel Mead, Chief Engineer for Irrigation, Madras. He said in 1887 : "Much can, no 'doubt, be done to improve the existing supply to tanks if Government are prepared to accept the benefit to the raiyat as a sufficient return for outlay incurred, and to consider the works as entirely protective in nature."

Voelcker has also given the following instance of the way the British-established
bureaucracy worked :

'The cultivators [in the Madura District] instanced the delay that takes place when a tank wants repair; how that when the Tahasildar hears of it goes to the divisional officer (Assistant Collector); the latter to the Collector ; the Collector to the Executive Engineer of the public Works Department; the Executive Engineer writes to the Superintending Engineer (stationed in this case, at Trichnopoly, there being only one such officer for! three districts) ; he writes to the chief office at Madras, and says whether it is a matter or first or second importance, and so on, Altogether it is a long business, and, in the end, the year's crop is generally lost.

Such was the pitiable condition to which, a region historically well known for its local village committees which had endowments (Eri Varium) for the repair of tanks and reservoirs was reduced in the period of British rule. While taking note of this fact, Voelcker states the following :

'It is true [that in former times the people themselves made inundation
canals and constructed large reservoirs which are still objects of admiration, but the people are not so likely now to construct fresh ones, but rather to rely on the
Government., i It was of course, not the case that our people suddenly started 'relying on the Government', but such a dependence was forced on them by the British policy of divesting the local institutions of any share in the revenue.

3. Manure

The importance attached to manuring:

'There are numerous proverbs current among the people as to the necessity and value of manure but the practice is often not as good as the precept. Mr. Benson gives, along with others, these from Kurnool :-

"Turva (a kind of soil) hungers after manure as a Brahman after ghi" "a field without manure is as useless as a cow without her calf' (meaning that she will not give milk unless the' calf is before her).

Mr. Nicholson quotes these :

"Old muck and lots of water '' "turn dry land into wet, pen your cattle (in the field), and feed straw to them" ; "muck is better even than the plough". "If manure is useless (good) soil is useless" ; or "manure is better than good soil''... '

The Indian cultivator shows by the money which he is willing to pay for manure when able to afford it, that he is by no means ignorant of its value. When he burns the cow-dung which he collects, he does it, as a rule, rather from necessity than from want of knowledge of its worth... Nor is it in the quantity of manure alone that the Native often displays great foresight. He also often knows when to put it on, and for which crop to use it. He knows that he must not use it on "dry" land but on "wet" land, where it will decompose. He knows, too, the harm of using fresh dung, and that it will attract the white-ants, and that they, in turn, will destroy the crop.'

The importance of cattle - manure and the loss incurred in burning it as fuel:

The most general manure, alike in India and in England, is cattle-manure, or, as made in England, farmyard manure. But, whilst in the latter country it has to be, and can be, supplemented, and even in part replaced, by artificial manures, this is not tha case in India, and cattle-manure is the universal fertilizer and often the only one available [emphasis ours]. When, therefore, we find it the general practice, even in villages, to burn a large proportion of the dung from cattle as fuel, and when, on nearing any town, we may see troops of women carrying in baskets on their heads, the cow-dung cakes or brattiest, which they have made into cakes and dried in the 'sun, we can not but pause to ask ourselves whether the burning of these cakes as fuel does not imply a great agricultural loss. Some have maintained that it does not, for they say that the ashes are saved and used on the fields, and assert that is practically the only thing of value in the dung ; others hold that, even if the nitrogen be lost in burning, the cattle are so poor, and so poorly fed, that there is but little nitrogen to lose, for the dung is of very low quality, whilst even what is lost, is recovered in the extra amount of nitrogen which exists in the rainfall in India...

I do not mean to say that I have been able to investigate the question at all thoroughly, but I have done so sufficiently, at least, to satisfy myself of the incorrectness of many of the = theories propounded, and to show that cattle manure in India is not the poor miserable stuff it has been represented to be, but that it must, and does, lose a very great deal if it is burnt for fuel, this loss not being recovered in the rainfall.'

What is forcing the cultivators to burn cattle-manure

1 have spoken of the practice of burning dung as being a general one, and so it unfortunately is; but it is very far from being a universal practice among cultivators., a great majority will not burn dung if they can help it. Perhaps in all my enquiries there was none into which I looked more closely than this, as I had heard and; read such diverse opinions about it; consequently, wherever I went, I did my best to inform myself upon it. As the result, I have no hesitation' whatever in saying that amongst cultivators the reason why they burn dung is that they have ho wood ; and that if wood could be made cheap and accessible to them, there would be an enormous increase in the amount of manure available for the soil. 1 can instance place after place which I have visited and where no cultivator burns a scrap of manure for fuel or where the least possible quantity is so , used—generally only a little to boil milk. Coimbatore, Salem, Madura, Gujarat, Bombay, [Presidency], Nadiad, Hospet, Hoshiarpur, and Multan lare cases in point. It is where, as in the North-West Provinces, wood is dreadfully scarce, that the practice of burning dung has grown into a habit'.

When are the ashes preferred to dung

'Ashes of dung have a distinct value on account of their mineral constituents, ' and they may occasionally be used to greater advantage than the dung itself. When, for [example, forcing' effect is not desirable, the ashes are preferred;... That the cultivator, where he does prefer ashes to dung, or else the whole dung to the mere ashes, does so simply from fancy or from ignorance, I am by no means ready to allow, but assert that quite the contrary is the case. A cultivator from Tirunelvely, whom I interviewed, described to me his practice thus : - "I would use ashes for my nursery beds, and raw 'dung' to get produce". He added that for heavy land he would use the raw dung, and the ashes for his lighter land. Thus use of dung for opening heavy land quite agrees with English experience".'

Sheep and cattle — folding :

'Folding of sheep and cattle on land, for the purpose of manuring it, is another practice understood in some parts, but neglected in others. It has one great advantage in that the urine is not lost, as it generally . Folding is practiced largely in Coimbatore and other parts of Madras; in the North-West Provinces ; in Palamau and Rungpore, in Bengal chiefly for sugar-cane and tobacco crops) ; at Rawalpindi (Punjab), and elsewhere.'.

Oil-seed refuse:

'Perhaps next to, but insignificant as compared with, cattle-manure, is the use, as a manurial agent, of the refuse obtained from various oil-seeds after the oil has been expressed from them. The principal oil-seeds thus used are the following: Castor-oil seed (Ricinus communis), Gingelly, Til, or Sesame (Sesamum Indicum); Earth-nut or ground-nut (Archis hypogea); Kardai or Safflower (Carthamus tinctorious); Rape seed; Mustardseed Niger seed (Guizotia abyssinica) ; Linseed ; Cotton seed. The seeds of the fruits of several trees, such as Pongamia glabra, Bassa fatifofia (the Mahua tree) and Melia Azadirachta (the Neem tree) are also pressed, and the refuse is employed as manure, chiefly in the coffee districts. Most of these seeds, after expression of the oil, are also used primarily for feeding cattle, and secondarily for manure.'

The damage caused by the export of oil-seeds:

'These [oil] seeds are for the greater part exported, [and] their export must imply the removal of a very considerable amount of the constituents of the soil. Were they (with the exception of the castor-oilseed) to be consumed by cattle, after expression of the oil, the manurial constituents would be returned to the soil from which they were drawn, and the balance of fertility might be maintained. The oil, having itself no manurial properties, and being derived from the atmosphere and not from the soil is a fitting object for export ; but to send away the entire seed, or the refuse after removal of the oil is to send away the valuable manurial constituents contained in the seed, including those taken out of the soil itself; in brief, to export them is to export the soil's fertility...

We in England are not slow to avail ourselves of the advantages this export system offers ; and at the time of my leaving for India I was feeding bullocks at the Woburn Experimental Farm on linseed cake, and was also growing crops with rape cake manure. Both these materials, in all likelihood, were the produce of Indian soil, and represented its transported fertility.'

To get an idea of the amount of oil seeds exported from India, we may note that after the construction of the Suez Canal in 1869, the export of seeds increased from £ 2 million to the staggering figure of £ 5 million in a short period of 19 years.

The oil-cake from the village 'ghani' serves as a better manure:

Around the turn of the last century, hydraulic oil presses were getting established in Bombay. Apart from the export made in oil-seeds, this introduction of mechanized oil presses in cities played a significant role in forcing the village ghani into oblivion. Mollison has given the following description of the village ghani and has also noted the greater suitability of the oil-cake from the village ghani for manurial purposes.

'The country ghani consists essentially of a pestle and mortar; the pestle grinds the seed in the mortar. The cake is consolidated by the pestle into a thick layer against the sides of the mortar and is generally removed by a short crowbar. The oil sinks to the bottom of the mortar and is soaked up in a mop and collected in a vessel, the mop being squeezed by hand. The method varies ; sometimes the oil flows from the mortar as it is expressed.

When oil-cakes are used as manure they should be applied in the finest possible state of division. Generally in India the pounding is done with a stick. A cheaper and equally effective method is to crush the cake under the stone of any ordinary chunam mill. In this way a ton can be crushed at a cost of Rs.2 to Rs. 3. The powder got from country ghani cake in this way is much finer in consistence than r that from hydraulic-pressed cake, and on this account the former probably acts the quickest and is the most effective as manure.'


'Next to be considered is green-manuring, a practice not unknown, but not as nearly as widely distributed as it might with advantage be At Hospet, which is served by a canal, led by a weir or an/cut from the river Tungabadra, and where the cultivation is exceptionally good, saw this plan of green-manuring being carried out. Trees are grown round every field and along the banks of the water-channels, and are defoliated once in three years ; the twigs and leaves are spread on the land where rice is to be sown ; canal water is let on, and the twigs' are trodden into the soil with the foot'

Rab cultivation ;

'Associated Jwith the use of twigs, leaves, etc., for manure is the system of seed-bed cultivation termed rab. This system is employed mainly in the Bombay Presidency throughout the districts of heaviest rainfall, but it is not unknown in parts of Bengal. The crops for which it is chiefly used are rice and a millet called 'nagli' Elusine Coracana). The word rab literally means 'cultivation'. The process/consists in heaping on the spot selected for the seed-bed successive layers of cow-dung, tree-loppings, shrubs, leaves, and grass, with earth on the top to keep all down ; the heap is made about three feet high, and then the whole is set fire to.

