The Kiplings and India: A Collection of Writings from British India, 1870-1900

"A Pound of Rice." Allahabad Pioneer Column, June 4, 1877

(Unsigned column from the Allahabad Pioneer. June 4, 1877)

Dr. Cornish has not said yet whether is he is convinced by the arguments of Sir Richard Temple. Most likely he believes still that, whenever the famine relief gets out of order, it is all owing to the rash experiment of cutting down the wages. The Madras Government, it seems, has thought proper to raise the rate again, though we have still be be told that this has been done in defiance of Sir Richard Temple's recommendations, and in accordance with the theories of Dr. Cornish. However this may be, it is quite likely that before very long the Secretary of State may have something to say about the question. In his last despatch he writes: 

"I shall await the result of your deliberations on the subject, to which the Sanitary Commissioner of the Madras Government has drawn attention, of the alleged insufficiency of the reduced rate of wages lately prescribed for the relief works in that Presidencey." There is a rumour in Madras that the Secretary of State has already spoken, and that his decision is favourable to Dr. Cornish; so it may not be improper to revive the subject. Not that we can stay to go through the Sanitary Commissioner's lengthy memorandums again: they were too discursive for theoretical arguments; and the worth of his practical refutation of Sir Richard Temple was affected by the readiness with which he quoted his own beliefs as received axioms. Indeed Dr. Cornish acted very much as Mr. Pellew did the other day; he took down his own evidence, trying, like, the magistrate, to be judge, jury, and witness. "I drew up the instructions for medical officers who made the investigations in the various districts; and I compiled the report in which the observations were submitted to Government and the Secretary of State for India." 

In a very different way has Dr. Lyon of Bombay approached the question. Unlike Dr. Cornish, he confines himself to facts and figures; and he has stated a theorem which, if proved, will be of the utmost use, not only in times of famine, but as long as the Government of India has to support a large jail population. His memorandum begins with the following statement: 

"During the year 1876, 534 native prisoners (all on hard labour) were discharged from the Bombay House of Corrections. Their average weight on admission was 105 lbs. On discharge they were found to have gained in weight on an average 1 lk. 10 1/2 oz. Their daily diet while in jail is nitrogen 201.6 grains, carbon 4,011 grains."

These few figures should be remembered, as it is on them that Dr. Lyon builds his theory. These and other facts, which need not be quoted here, are offered as a proof that an average native, weighing 105 lbs., can work hard on 201.6 grains of nitrogen and 4,011 grains of carbon daily. Europeans, of course, want more of both; but then they weigh more. 

[Sections omitted] 

Not to overburden the reader with calculations, we may leave him with an assurance, perhaps unneeded, that all this food may be bought with the wages earned on the relief works. As a matter of fact, the work done is not so great as the hard labour of the Bombay House of Corrections. This latter consideration, however, may be postponed till we can treat a second paper by Dr. Lyon "on the dynamic value of the task exacted from labourers on relief works." 


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