As regards the advantage, still more the necessity of rab there have been . continuous 'contentions between the cultivators and those who have supported - them, on the one hand, and the Forest Department on the other, the latter maintaining' that the practice is a wasteful one, and that the lopping of trees injures the forest greatly. In 1885, a Forest Commission was appointed in Bombay to enquire! into the matter, and Mr. Ozanne, Director of Land Records and Agriculture, Bombay Presidency, conducted a number of experiments, which though not absolutely conclusive nor complete, went far to show that the raiyat in rab are'as was adopting the only ready means by which he could cultivate his rice crop with profit.'

Use of silt:

'Vast areas in Bengal are annually renewed naturally by the silt of rivers, and there are in Punjab, for example, near Gujarat, stretches which are covered yearly by the silt brought down by mountain streams. In the Jhelum and Shahpur districts, at the foot of the Salt Range, there are similar tracts here the fields are first embarked and then the flood water of hill torrents is turned into them through an opening in the upper end of the embankment. The water is allowed to flow in until the field is converted into a pond. When this dries up, a crop is sown, and requires no further watering or rain. In this way the wheat-growing areas of these districts are farmed and no manure is used or needed, the coming of the silt supplying more fertilising matter than many manurings could.

It is found that wherever there is silt the rafyat does not value ordinary manure or take trouble in preserving it ; he looks for the silt to come instead Great distinctions are drawn by the cultivators between the rivers and canals which brings it and those which do not.'

Mollison gives the following account of the techniques employed in Bombay Presidency for artificial warping :

'Artificial warping differs from the natural formation of alluvium only, in that the water of a turbid stream may be diverted from its course, and held in a particular area sufficiently long to deposit a layer of sediment, and if the process is often repeated, a soil of considerable depth may be formed on rock or any other sterile area. Many of the small rice fields on the [Western] Ghats have been formed by throwing bandharas across the turbid hill streams and either diverting the water or allowing a small lake to form above the weir. In this way the current is so obstructed that suspended earthy matter is deposited, and in time the silt layer becomes so deep that a rice crop can be raised thereon. The lower terraced rice fields of the Ghats are annually warped and improved by the silt carried down by the drainage water of the uplands

Soil - mixing

'The rich soil dug out from tanks is widely appreciated, throughout Madras, and in Coimbatore ! have seen "soil-mixing" going on, a lighter and red soil being mixed with a heavier and black one. At Rungpore, in Bengal, this is also practiced especially for jute land, the better soil being mixed with the inferior, just as pond mud might be mixed with a sandy soil.

At Nadiad (Bombay) I noticed another kind of "soil-mixing". Here the fields are all surrounded by hedges growing on embankments. When it is required to turn a field into a rice field, the top soil is thrown from the center up against the hedge, thus making an embankment; the level of the field is lowered thereby, so that the rain water, when it falls, is held up and soaks the soil thoroughly. When, in turn, the field requires to be manured, the soil is thrown back from the hedge-side onto the field and is spread over it.'

Mollison gives the following account of soil-mixing :

'Mixing is not unknown in India. Clay is often carted from rice fields in sufficient quantity to add a layer one to two inches thick on sand land. The addition changes the consistence of the sand, so that it becomes better suited for sugar-cane and other garden crops raised under irrigation. The cultivator appreciates the value of tank mud and in those districts where these water reservoirs are common they are cleaned out with the f utmost care and regularity each year. The silt which has collected in these tanks being the washings of village sites and cultivated fields, has some manurial value, and applied as it is at the rate of 40 cart loads or more per acre, adds considerably to the body of the soil. It takes 134 cubic yards of earth to cover an acre one inch thick.'

The issue of export of bones :

'Bones, as is known, are very extensively exported from India, and are but little used in the country itself. The question whether the export of bones should be allowed to continue without a strong effort being made to retain this source of manure in the country, has been prominently brought forward of late years, and the Government of India recently caused enquiries to be made as to the trade in and use of bones. The general reply received was that the export was an increasing one ; that the trade was carried on entirely by European capital, and that the actual collection of bones was done by Muhammadans and low-caste Hindus ; that it was I principally confined to districts served by railways, and from villages within an easy distance of the line [[emphasis ours] ;, and, lastly, that bones were not used by the native

Within the past fifteen years a large trade has sprung up in the collection and export of the bones ; it has increased and is still increasing. Almost the whole amount collected is sent to the United Kingdom, where the use of bones, either raw or else A. manufactured into artificial manures, is valued highly.

The exports of bones from India have been, in round numbers, as follows :—

Years Tons













It is necessary to add one caution more,—as the demand for bones for export
purposes increases, it will afford another inducement to the professional cattle-stealer and the cattle-prisoner. Already the hide is an attraction, the flesh is rapidly becoming one also ; if to these are superadded the bones, more care will have to be taken in the future to protect the cattle of the country.'

Use of night-soil:

it is undoubtedly the case that a very great improvement might be effected in Indian agriculture if the system of utilizing night-soil, sweepings, etc., were universal

Prejudice is the great bar to the proper utilization of night-soil. It is not that its value is not known, as the appearance of the fields nearest to any village will testify, for the growing of a tall crop, such as arhar (Cajanus indicus), is frequently a direct indication that that1 particular field has come to its turn for receiving manure. On these fields the crops are manifestly better than the rest ; what is wanted is, greater distribution of these fields.

The hope for improvement lies in the gradual breaking down of prejudice. That there are signs of this going on is evidenced by the fact that in certain towns, such as Farukbabad, Cawnpore; and Nagpur, the utilization af night-soil has had an indigenous origin, and its spread has been due to other cultivators following the example set,'

Artificial manures :

Voelcker states that the subject 'of imported manures, which in an account of English agriculture would fill a most important place, may, so far as India is concerned, be very summarily dismissed,'

4 Forests

The 'recent' denudation of Indian forests :

Several observers in late 19th century noted that the process of destruction of Indian forests had already reached alarming proportions, even though about half a century earlier the country abounded in forests. For example, A. 0. Hume, writing in 1879, states :

'Only 50 years ago [emphasis ours], when jungles and grazing grounds abounded, when cattle were more numerous, when much wood was available as fuel , there was actually a much greater amount of manure available.'

Similar views are expressed by Wallace. He also notes that this destruction of forests was due to the demand for timber for railways and building purposes :

It is an undoubted fact that large areas of India have been shamefully and waste-fully denuded of valuable timber within comparatively recent years. The large and increasing demand for wood for rail roads and for building purposes encouraged it... It is quite sad to lookup the bare hills and barren plains where extensive forests were recently in existence. I came across a number of such places [emphasis ours].'Voelcker also notes how the destruction of forests during the British rule had led to a deterioration in the climate of the country :

From old records and descriptions of India there is reason to believe that the climate was not formerly what it now is, but..the wholesale and reckless denudation of forests and wooded tracts without reservation of land to afford wood for grazing, has done much to render the climate what it now is. Sir William Denison states that, when Governor of Madras, he was shown districts in which the rain had retreated f as the forests had been cleared back.

The tragic tale of the destruction of the Indian forests for British commercial interests began even as early as 1803, when the Malabar teak forests were declared to be 'reserved' for.'providing timber needed by the ship building industry. Voelcker in fact notes that, byJthe time of creation of the Forest Department in 1866, considerable damage had been done. However, the crucial fact was that, under the aegis of this Department, the. same activities were continued with the only difference that the local agriculturalists were now completely deprived of any use of the forest resources.

The anti-agricultural policy of the Forest Department :

When it [i. e., the Forest Department] began its work its chief duties were the preservation and development of large timber forests, such as the teak forests of Lower Burma, the sal forests of Oudh, and the deodar forests of the Himalayas, or the forests of the Western Ghats. Its objects were in no sense agricultural, and its success was gauged mainly by fiscal considerations ; the Department was to be a revenue-paying one. Indeed, we may go so far as to say that its interests were opposed to agriculture and its intent was rather to exclude agriculture than to admit it to participation in the benefits...

The requirements of the agriculturist in respect of wood are, small timber for house building, (wood for making, implements, and firewood ; the last-named principally to take the place of the cow-dung which, though the most valuable manure at the raiyats' disposal, is, nevertheless, generally burnt as fuel in default of wood...

I do not take to myself credit for more than emphasizing what others have already
pointed out on this subject. As much as 17 years ago, Mr. R.H. Elliot, writing in the "Times", urged the necessity of "Fuel Reserves" for India, and much that he then said hasrsince proved to be true. The same views have been urged by others, but there is call now for more 'definite action than there has been in the past. What has been done so far, .whilst not without benefit to agriculture, has, to my mind, taken mainly the form of supplying wood for the requirements of large towns and railways [emphasis ours]...

It is, in short, impossible to have timber forests and agriculture on the same area...'

Very similar sentiments were expressed by Wallace :

Government have only recently awakened to the fact, that their duties as regards the protection of forests have not been undertaken in the past. The danger now confronting us . e., after the setting up of the Forest Department] is not that there is fear "of forestry being neglected, but that in the excessive zeal to make up lee way, the other extremely important interest of agriculture may be made to suffer... It has been established that large tracts of land belong to no one, and consequently are naturally Government property ; but to certain products of the natural growth— for e!g, grass for thatching, food for cattle, timber to make their implements,

This was the only way in which the Britisheres could understand the traditional 'property' and other rights of villages and communities.

and poles to build their houses the native population of the adjoining cultivated tracts have from time immemorial had the undisturbed privilege of resorting to supply their wants [emphasis OUTS]. No one denies that Government has the undisputed right by law to discontinue these privileges ; but I appeal to the common-sense of every practical farmer in England who knows the value of the products enumerated, if to exert such a right would not be a policy worse than suicidal in a country which practically depends upon agriculture for its wealth and prosperity...'

The native population, who feel the pinch of Government resuming the rights which had been by common consent granted to them...may well say. Why should Government want to grow great forests of large timber ? It is of little value to the masses of the population, whose wants are supplied by sapling poles and branches, and by the fruit and shade of such trees as they or their cattle can get access to...

In travelling as I did, over wide area, I, in my non-official position, had very exceptional opportunities of seeing how the forest regulations pressed unnecessarily upon the people, and of hearing their bitter and oftentimes well-founded complaints.

What should be done and that too, with the utmost urgency

The supply of wood to serve as fuel forms one of the most important factors in maintaining the fertility of the soil, or, in other words, the prosperity of agriculture. I can hardly put this too strongly, for it is the one practical measure on which place the most importance ; it is that which calls for the most urgent attention, and from which the greatest benefits may be expected to follow, I make, in my Report, other recommendations and suggestions, it is true, but f consider them minor ones compared with this [Emphasis ours]...

It is not in the interests of the people alone that I would urge this, for, having fully discussed all other ways of increasing the manure supply, it is clear that this is the one way in which it can be effected, and, if not effected, sooner or later the land must fall off in productive power, and the revenue derived there from by the State must decline too. Accordingly, I regard the provision of fuel as the most potent means of maintaining prosperity, not alone to the cultivators, but to the State itself, and as a measure which the latter, in its own interests, should take up immediately.

Such an end is that which I have indicated, the provision, for the agricultural community primarily, of facilities for obtaining what they require, viz., small timber, wood for implements, firewood, leaves, grass, or, where possible, grazing [emphasis ours]. No action would, I am sure, do more to render the Forest Department popular and its work one of wide-spreading benefit, could it be instructed to carry out such objects as the above, and to bring these facilities to the cultivators' doors. Such a policy would be one of giving, and not what the people have considered the past policy, one of taking away. The cultivators would then feel that the forests were a real benefit to them, and possibly much uncultivable land would become clothed with trees and grass

How can such a change in the forest utilization be brought about ?

After recounting in detail the havoc wrought by the Forest Department, and arguing that the very fundamental objectives of the forest policy need to be changed in favor of the local agriculturists, Voelcker ends up only with the pious wish that :

I am sure that when it is fully recognized that there are other ends which the Forest Department should serve besides that of growing timber and making a large revenue out of the forests, the Department will readily carry those out to its best ability.

The main problem, of course, is that the only way of really ensuring that the local
agriculturists get their basic necessities from the forest, viz. by leaving them under the management of the village or community, was totally unacceptable to Voelcker.The argument he provides in this connection, does give some important insights into the very nature of the system of administration introduced by the British in India.

The suggestion to form ("village forests", which should include the village grazing grounds and be protected and managed by the people themselves, was made by Sir Brandis, but the efforts to establish them have successively failed. in the Indian Forest Act (1878), a chapter (Chapter III) was inserted to provide for the assigning of the rights of Government to or over any land constituted "a reserved forest" and for calling it a "village forest". This chapter has, however, been quite inoperative, owing, I am informed, to the impossibility of determining adverse rights, and of separating the rights of the community from the private rights of native proprietors (zemindars) and others. Often, for instance, there may be several zemindars, and thus several people to settle with. Anyhow, no "village forests" have been taken up or assigned under this chapter, which is accordingly a dead letter.

Apart from the fact that establishment of 'village forests' went against the very framework of the British legal system, there was also the fact that giving any rights to the village communities was inconsistent with the 'modern system of administration' (or to use Voelcker's own words,'control') evolved by the Britishers.

It is a mistake, I think, to assign any rights to a village community, and to have village forests managed by the community uncontrolled. The tendency of our system of Government has, to a considerable extent, been to break up village communities, and now for the most part they are heterogeneous bodies rather than communities. What is wanted is, while retaining control over these forests, 'to work them for the people's interests.

5. Grazing

From Voelcker's summary :

It is maintained in this chapter that the provision of grazing in forests is a desirable and legitimate object [emphasis outs], and one which will much benefit agriculture, whilst in times of drought it may be invaluable in keeping the cattle of the country alive... I recommend... the creation of more "Fuel and Fodder Reserves" to supply grass and grazing.

Grazing areas in 'distant' forests :

The subject of grass supply is closely connected with that of the foregoing chapter [forests] in as much as the forests provide the principal grazing areas and ...certain amount of grass for cutting. Included among the more distant forests are large pasturage areas, the value of which for this purpose has always been recognized, and which, on this account, have never been broken up [emphasis ours. To these tracts professional graziers and hereditary castes of cattle-breeders resort, taking with them from the plains the most valuable of the raiyat's cattle, for the purpose of seeking shelter and pasture for them during the hot season. The retaining of these areas 'or the purposes of cattle-breeding is very desirable [emphasis ours] ; it is, however, not the actual cultivators who directly make use of them, but particular castes who make this their special business, and who often bring cattle from a long distance. It is in these grazing areas that the bulk of the native butter called ghi is produced.

The new Policy of 'Reserved forests :

In addition to the pasturage provided in the open and more distant forests, there is another class, but still distinct from the village "waste" or common land... This class comprise the grazing areas belonging, or which till recently did belong, to villages or individuals, but which are now included in the "reserved forests', [emphasis ours]. In the Bombay Presidency. . . the land was known as gariran or "grazing", i.e., land set apart for grazing cattle. It differs from the "waste" immediately around the villages in being really useful for the purpose, whereas the latter, as a rule, is little more than bare ground. The Forest Department frequently found it necessary to take in these lands when forming their "reserved forests", and in Bombay, according to the new grazing rules of 1890, the term gairan is to cease, and free grazing is to be provided in the open part of the forest [only] for the "agricultural cattle" of villages which have contributed gairan to the formation of a forest block...The Forest Department derives a considerable income from the foregoing grazing lands...

The disastrous consequences of the policies of the Forest Department :

Wallace warns the Government of the disastrous consequences t of the policies pursued by the Forest Department, even while agreeing that the Government was right in claiming revenue from grazing.

By cultivating pasture, the Forestry Department would reap a steadily increasing and perfectly legitimate revenue from letting grazing rights...Serious injury might be done under either of the two following circumstances: (1), If . sufficient pasture [were not left available for the cultivators, not only for their work 'bullocks, but also for their milk cattle, including buffaloes; and (2), if the charges were made too high for the poor in certain districts to pay. Injury from both causes has been brought to 'my notice, and it only required to be carried a little further to become a national calamity quite unexpectedly, of course, because there is no one interested who jean judge of the facts or their bearings...The people in certain districts were, on account of their imperative necessity first providing for their work bullocks, : unable to keep the milk cattle required to supply milk or f its product ghi— that practically indispensable ingredient in a healthy native diet.

it would take" a forest officer,'years of hard study to be even partially qualified to judge of the injury done to an agricultural population by the shutting dispfay up for forestry purposes of the land on which cattle graze.' [f££, p 302] Voelcker notes that even in those places where grazing was supposedly allowed the forest officials would not oblige.

Restriction in grazing sometimes arises from the unwillingness of forest officers to provide it...On the Shahdara (Lahore) plantation the space for grazing is confined to the* portion which is about to be cut over in the then year, or year following. Even to this the forest officers object, saying that grazing makes the soil hard a'nd prevents the shoots from coming up afterwards, whilst if the cattle were allowed among the medium-sized trees, they would get at the boughs. I fear that where wood-growing is the object, there will always be considerable difficulty placed by the forest officials in the way of providing grazing facilities.

What was the case formerly (before British rule)

At Salem,' which used to be a great cattle-breeding district and noted market for stock, I heard great complaints that since the forests had been "reserved" the people could not keep so many cattle, and only had their own fields to feed them on, whereas formerly they had free grazing rights in the "reserves" two miles off [emphasis ours].' 'There was an old Muhammedan rule which provided that there should be one acre of grazing land to every 10 acres of cultivated, and in the State of Jeypore v new settlers still receive 25 acres of grazing in every 100 acres of their occupation.

A plantation of 1265 acres,. established in 1865. i.e., growing timber for commercial use.

6. Livestock & Dairying

Excellent cattle may be found in India :

It must be allowed that there are excellent cattle to be found in the country, for, in going through it as I did or in visiting Agricultural Shows, one may see as good cattle as can be desired. I was greatly struck with the appearance of many of the cattle exhibited at the Sahranpur ana1 Meerut shows, and no one can fail to be impressed with the general excellence of the bullocks used for transit purposes, as also of those employed in military service.

Mollison had the following to say on the way the Indian Cattle were bred:

The numerous breeds of cattle found throughout India are commonly presumed to be the result of haphazard breeding. This is not so, for, every pure breed has a distinctive type and family likenes which could only have been produced by careful breeding and by maintaining the pristine purity of the breed through many generations. Distinctive characteristics such as those referred to above may have been induced by accident or otherwise in the first instance, but have undoubtedly been perpetuated in some degree by careful breeding for a very long time.

Mollison also notes some of the differences between cattle breeding in India and in the West.

It is not likely that in India even in the best breeding districts careful mating can be absolutely controlled, because the breeding herds are grazed in.large, droves; whilst in cultivated districts the cattle of each village are so mixed up on the common grazing ground that there necessarily must be indiscriminate breeding. Therefore in India desired results cannot be attained to the same extent, as in Western countries where every breeder's stock is absolutely under his own control

The Brahmani bull :

The old Hindu system of breeding is carried on by means of the sacred bulls, or 'Brahmani" bulls, as they are generally termed. These bulls, dedicated to Siva or some other deity, are let loose when still young, on the occasion of funeral ceremonies, or in fulfillment of a vow. They are picked cattle, and, being sacred, are allowed to roam wherever they please, no one being permitted to kill them. The custom is still maintained, and in some parts there are too many Brahmani bulls The Brahmani bull, where he exists, is almost always a fine creature,
fed on the best of everything.

What is happening to Brahmani bulls ?

'Pli heard at Bharwari that the value of a bull had risen from Rs. 10 to Rs. 25 in consequence of the demand for its flesh. Near Cawnpore I heard complaints that there were no Brahmani bulls left, and that the cultivators have to go to the nearest man who has a bull, of whatever kind it may happen to be. The agitation has, more recently, been increased by a decision given by Mr. Justice Straight, in which he declared the Brahmani bull to be "no one's property" inasmuch as it
could not be said to belong to any particular owner. The bull is thereby deprived of the protection of ownership, and becomes more than ever the prey of cattle stealers and butchers! while the villagers are deprived of the means of getting their cows served. Surely, such a decision cannot be allowed to stand. That men should be allowed to steal and realize money by the sale of the flesh of stolen animals, and then escape punishment on the ground that the animals are -'no one's property", seems manifestly unjust, and, in the interests of the agricultural communities, thepractice should not be permitted to continue.

What steps can the Government take for cattle improvement ?

Where Brahmini bulls exist in sufficiency there is no need of doing more; but
where they are extinct, or where good country bulls do not exist, then Government
can do much good by the distribution of good stud bulls... It is well, perhaps, that 1 should here interpose a remark to show that, when I speak of improving the cattle by using better sires, I am not at all in favor of trying to improve Indian cattle by crossing them with English bulls. The main object in India is to produce cattle suited for work, and not, as in England, to produce either meat or milk. At the Bhadgaon (Farm I saw a bullock that was a cross between a Mysore cow and a Short horn bull, fa big, beefy animal, that ate a great deal, but was hot adapted to ploughing

The 'native' way of making ghi :

The native way of making butter is, to boil the milk as soon as drawn from the
cow, then to cool it, and after adding a little sour milk, to let it stand from 12 to 20 hours in a' brass vessel narrowed towards the top. After standing, the milk is churned by the rapid twisting round fin it of a stick which is kept spinning round by the hand, first warm and then cold water being added now and again, but quite empirically. The butter 'comes' in about a quarter of an hour, and is strained off on to a cloth, the sour butter-milk, called tak or Chas, being much relished by the people. The butter is collected, put into another brass vessel, and melted over a fire. This operation requires careful watching, and good ghi makers are adepts at it. In the heating, the water is evaporated, and a portion of the mass, which is probably the enclosed curd, deposits at the bottom of the vessel, the remainder being poured intov jars and stored. This is the ghi or native butter, so largely used in cooking, etc., and it has the property, which ordinary butter has not, of keeping good for a long time.....

in the absence of any chemical investigation into the nature and composition of ghi, it is impossible to say what ghi exactly is, and whether, as made by the Native, it is

Obviously these Brahmani bulls must have been reared by the whole village or community, institutions which no longer had any privileges under the British rule.purely butter-fat, or whether it does not contain some amount of curd. The latter, indeed, is probably the case

Attempts at introducing 'Dairy Farming' in India, and whom they could benefit :

Of late, efforts have been made to extend the practice of Dairy Farming in India. Mr. Ozanne, who, at the time of my visit, was Director of the Department of Land Records and Agriculture in the Bombay Presidency, was foremost in the endeavors to foster this industry, A considerable impetus was given to the movement by the visit to India, in 1889, of Mr. H. A. Howman, a well-known dairy-farmer, from Warwickshire, England who came out on behalf of the Dairy Supply Company, Limited, of London, for the purpose of introducing the mechanical "cream separators", for which that company were agents. These separators were of Swedish make, the invention of Dr. de Laval, and were of a size which could be worked by hand power. Mr. Howman also took over with him a number of other appliances for making butter--It was, however, when Mr. Howman put himself into competition with the skilled ghi makers that he failed in showing that he could produce more ghi than the native manipulator. He could always get more butter, but in making it into ghi the native excelled. I cannot, however, regard the trials as by any means satisfactory or complete The butter, as made by Mr. Howman, was merely butter-fat, without curd this may account for the fact that Mr. Howman obtained more butter but less ghi Mr. Howman's visit undoubtedly showed that great improvement was possible in dairy matters in India, but whether the benefit will extend beyond the European Community is questionable This leads me to the consideration whether butter-making by improved methods is likely to make much advance in India. must say I hardly think that it will, so far as the native population is concerned. Butter will not replace ghi, for the reason that it will not keep anything like the time that ghi does. The Native, again, makes ghi with the simple utensils he has at hand; he could not make butter in this way. But, wherever there is a considerable European population, then, I think, English dairying may be pursued with much benefit and comfort to the community. I could not help wondering how, in such towns as Calcutta, Bombay, Madras, Poona, Allahabad and others, the English residents put up with the so-called "butter" with which they are supplied

7. Agricultural implements

The excellence of 'native' implements :

A detailed description of the various implements in use in Indian agriculture at the end of last century, may be found in the chapter on 'Agricultural Implements' in the -book 'A Text-Book on Indian Agriculture,' Voll (1901) pp. 135-173, by J, Mollison The following are .general observations of Mollison:

In this chapter the more important indigenous tillage implements known in the Bombay Presidency are illustrated and described. I have purposely excluded any reference to or description of agricultural implements which are not purely indigenous.

I have done so because I believe that the implements In ordinary use are entirely suitable for the conditions of Indian agriculture. This statement may be objected to by other authorities, but if such is the case, I am afraid, cannot change a deliberately expressed opinion. To those who are skeptical I can show in parts of the Presidency cultivation by means of indigenous tillage implements only, which in respect of neatness, thoroughness and profitableness cannot be excelled by the best ' gardeners or the best farmers in any part of the world. That statement 1 deliberately make, and am quite prepared to substantiate. The hackneyed expression that an Indian plough merely scratches the surface is pure nonsense. There are ploughs and . ploughs. The best of the indigenous kinds the most effective at work might with advantage be more widely known in the country and the same might be said of other indigenous implements, but there is certainly no need to go out of the country for the ordinary tillage implements which are required.

The implements and tools required for a fair-sized holding in India cost little more than the price of a single English iron turn-furrow plough indigenous tillage implements have one special advantage over the stronger and more expensive European implements. Their parts mostly consist of wood, and after rain as soon as the surface dries such implements can be used. Iron implements could not be used so soon because moist earth sticks much more tenaciously to iron than to wood. Delays in tillage or sowing early in the monsoon or, in fact, at any season owing to the cause mentioned would produce disastrous results. The full benefit of a good- monsoon can only be obtained when the cultivator exerts himself to the fullest extent in preparing and sowing his fields in the breaks between heavy downpours of rain

Voelcker, in his report, also expresses very similar views on the excellence of the
indigenous agricultural implements:

Perhaps in no direction have efforts at improving Indian agriculture been pushed more than'in that of introducing new or so-called "improved" implements. Even at the present time it is not unusual among people who speak of the rajyat's farming as being "primitive" to say, "What can you expect when he uses a plough, which merely scratches the soil?". After j1 seeing for myself what is used and what have been suggested for use, 1 am obliged to conclude that there is not much scope for improved implements under existing conditions. Not that the ones the raiyat uses at present are perfect, or that others have not advantages, but it is equally true that existing implements have also advantages, and the suggested ones disadvantages, both of which have been overlooked in the past. That there is some room for improvement is shown by the success which has attended the introduction of the Beheea sugar-mill . Still) when this has been mentioned, I confess that one cannot go much further; and if A the history of the Beheea mill is looked, into, it will be found that it succeeded only after a close study had been made of native ways and requirements, and after the
machine had been adopted to these.

The 'native' wooden ploughs vs, iron ploughs:

Since this was a subject of great and repested controversy in the last century, we shall quote both from Voelcker's report and the book of Wallace. Firstly, Wallace's observations are the following:

Many attempts have been made to introduce into India European ploughs which turn down the surface soil, and which replace it with fresh soil from beneath. With few exceptions, in rare and unusual circumstances, those attempts have failed. The refusal of the ryot to adopt the new form of implement has been set down to "ignorant prejudice"; but after a careful and minute investigation of the facts and circumstances, I have come to the unqualified conclusion, that the extensive adoption of English forms of ploughs would be ruinous, and, if general, would probably reduce the crops so as to plunge the whole country into famine. If the land were turned up to the action of the sun in the wet condition in which it is now worked, or rather stirred, by native implements, it would in a few hours of hot sun bake into the condition of air-dried bricks, which it would be almost impossible to reduce. Alternate wetting and drying would accomplish it in time; but once thoroughly hard, such soil is not easily wetted, unless it ,is soaked or submerged in water. Rain falling upon it penetrates but a short distance. If once it assumes the baked condition it is practically Impossible in the short preparation time of one season to bring it back to a state fit to grow crops. In addition to this, the land is left open to dry to a greater depth during the scorching heat of summer.

Not only has the native plough a peculiar and definite shape for good reasons, but the practices, thought at first to be peculiar, are often well supported by successful experience.'

We shall now present Voelcker's observations on the same issue :

'Ploughs have often been made the subject of attempted improvement, and yet the native wooden plough holds its own, and will continue to do so, I expect, whereas not one of the new kinds of iron ploughs have had more than a local fame... The reasons are several, the first being that of cost. The raiyat'spractice is to buy an iron share in the Bazaar, for 4 annas ; this he takes, along with some babul wood, to the village carpenter, who then makes the plough. In Eastern Bengal a wooden plough costs 8 annas only, but Rs. 2 to Rs. 4 may be considered the general range of prices throughout India. The cheapest improved plough will however cost Rs. 5 to Rs. 6. The prices are as follows : the "Duplex" Rs. 5; the "Kaisar" Rs. 6; the "Seebpore" Rs. 6; the "Watts" Rs. 7 ; the "Saidapet" Rs, 8; and the "Hindoostan" Rs. 12, As. 8. Every attempt has been make to lessen the cost but without avail......

A second objection which the raiyat makes is the weight of an iron plough; it is he says, heavy to work ; his cattle are not strong enough, and he cannot carry it himself, as he does his wooden plough, on his shoulder from field to field. These contentions are often true, but not always. The native plough, generally speaking, weighs about 25 lbs. ; some are even lighter; the Konkan plough, for example, weighs only 20lbs. An "improved" plough will weigh from 30 lbs. to 80 lbs

The manufacture of wooden (ploughs, again, is a regular employment of the village carpenter; he forms part of the village community, and does not charge for his labour, but is kept up at the general expense of the villagers. At harvest time he gets' a proportion of the grain, and, in return repairs and makes new ploughs all the year round. His occupation would be in great measure gone were iron ploughs substituted for the wooden ones.

Even if properly used, a plough that goes deep may do harm where a native one would Jnot, viz., by turning up inferior soil, and by bringing lumps of limestone (Kankar) to the surface.

Again, it is quite possible that, were deeper ploughing to be in vogue, moisture, which in the case of some soils, it is so necessary to re rain, in flight be lost The turning over of a furrow is not always an advantage in india; if the soil be at all stiff, the sun will rapidly bake the slice turned over ; it will remain more like a brick than like soil, and will not readily pulverize again. This would not occur with the native plough, the action of which is more like that of a pointed stick running through the ground, just below the surface, 2 to 3 inches deep, simply stirring and loosening it. For hard and sun-baked ground, such as is often met with, no action could be L better adapted, and, in a trial at Meerut, I saw an English pt ugh completely fail on such land.

I have met Mr. W.D. Hudson's (Tirhoot) authority for saying that for breaking up land in wet weather' the native plough is better than a furrow-turning one, for the latter throws over a slice which will not break down readily. In black soil, too, a plough that goes deep is bad, if no rain falls after ploughing.

The! fine tilth produced by the frequent ploughing with a native plough produces a surface which will absorb water better if rain follows, than would that left by a furrow-turning plough.

Against deeper ploughing it may also be said that there is so little manure to go on the land, that more would be lost if the soil were turned up to a greater depth

Further, land is frequently infested with weeds, such as Kunda (Saccharum Ciliare), which, if buried, will readily spring up, and wher as the native plough, with its digging action, tears the weed out and brings it to the surface, a furrow-turning plough would cover it over, and give to it the very bed it required for propagating itself. So, too", would it be with a field covered with dub grass Cynodon DactytonJ, every joint of which will grow again. For rice cultivation, nothing but a digging and stirring plough, like the native one, would do any good, working, as it does, among mud with several inches of water over it. For breaking up new land the native plough has also advantages, and somewhat resembles the tearing action of the "steam-digge".

Why does the Indian cultivator give so many ploughings?

It has been said that if the native cultivator had "improved" ploughs he could dispense with the many ploughings which he gives to the land, and that he would thus save himself the cost of going over his field again and again, crossing and recrossing. These ploughings are always 3 or 4 in number for ordinary crops, and 8, 12, and even as many as 20, for sugar-cane and other special crops. But the answer is, that the end is achieved in time, a finer and better tilth is obtained, and the moisture is not lost. Besides, the raiyat has his bullocks, and it costs no more whether he works them or not, and his labour is not as a rule, hired labour for which he has to pay, but is his own or his family's. Ploughing, too, is generally done on a mutual accommodation system, neighbours working together on one another's fields, and in turn lending bullocks for the ploughing... Had the raiyat to pay for the labour, I could understand that this item wouid counterbalance the cost of an "improved" plough, but this, as I have stated, is seldom the case.

Other implements:

If for ploughs of new designs there be but little room, still less is there for more expensive implements, such as seed-drills, mowers, reapers, threshing machines, etc. The native seed-drill will strike every one who sees it at work as being wonderfully efficient, and leaving little to be desired...

As opposed to threshing machines! the cultivator has his bullocks ; they may as well work and tread out the grain ; he has no fear of bad weather coming, and no urgent call on his time, nor hired labour to pay ; besides, he gets the broken straw and the chaff (bhusa) soft, so that his bullocks will eat it readily. At the Cawnpore Farm there is a threshing machine the price of which is Rs. 188, but it is almost needless to say that none of this kind have as yet been sold...It is only on large estates, the "concerns" of indigo planters, and by Europeans generally, that there shing machines will have any actual use on the farm itself, and then it will be because in such cases there is a great deal to thresh, labour has to be hired, and saving of time is thus an object in view. Against them it is urged that they break and chip the wheat a good deal ; that they do dot separate gram from wheat; and that the bhusa is not rendered short or soft, as it is by the process of treading out with bullocks... It may be said generally, as regards machines, that, where speed is not required, cattle-power will always beat steam-power in India.

Anyone who has watched the clever devices of the native cultivators in the implements which they use for harrowing, leveling, drilling, raising water, etc., will see that if anything is to replace the existing implements it must be simple, cheap, and effective. He will indeed be a clever man who introduces something really practical.

After describing various kinds of drill ploughs employed in Indian agriculture, Wallace declares :

These drilling machines, hava been in use from time immemorial; and when skillfully handled, which is very frequently the case, they do beautiful work, leaving nothing further to be desired.

The Cawnpore pump :

At the Cawnpore Experimental Farm several kinds of implements are manufactured and sold yearly In 1888-89, 84'ploughs ("Watts" and "Kaisar"), 22 pumps, 24 corn- grinders (costing Rs. 25 each), and 8 chaff- cutters, were sold at the Cawnpore Farm. Sometimes implements are given out on trial, but most are sold outright. The pump sold here is generally known as the "Cawnpore Pump", ft is a kind of chain pump, and is admirably suited for raising water the depth of which below the surface does not exceed 20 feet. The pump has had considerable success in the
neighborhood, though it hardly' comes within the rafyat's means ; the prices are, for 3 feet to 10 feet depth, Rs. 40 ; for 15 feet depth, Rs. 45; and for 20 feet depth Rs. 50. I This pump is an1 adaptation from one brought by Sir Edward Buck from Australia. After a long series of careful trials and modification, made under the supervision of Mr. W.J. Wilson, of the Irrigation Department, North-West Provinces and Oudh, it was found that for depths between 15 feet and 20 feet the pump could beat all the native devices for raising water, but that at depths shallower than 15 feet or so", and again at depths exceeding 20 feet, the native appliances weresuperior.

The 'native' sugar-mills :

'The native mills (for making sugar) are either the Kolhu, a mortar and pestle arrangement, in which cane is bruised and pressed, or else wooden roller-mills, of which there "are two kinds, the gundi or cherki, consisting ef two, or sometimes three, upright wooden rollers, and the belna, used in the Punjab, and made of two horizontal wooden rollers. The wooden mills cost Rs. 20 to Rs. 30, and last about 10 years They are hard to work; and do the pressing very ineffectually, the canes having to be passed through the rollers several times, always three or four, and sometimes as many as eight times. The only points in favour of the wooden roller mills are, that they can be made locally, and that the canes have not to be chopped up or cut into short lengths, as is the case with the Kolhu and with the iron mills ; thus, the fiber, after pressing, is available for rope-making, and especially for ropes for wells. For the latter purpose the sugar-cane fibre is much prized, as it will stand the constant immersion in water necessitated by the employment of the Persian Wheel, the method of raising 'water most common throughout the Punjab. Still, if has been rightly pointed out that there are quantities of mungrass [Saccharum ciiiare), which would serve the same purpose quite as well.

The story of Beheea sugar-mill:

The Beheea mill was introduced in 1873-74, and, as first manufactured, was a two-roller one, costing from Rs. 80 to Rs. 100, but within the last seven years a three-roller mill has been introduced, and is a greatly improved, though necessarily more expensive, machine. It crushes the cane before it is pressed, and thus presents it flat to the pressing rollers. I have spoken [earlier] of the difficulty attending the repair of the iron mill, and how the proprietors, Messrs. Thomson and Mylne, have met this by establishing depots throughout the country, where worn-out mills can be replaced by new ones.,.

The Punjab Administration Report (1889) speaks of the Beheea sugar-mill and its modification as being "the only implement successfully introduced into the Punjab in late years". In Rohtak, it is driving the old Kolhu (native mill) out of use"; In Kapurthala the substitution of it for wooden mills is actively encouraged...

8. Crops and cultivation

The General excellence of cultivation

I have remarked in earlier chapters upon the general excellence of the cultivation; the crops grown are numerous and varied, much more indeed than in England. That the cultivation should often be magnificent is not to be wondered at when it is remembered that many of the crops have been known to the raiyats for several centuries; rice is a prominent instance in point.

A.O. Hume had the following to say on the way the fields were maintained in in India in his 'Agricultural Reform in india'

As for weeds, their wheat-fields would, in this respect, shame ninety-nine hundredths of those in Europe. You may stand on some high old barrow-like village site in Upper India, and look down on all sides on one wide sea of waving wheat broken only by dark-green islands of mango groves—many square miles of wheat and not a weed or blade of grass above six inches in height to be found amongst it. What is to be spied out creeping here and there on the ground is only the growth of the last few weeks, since the corn grew too high and thick to permit the women and children to continue weeding

Wallace states the following on the abilities of Indian cultivators as contrasted to those in England :

The natives of India have great powers of observation for ordinary everyday objects. They possess a very extensive acquaintance with all common plants and animals. An ordinary ryot will recognize and name nearly every plant that can be picked up on his hand, and with a characteristic sway of his head will indicate whether it is valuable or otherwise. The total ignorance of a country-man at home, in all matters of detail relating to the minor facts of Nature, stands out in striking contrast to the intimate knowledge of, and interest shown by natives in everything which immediately surrounds the human species in India. In mentally answering to myself the great and important question, is the labouring population of India, when free from the ravages and horrors of famine, contented and happy could not help contrasting the results of our modern European civilization with the guileless plan so well exhibited in India, by which Nature occupies and develops the minds of her votaries, in a light which was decidedly favorable to her methods of working.

Rotation of crops and mixed cropping :

Wallace observes that :

it is quite a mistake to suppose that the native cultivators of India are unacquainted with systems of rotation of crops. It is a fact that an extraordinary variety of rotations is practised in' India. There, systems are much more varied and ' numerous than in England.

Voelcker has given the following detailed descriptions of the practice-of rotation and on the cultivation or mixed crops

It is quite a mistake to suppose that Rotation is not. understood or appreciated
in India. The contrary is the case. Frequently more than one crop at a time may be
seen occupying the same ground, but one is very apt to forget that this is really
an instance of rotation being followed. It is not an infrequeut practice, when
drilling a cereal crop, such as Jowar (Sorghum vulgare) or some other millet, to
put in at intervals a few drills of some leguminous crop, such as arhar (Cajanus

There are many systems in ordinary use which are far more complicated than the above. For instance, not only may there be rows of crops side by side as noticed above, but the alternating rows may themselves be made up of mixtures of different crops, some of them quick-growing and reaped early, others of slower growth and requiring both sun and air, and thus being reaped after the former have been cleared off. Again, some are deep-rooted plants, others are surface feeders, some require the shelter of other plants and some will thrive alone. The whole system appears ,to be one designed to cover the land, and thereby to prevent the bareness and consequent loss to the soil which would result from the sun beating down upon it, and from the loss of moisture which it1 would incur. It is known also that the process of nitrification jn soils is much more active when a growing crop is on the ground than when the latter lies fallow..

The one I crop with which' rotation is not practiced is rice. Why this should be so may be better understood when the conditions under which rice is grown are considered. Rice flourishes on silt-renewed lands that need little or no manure, and which are plentifully supplied with water. The water itself, by its constant renewal, probably makes the soil-constituents more readily available. Under these circumstances the rice plant becomes semi-aquatic in character, and is more independent of manure, and of the manurial benefits effected by rotation.

Differences in the mode bf cultivating rice may. however, be followed ; thus in some parts of Bengal it is the rule to sow rice broadcasted one year, and transplanted the next.

The use of leguminous crops for rotation did not have the sanction of the
modern Western science till late in the 19th century. As Albert Howard states
in his book An Agricultural Testament'

Although it was not till'1880 after a protracted controversy lasting thirty years that Western science finally accepted as proved the important part played by putse crops in enriching the. soil, centuries of experience had taught the peasants of the East, the same lesson. The ieguminous crop in the rotation is everywhere one of the old fixed practices in some areas such as the Indo-Gangetic plain ; one of the pulses—the pigeon pea—is used as a sub soil cultivator. The deep spreading root system is used to promote aeration of the closely packed silt soil.

Further light on the indigenous practices of rotation can be found in the book of Mollison, from which the following is extracted :

In the light of recent investigation we now know that although leguminous plants actually remove more nitrogen from the soil than cereals do, yet they also leave the soil richer in combined nitrogen than before they were grown. I have already described how they indirectly fix in organic form the free nitrogen of the air in the soil, and keeping this fact in view we begin to understand how the raiyat in India on the best class of soil has been able to grow mixed crops year after year on the same field without the help of manure. It may be conjectured, although it cannot easily be proved, that by growing pulses and cereals mixed, the former during their growth are preparing available nitrogen, which is assmilated by the latter...

The successful practice of growing mixed crops in India points to the fact that the practical experience of the uneducated Indian raiyat has determined centuries since a means of providing an inexhaustible supply of nitrogen for the soil while enlightened European agricultural chemists have only recently begun to see the way. It is a common saying in England, "Wheat after beans or clover"; the Indian raiyat has similar though not identical experience; he knows that a leguminous green manure crop is a very good preparation for sugar-cane (Saccharum officinarum), that gram (Cicer arietinum) or ground-nut (Arachis hypogia) are each uncommonly good rotation crops with cereals, that tur (Cajanus indicus) a deep-rooted pulse had a decidedly ameliorating effect upon the soil fertility and that a second crop of val (Dolichos lablab) taken on rice (Oryza sativa) land In seasons when the land holds sufficient moisture after the cereal is harvested, enriches the soil for the rich crop of the following year...

A rotation in which gram or ground-nut takes a prominent place will to some extent ensure that the land under ordinary tillage will remain tolerably clean. The successful cultivation of some crops demands that the soil be kept absolutely clean. One need not look for a good crop of potatoes (Solanum tuberosum) or onions (Allium cepa) or of turmeric (Curcuma longa) or ginger (Zingiber officinale), of chillies (Capsicum frutescens) or sugar-cane unless the soil is well stocked with manure and is absolutely clean. The tillage of these and other garden crops is only

According to the Encyclopedia Britannica,
In 1886, Hellriegel and Wilforth determined that certain micro-organisms in conbination with leguminous plants obtained nitrogen from the air. undertaken by-well-to do cultivators and indicates a due appreciation of systematic rotation and an advanced system of husbandry ...

In the Bombay Presidency irrigated garden crops are systematically rotated, less
attention is paid to the rotation of purely dry crops. The reason is that everywhere on dry crop land the practice of mixed cropping prevails and the practice obviates to some extent the necessity of other rotation.


The following extract is again from the book of Mollison :

The principle of bare fallowing demands that the soil be rested and at the same time be thoroughly 'cultivated. The practice is not unknown in the [Bombay] Presidency. In some talukas of the Branch Collectorate on black cotton soil it is systematically practiced. The fields so treated are known as vasMI fields. Fallowing is only practiced on the more extensive holdings. The occupants can afford to allow a certain proportion of their lands to be fallowed every year. Excellent crops of cotton are got after a year's fallow without any manure. Where fallowing is systematically practised the holdings are thoroughly clean...

In the poor uplands]of the Konkan and elsewhere in the [Bombay] Presidency where the soil becomes worn out by a succession of crops and there is no practical present means of making it recover its fertility, sometimes it is allowed to lie waste for years". When a certain number of years have elapsed it is again brought under cultivation. The land so treated although not fallowed in the true sense of the term -recovers fertility. The practice is
confined to districts where the rainfall is heavy. Ordinary fallowing would do more harm than good there,' because a heavy | fall of rain would wash the loosened soil from the sloping ground to the lower levels. Whilst the land is lying waste the spontaneous growth of grass and scrub jungle not only prevents erosion of existing soil, but conserves from waste any soluble matter dissolved from the soils' mineral store. Vegetation existing on the surface feeds on the soluble matter in the soil and prevents a serious loss which drainage would undoubtedly otherwise cause. Before these lands are again brought under tillage, the scrub growth is cut, laid evenly over the surface and burnt, and talthough the practice may be described as a wasteful one, the soil is undoubtedly enriched by the ashes, whilst on account of rest it has otherwise recovered sufficient fertility to produce a short rotation of crops consisting chiefly of the poorer hill millets

The Selection of Seeds :

It was Voelcker's view that the Indian cultivators did not follow the practice of selection of seeds as meticulously as the European cultivators;

In this respect the Indian Cultivator might well follow the European planter, as, for example, in the careful selection of indigo seed.

However, Voelcker also notes that the Indian cultivators were knowledgeable about the selection of seeds :

There are several proverbs, such as one which Mr. Benson found current in Kurnool,
pointing to the desirability of selecting seed. "As you give gifts to the deserving, so select seeds for your soil ", runs the proverb, but the practice is different to the precept, and seed is not habitually selected.

Now and again selection of seed is practiced to a certain extent. Thus in Rawalpindi Settlement Report, Mr. F.A. Robertson points out that the Arains or Malliars are the best cultivators and that they select their maize seed.

The perspicuity of the Indian farmer in differentiating different kinds of seeds and crops has been noted by several authorities. For example, John Kenny in his book. 'Intensive Farming in India' [(1912) piii] states:

To preach dry farming to men to whom it was a hoary tradition when Englishmen used paint instead of clothing did not appear to me the surest way to gain the confidence of the Kunbi [Indian farmer], mbr did I consider it wise to suggest seed selection in a land where 4,000 different sorts of paddy, are grown in one province alone, and carefully differentiated according to their qualities and the land suitable for them.

Voelcker's own explanation as to why the Indian cultivator was not in a position to select seeds, is the following :

The root of the mischief lies in the system by which the cultivator is not his own seed merchant, but is entirely dependent on the baniya mahajan, or similar individual of the money-lending class. These men supply the raiyat with seed, charging interest at an exorbitant rate, for they know that he must have seed or else he cannot grow his crop. The accounts between merchant and cultivator, thus begun over seed transactions, are seldom allowed to lapse, and often assume enormous proportions, leading to mortgaging of land and other evils.

Storage of grains :

A. 0. Hume notes the following in his book 'Agricultural Reform in India, [(1879)' P5.]:
'They [Indian peasants are great adepts in storing grain, and will turn it out of rough earthern pits, after 20 years, absolutely uninjured. They know the exact state of ripeness to which grain should be allowed to stand in different seasons; in other words, under different meteorological conditions, to ensure its keeping when thus stored; and equally the length of time that, under varying atmospheric conditions, it should lie upon the open threshing-floor to secure the same object

On the excellence of 'garden' cultivation :

I may fairly say that nothing in the agriculture of India impressed me so much as the excellence of the cultivation carried on by irrigation from wells ("garden'' land). This was not in the case of one or two parts only, but in almost every instance where this system of cultivation was adopted

Whether it be in the betel and plantain gardens of Mahim (Bombay) the market-gardening of Meerut (North-West Provinces), the "garden"' land of Coimbatore, in Madras, or that of Gujarat and Hoshiarpur in the Punjab, the finest cultivation I have seen has almost invariably been that carried on by well irrigation. Here it is that the greatest care is given, and the greatest economy used ; it is for this land that manure is most saved,-and from it every weed is plucked away as an intruder; here every inch is utilized for growing crops not one crop alone, but often three or four together and to these crops the precious water is dealt out, as it were, by measure. To take a single instance at Mahim, the betel plant is watered every sixth day until manure is applied to it; and after that every third day until rains come; sugar-cane once every six days until the rains; plantains similarly, and ginger at intervals of three days only. The explanation I of this excellence of cultivation as carried on by irrigation from wells is
found chiefly in the fact that every drop of water has to be raised by the rafyat's labour and that of his bullocks, and that the well itself has often been built with his own money and by his own hands, But I must not dwell on this, except to say in regard to this cultivation that I can suggest nothing in it to improve ; indeed, the people have mastered thoroughly all details of the system. English farmers may well join with me and look on in admiration, and it should be the aim of every one interested in agricultural improvement in India to extend this method of irrigation in every way possible

A similar opinion is expressed by Mollison :

Where there exist, and when well or canal irrigation is available garden cultivation is started by well-to-do cultivators. The garden lands near to Surat are very fertile and the methods of cultivation can hardly be excelled. The crops grown follow each other in rapid succession ; ordinarily the land is double cropped each year.

Cultivation of cotton, tobacco :

Voelcker asserts emphatically that:

Cotton like, sugarcane, is a very profitable crop for the raivat to grow. The actual cultivation of it is thoroughly well understood, and I am not aware of any suggestion that can be made for improvement in this respect

The above assertion is all the- more significant, for, as we also noted in the introduction, much of the efforts of British Government towards 'improving’ Indian agriculture were | directed at replacing the indigenous varieties of cotton by the long-stapled American variety. On these efforts Voelcker has the following to say :

Many efforts have been made, and even Government legislation has been tried, in order to keep pure the finer qualities of cotton, and to prevent the increased growing of the coarser native kinds. But all these efforts have failed, and at the present time the cultivation of the indigenous varieties is more extensive than ever. The reasons are briefly, that the country cotton is a better-yielding variety, it is earlier, and more hardly than the long-stapled kinds

On the cultivation of tobacco Voelcker states :

So far as the cultivation [of tobacco] goes, I see nothing in which the raiyat can improve, for, like other "garden'' crops, tobacco is one over which no trouble is spared

What was the 'improvements' in crops and cultivation during British rule

Having spoken of the excellence of the cultivation, Voelcker notes that 'improvement' is still possible, and the kind of 'improvement' he is talking about is a further commercialization of Indian agriculture, which, being the policy of the British Government had already made a significant headway:

Yet, that improvement is not impossible may be seen in the spread, within recent times, of indigo and jute cultivation, the introduction of tea-planting, the raising of the potato and other vegetables, the growing of maize, etc.

The increasing demands of other countries for wheat, oil-seeds, cotton, etc., have exercised an important influence upon the systems of Indian agriculture, and whereas the raiyat formerly looked to his field yielding him a crop which would provide grain to himself and his family, as well as straw for his cattle, the element of export has now entered into his calculations and has marked changes in the kinds and extent of the crops grown [emphasis ours].

Another improvement' that Voelcker takes note of, has to do with the modern European techniques being employed in the notorious indigo plantations:

The cultivation of indigo has been very greatly improved by the European planter... Selection of seed is carefully attended to... imported or "improved" implements have an opportunity of being usefully employed in indigo cultivation. On the indigo estate or "concerns", as they are called, there is a large area to be sown, and it is all important to get this done quickly and just at the right time. Hence the indigo planter uses a drill which will sow, not one, but several rows at a time, and he uses a large number of these drills


It is perhaps in this chapter, more so than anywhere else in the whole report of Voelcker, that we can clearly perceive the biases and prejudices characteristic of a practitioner of modern Western science as also of a representative of the colonial administration.

When will the agricultural methods 'improve'?

If in one part the conditions of living are easy, the agriculture will often be found to be lax; whereas, when the struggle for existence is harder, the agricultural methods will frequently be more closely attended to.

In a subsection, entitled 'natural advantages and easy circumstances are not conducive to agricultural improvement', Voelcker argues :

A low rate of assessment is by no means synonymous with prosperous agriculture. Of many parts of the Central Provinces it might be said that, were the assessment higher, the agriculture would improve, in order to enable the increase to be met. Around Damoh the people have been obliged to embank their land so as to make the crops pay. It is certain that there are many parts where an increased difficulty

of living would bring about improved practice of agriculture. It is not where population is least dense that the best agriculture is seen, but more frequently in the most congested districts, such as those around Benares, Azamgurh, and other parts of the North-West Provinces. As the struggle for existence becomes harder, there is the inducement to put forth effort to meet its demands, whereas comparative ease in circumstances, a fight assessment, and a.naturally fertile soil, may prevent the exercise of energy, and may foster a backward condition of agriculture. Where such is the case an improvement can only be expected to come from the disturbance which time or pressure of population will make in the easy circumstances which

Another defense of the British land revenue policy;

Even were the Government demand for land revenue remitted by one-half, it would not result in the production of that which Indian agriculture requires most of all, viz., more manure to put on the land. While this need remains unsupplied the actual produce of the soil cannot be increased, however low the rent payable by the cultivator may be. Nor can a better system of land tenure directly produce an increased yield of a single bushel per acre, nor can it provide wood to replace cowdung, and [so set free the latter for its right use upon the land. Improvement in tenures, remission of rent, etc.1, may make the condition of the cultivating classes better, but they will not provide more manure, better cattle, more pasture or better

In defense of the export of food grains :

Voelcker produces the following (standard) defense of the policies of the Colonial administration in response to the, criticism that the export of food grains, madepossible by the introduction of railways, was causing famines:

The amount of wheat exported is at present only about one percent of the total of foodgrains produced, and only one-tenth of the total wheat crop [emphasis ours].

Rarlways have, it is true, greatly facilitated export, but they have also done service in preventing fluctuation of prices in different parts, whilst their value, intime of famine for conveying food to distressed districts can hardly be over estimated.

10. Agricultural education and Research

The story of the Saidapet Farm :

The earliest of jail the Experimental Farms was Saidapet, established in 1865. It is also the one on which the greatest attempts have been made to introduce new practices and new implements to the notice of the Indian cultivator. The past expenditure on the" Farm has been considerable, and it has now been finally abandoned as an Experimental Station. From 1871 to 1887 it was under the direction of Mr. W,R. Robertson, and was supplemented in 1876 by the starting of an Agricultural College. It is not for me here to go into the past history of the Farm, nor to discuss at length the steps which have led to its abandonment. It is enough to say, in the words of the Directors of the Madras Agricultural Departments, "The results attained at the Farm are, so far as the agriculture of the country is concerned, purely negative ; no attempt is made to connect the one with the other". Undoubtedly this failure to bring itself into sufficiently close communication with the native agriculturists has had much to do with the result... I have already thoroughly endorsed the recommendations of the Committee [The Madras Agricultural Committee, 1890] as to the necessity of abandoning the attempts to teach the raiyat until more is known, through careful enquiry, of what his practices really are, and the conditions under which he pursues them [emphasis ours].

What had the British educational system achieved in general?

There is very little doubt that the tendency of education in the past has been too much in a purely literary direction, and that it has been diverted from, rather than turned towards, the staple industry of the country, viz., agriculture. Agriculture is by far the most general pursuit, and it is that which contributes the bulk of the Revenues of the country. According to the Census Returns of 1881, 72 percent of the whole male population engaged in some specific occupation are directly supported by Agriculture, and the estimate of the Famine Commissioners was that 90 per cent of the rural population live, more or less, by the tillage of the soil. Nevertheless, it is found that the tendency of education at the present time is to draw the rising generation away from the land, and to give a purely literary training, which ends in a young man making his aim the obtaining of a post under Government, or the following of the profession, of a pleader in the courts. Agriculture is not regarded as a profession, but too often as a medium for deriving an income off the land

The nature of the agricultural education:

[The Poona College of Science] in the agricultural branch, is virtually the Agricultural College of the [Bombay] Presidency...In looking over the syllabus in agriculture, it is clear to me that it has been drawn on an English and not on an Indian model. Thus, practices such as "warping of land" are mentioned; manures such as sulphate of ammonia, dried blood, soot, and artificial manures, none of which have anyplace in Indian agriculture, are introduced ; the requirements of "fattening animals" are supposed to be learnt, and this is a country where no fattening of animals whatever is carried on. On the other hand, many subjects which have a special interest in Indian agriculture are omitted, such as canal and well irrigation, Kankar, oil-cake refuse, ghi, etc

'The student at an Agricultural College will rather take a Government appointment worth Rs. 50 a month than devote himself to the management of his farm, or superintend that of some one else. There is a general impression that everything pays better and is more dignified than farming.

The Madras Agricultural Committee (1890) reported that the results of agricultural education at the Saidapet College were disappointing, and that the sole object
of the students joining the College" was to obtain employment or promotion in Government service, very few indeed of them subsequently engaging in farming.

Why do the 'natives' seek employment in Government service after agricultural education ?

stead of tackling this question by looking at the economic and political conditions
which restricted the colonial education to a particular class of people, Voelcker presents a curious argument based upon his view of the Natives" attitude to science :

The aim of the [native] students is not to study agriculture for its own sake, but for the sake of getting Government employment or preferment. It is of course, unfortunate that this is so, and especially that it is not merely a tendency, but an almost universal rule. I do not think that there is much likelihood of a change, and therefore it is better to provide for things as we find them, and not as they might be [emphasis ours]. It will be1 long, 1 think, before we shall find among the Natives, many workers in pure science who will study it for its own sake. So, too, will it be with agriculture.

What should therefore be done?

If a lower ideal has to be taken, it is nevertheless desirable, to ensure, as far as possible, that the training shall be that which is most likely to be of benefit to the men in the spheres which they will subsequently occupy. It would unquestionablybe well that the men who, later on, become Land Revenue officials, and who in their daily work are brought in contact with agricultural conditions and surroundings, should get some knowledge of the principles of agriculture during their earlier training. Even if they do make the attainment of a University degree the main object, and study agriculture in an academic way, it is more likely to be productive of good in the end than if they had followed a purely literary course... I do not mean to imply that the improvement of Indian agriculture is in any way dependent upon the conferment by the Universities of an agricultural degree ; but I do think that, seeing how matters stand, the granting of a degree would give stimulus to the study of agriculture...' IR1A, . Voelcker's keenness of perception was indeed remarkable, as he could clearly see,,
ninety years ago, that the British system of education could never produce or train the farmers, and all that could be aimed for, would be to equip the land revenue officials with some knowledge of agriculture.


The question, 'How to improve Indian Agriculture', remains as relevant to-day as it was when Voelcker wrote his report, 90 years ago. However, the answer that Voelcker provides, will no doubt, come as a great shock for most of our present-day scientists. When Voelcker advocates is that first, a thorough study be made of our indigenous agriculture, and that for the following purpose:

I believe that it will be possible here and there to graft onto Native practice the results of Western experience, but the main advance will come from an enquiry into native agriculture, and from the extension of the better indigenous methods to parts where they are not known or employed... There comes another most important branch wherein enquiry is absolutely necessary; this is the ascertaining of requirements of different parts of the country in respect of... the supply of water, manure, wood and grazing

Any one talking in this vein, to-day, would surely get branded an 'obscurantist'. He could also get accused of being an imperialist agent advocating that our people should not acquire the latest, the best. In defense of Voelcker, it must be emphasized that he was no less ardent an advocate of modern Western science than the most vocal 'modernizers' of to-day. Every chapter of Voelcker's Pt. report is replete with recommendations (not included in our 'selection' of quotations in Sections II, III) that agricultural chemists be appointed to investigate this or that, that various scientific officers (Botanists, Entomologists, Agricultural Engineers, etc.) should be attached to every Agricultural Department, that 'scientific' agricultural education should be provided on a large scale if possible, etc. Even his calf for a thorough enquiry into 'Native' agriculture is merely asking that our agriculture be looked into from the perspective of modern science, and nothing more than that

Then it does appear strange that Voelcker should still insist that Indian agriculture was not backward or primitive , but was actually excellent in several aspects. In this context, we should remember that Voelcker's survey of Indian agriculture was among the earliest of its kind, done at the behest of the British Government. His report was not meant for the Indian farms, or even the educated Indian (who was, in any case, l not concerned about agriculture, unless he happened to be a land revenue official) ; It was a report prepared to advise the British Government as to how Indian agriculture could be 'improved' so as to suit its interests. There is no doubt that Voelcker represented the imperialist interests. But, writing in the 1890's on agriculture, the main imperialist interest that Voelcker could see was land revenue, which happens to be tied to agricultural d productivity. For example, as we noted in Section 111. 4 (on Forests), even while pleading that the Forest Department should stop reserving all forests solely for timber and provide firewood to the cultivators, Voelcker takes great care to explain that such a measure would compensate the loss in forest revenue by an increase in agricultural productivity

which is the view of all the modern scientists, to-day, of our indigenous agriculture.and hence in the land revenue. Much of Voelcker's views on traditional agriculture are shaped by his concentration on the land revenue and, inter alia, the agricultural productivity

It is much 'more important to realize that Voelcker was writing at a time when .,.
modern science had not yet come out fully prepared with its mass-produced packages r~ to replace the various traditional inputs in agriculture. Of course, the situation was changing fast.) Whereas Voelcker seriously argued that the artificial manures or the so called improved' implements | were not suited for Indian agriculture, it was only a matter of few decades before all scientists became unanimous that what Indian agriculture needed most was 'better manure, 'better' implements, 'better seeds, etc. where the 'better', of course, was to be gotten from the West. How this came about, and how the present-day policy of going in for Green Revolution technology is a logical culmination of such' views, is very much a matter for an independent study. Here, we shall only indicate how, in a rather short period, all the basic recommendations (basic as we see them) made by Voelcker were completely undermined.

The famous Royal Commission on Agriculture in India of 1926, provides the clearest case in point. The Commission, in Its report (1928), paid glowing tributes to Voelcker's report:

Although thirty-five years have elapsed since this work was written, the ability which Dr. Voelcker displayed in his comprehensive survey of the agricultural conditions of India, in his analysis of problems they present and in his recommendations for their solution, still renders it a book of the utmost value to all students of
agriculture in India.

Now, let us first examine what was the stand taken by the Commission on the question of manures. To start with, it clearly acknowledged the problem faced by the culivators, much in the same way Voelcker had done thirty-five years earlier:

Much of the farmyard manure available is burnt as fuel whilst a large quantity of combined nitrogen is exported in the form of oil-seeds, food and other grains,
and anima! products such as hides and bones.

The Commission went on to p add that the above loss was no way compensated by the import of nitrogenous fertilizers which had (then) recently begun and stood at a paltry amount of 4724 tons' in 1925-26. But then, the Commission came up with the following fool-proof argument to show why it would not help at all even if farmers were provided the much-needed firewood for fuel:

The view is generally held that it is the absence of a sufficient supply of firewood which, over large parts of India, compels the burning of cow-dung as fuel. But it must be recognized that there is often a definite preference for this form of fuel, as its slow burning character is regarded as making it specially suitable to the needs of the Indian housewife. Thus we are informed that, in Burma, immigrant labourers from India persist in using cowdung as a fuel, although an abundant supply of firewood is available

The Commission also managed to conclude that:

Neither an export tax on oil-seeds or oil-cakes nor a prohibition of such export,
can be justified

Neither an export tax on bones, bone meal or fish manures, nor the total prohibition of such exports can be justified

Given ail this, what else could be done except to call for massive imports of artificial fertilisers, 'the adoption of which has received powerful support'? The Commission also went on to suggest: 'It would assist in popularizing the use of [artificial] fertilizers if the railway rates on them were reduced'. Indeed the Commission had 'arrived' at a solution way off from what Voelcker had suggestedmaking firewood available to the cultivators so that they could be free to employ cattle-manure.

The same is the story regarding the agricultural implements. The Commission's main pre-occupation was, how mass-produced implements could be introduced in Indian agriculture on a large scale. Here, it expressed its dis-satisfaction with even those sporadic attempts by the various Agricultural Departments to improve on the indigenous implements, and declared:

We are informed by one large firm of manufacturers in England that, of the 350 types of ploughs that they were making, mass-production had only proved possible with a dozen types and that this was the experience of the trade as a whole. It will however, be obvious that notwithstanding the great diversity of local conditions, a country such as India, in which the total number of ploughs is about 25 millions presents great possibilities of advance in this respect.

And this lead to the policy suggestion:

The aim of the Agricultural Departments should be the evolution of a small number of types of implements and machinery suitable for a wide range of conditions and suitable for mass production... Railway freight rates on agricultural machinery and implements should be reexamined and, where possible, concessions should be given

We shall not go into a discussion of how the various other recommendations by Voelcker were undermined in a rather short period, except to note what happened to the repeated and emphatic pleas made by Voelcker that the first and foremost task was to make a study of Indian agriculture. This we can see for ourselves to-day, thirty-five years after independence, with so many Agricultural Universities and Research Institutes sprawling all around the country. AH our libraries are stacked with books on agriculture, in all the Indian languages and, of course, English. But it would indeed be a miracle to locate a single book on traditional agriculture amidst this ocean—this in a country with thousands of years of flourishing agriculture! But who needs to look at traditional agriculture in this post-Green Revolution era, when we have already solved our food problems

Finally, we should mention that what we have written based on Voelcker's report, was anticipated, in some sense, more than fifty years ago. In their standard work, 'Indian Economics' (first published in 1921), Jathar and Beri caution the innocent and unwary against attempts such as ours—taking Voeicker's work out of its 'context' and interpreting it, the way we have done. Here is what they say [cited from pp. 212-213 of the 8th Edition (1947)1:

Dr. Voelcker,Consulting Chemist to the Royal Agricultural Society, who was
sent out in 1889 to report on the agricultural practice in India from the modern scientific point of view, has borne admiring testimony to the careful husbandry "combined with hard labour, perseverance and fertility of resource" of the Indian agriculturist. Opinions of this kind bearing the imprimatur of high scientific authority must be respected and should leave us in no doubt as to the excellence which Indian farming is capable of attaining under favorable conditions. But we must not allow such laudatory remarks, torn out of their context and mainly intended to correct extreme views in the opposite direction, to lull us into a false sense of security. If the average cultivator in India had been as efficient and go-ahead as the unwary may be led to imagine from encomiums such as that of Dr. Voelcker, the rural problem in India would have been much simpler that it is We must admit that, generally speaking, the Indian peasant is lacking in originality and initiative and is too much wedded to traditional methods and practices, many of which are wasteful and unscientific. Also, he is steeped up to the lips in superstitions and prejudices, which in their totality are fa serious drag on his economic progress. The dead weight of his inertia, apathy and conservatism is an obstacle in the way of every
reform proposed for alleviating his condition....

Well, this being all standard stuff, do we need to go on with the quotation any further?

Author: Madras Group


* Some of the travelers accounts of the flourishing state of Indian agriculture in 17th centurv, can I be found in 'India To-day' of R. P. Dutt (pp. 21-24). We may cite, for example, the following observation of Tavernier, the French traveler of the 17th century: 'Even in the smallest villages, rice, flour, butter, milk, beans and other vegetables, sugar and other sweetmeats, dry and liquid, x can be" procured in abundance.

* For example, the Encyclopedia Britannica refers to three major innovations carried out in British agriculture in the 18th century, the so-called 'Era of Improvement.First was the invention' of the drill plough by Jethro Tull in 1731, where- by the turnips could be sown in rows and kept free from weeds by hoeing,thus much increasing their yields'. Next was the introduction of the four- course rotation of crops by Lord Townshend during 1730-38, which was further elaborated (by Thomas Coke, the Earl of Leicester from 1778 onwards.As L.'C. Pearson notes in his 'Principles of Agronomy' [1967 p. 79] As a result of this rotation, the average yield of wheat in England increased from 8 bushels per acre (in early 18th century) to 20 bushels per acre within a few decades prior to 1840, and it established England as the school of agriculture for the entire Western world [emphasis ours]'. The other major advancement made in this 'Era of Improvement' was in connection with the modern European way of selective breeding of cattle, initiated by Robert Bakewell (1725-95).

* The paper of Halcott, and portions of the report of Walker, are reprinted in the book, 'Indian Science and Technology in the Eighteenth Century' -by Dharam-pal (1971). Extracts from these articles can be found in the review of Dhar-ampl's book published in the PPST , Bulletin Vol. 2, No. 1 (1982). These should be read along with the present article.

* Here, and later in connection with Vdelcker's report, the question, 'Whether Indian agriculture is susceptible of .improvement' appears often. By this is meant the query as to what technical modifications (based on Western practice) could be suggested in Indian agriculture, so as to finally lead to an increased land revenue.

* For instance, C.B.Clarke wrote in 1870 (cited from J.Kenny, 'Intensive Farming in India (1913 p 2989): T concluded my first (1868) paper on rice by saying that I did not think we had much to teach the Bengalis in rice-growing and this statement did not, I fear, conduce to the popularity of that paper. The reason why such views were getting unpopular in 1868, will be taken up later in this section.

* It is no accident that 'Agriculture' is caught between 'Revenue' and Commerce' in this pioneering effort to 'improve' Indian agriculture

* We should bear in mind that this was the period when the (British (and. European) agriculture started taking a more 'modern' and 'scientific' turn, symbolized by the employment of chemical, fertilizers, newer mass-produced implements, etc., and the further shifting ' of the knowledge of agriculture from the peasants and the landed classes to agricultural research institutes and colleges. As the Royal Commission on Agriculture in India declared in its report (1928): The dependence of agriculture! on empirical methods was general even in Western countries until towards the middle of the nineteenth century, when the applications of chemistry to soils in 1840 and the stablishment of the Rothamsted Research Station in 1843 were in England at rapidly followed by the opening of the first agricultural college
Cirencester in 1845.

* That is, by the 'Natives.

* Or, we can now add, our present-day 'agricultural scientists.

* Implicit, of course, is the presumption that their (i.e., the 'Native' farmers') theory needs to be improved or replaced altogether,

* like almost all the "scientists' of to-day

* it would have been interesting to know who these 'others' were.

* An early British observer of Indian agriculture. Col. Alexander Walker, noted the following about agriculture in Malabar in 1820: 'in Malabar the knowledge of Husbandry seems as ancient as their History. It is the favorite employment of the inhabitants. It is endeared to them by their mode of life, and the property which they possess in the soil. It is a theme for their writers ; it is subject on which they delight to converse and with which all ranks profess to be acquainted...' (Walker, 1820),

* For Gandhi, these were also the symbols of a resurgent India, of an India
made free' again through the independence of its agriculture and its villages.

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