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actual growth of the population is believed to have been :-
The total population of India, as registered in the last census is 315 millions, a decided increase since the last census of 1901 was taken and this increase is one of the causes in the rise of prices.
The areas formerly under rice now under non-food crops is the third cause, under the first heading, to which can be attributed, to a slight degree, the recent rise in prices. It is an admitted fact that areas under Jute cultivation have increased, mainly for the reason that the raiyats get cash payments for jute, and although new lands have fallen under jute cultivation, there can be no denying the fact that some lands which were formerly under rice cultivation are now yielding jute.
The fourth cause is the excessive export of food materials. Mr. Saiyaid Ali Bahadur Bilgrami in an erudite article which he contributed to the Muslim Revicw ( Vol. IV, Nos. 6 and 7) opined that “it is on no account due to excessive export that any rise has taken place in prices of food grains. The statement is certainiy a bit amusing, coming as it does from a gentleman of his standing, as nowadays, even a schoolboy reading in the matriculation classes knows well that “the dearth of food stuff in the country, caused by failure or excess of rain or other natural calamities, is aggravated by exports to foreign countries." ("England's Work in India" by the late Mr. Ghosh, a textbook for Matriculation candidates of the Calcutta University, page 76).
Take the case of rice. The demand for Indian rice in foreign countries has increased some five times during the last fifty years.
The amount exported (in tons ) in 1858-59 was 450, 210 and that in 1905-06 was 21,519,000. Not only rice and its sister, wheat, but the exports of other food grains are also rising. In the “ Review of the Trade of India " for 1904-05 and 1907-8, Mr. Robertson thus wrote :
“ The favorable harvests of recent years have caused a great expansion in the exports of food grains other than wheat and rice. The previous record of 1903-04 has now been exceeded by nearly 57 per cent., the total being 426,772 tons,
value 290% lakhs. Arranged according to multitude, pulse with 156,346 tons has increased by 44% per cent.; jawar and bajra with 126,827 tons by 23 per cent.; gram with 38,865 tons by 113 per cent. ; barley with 18,827 tons by 233 per cent, and other sorts with 86,707 tons by 131 per cent."
In reviewing the export trade of India in 1907-08, Mr. Cotton thus observed :
“ The food grains, other than rice and wheat, exported in 1907-08 increased by 53'1 per cent. or 1,702,818 cwt. The most striking increase was that of barley which rose by 1,131,678 cwt or 303 per cent. to
1,637,745 cwt. Jawar and bajra increased by 345,811 cwt. or 44'3 per cent. to 1,125,993 cwt. Pulse which contracted by 48:6 per cent. to 1,097,945 cwt. in the previous year rose by 92,486 cwt or 8 4 per cent to 1,190,431 cwt. Other sorts including maize also increased by 25,553 cwt. or 38'3 per cent. to 102,297 cwt. and gram rose by 2,790 cwt. or 9 per cent. to 853,873 cwt.”
Referring to this, Mr. Mukherj, a well-informed writer.writing
in the Hindusthan Review thus opined :
From the above figures one may easily make out that the effective demand for our food grains in foreign countries has steadily been increasing. But the more the demand for the prime necessaries of life increases, the more rapidly prices rise not in proportion to the actual demand, but in relation to the borrowing power of the customers. Our customers are the wealthy nations of the globe ; no wonder prices have been going up rapidly.”
The Blue Book for 1910-11 showing the “Trade of India” gives the following figures, regarding the huge increases in Food and Drink. Articles of food and drink constitute some 27 per cent. of the total exports. They show an advance of Rs. 6'34 crores (£4,226,700) or 12 92 per cent. bringing the total value up to Rs. 55:37 crores (£ 36,913,300) as compared with Rs. 49'04 crores (£32,693,300) in 1909-10. Of this class rice represented 41'96 per cent. and stood at Rs 23:23crores(£15,486,700) as against Rs, 18-24 crores (£12,160 000) in 1909-10, the advance being Rs. 4'99 crores (£3,326,700) or 27'34
Wheat and wheat-flour at Rs. 13:59 crores (£9,060,000) showed an increase of Rs. 28:68 lakhs (£191,200) or 2.16 per cent and represented 24.5 per cent.
of the total class. All other articles of food and drink marked increases. Tea rose by Rs. 70*9 lakhs (£472,700) to Rs 12.42 crores (£8,280 000), coffee rose by Rs. 23 52 lakhs (£156,800) to Rs. 1'33 crores (£886,700), fruit and vegetables by Rs 792 lakhs (£52,800) to Rs. 10'2crores (£680,000).
It will be evident, therefore, that though export is not the main reason for the dearness of food articles, it cannot be denied that it is one of the reasons and that food grains should not be permitted to go out of the country as they have been doing so long.
We then to the monetary question. By the economic law, any increase in currency means lowering of its purchasing power.
In India we have the silver standard, i.e., silver is the metallic currency of India and in judging of the question or rather the bearing of money on prices, we are to see whether silver's purchasing power has increased or decreased. By the discovery of many gold mines and the demonetization of silver the value of silver decreased. Indeed, almost everywhere silver is losing its former position while gold is being adopted by many states.
Further, any increase in the quantity of money in circulation necessarily decreases its values and causes prices to rise. In India this has been the case to a certain extent. The Hon'ble Mr. Gokhale in his Budget speech of 1908 observed that “the phenomenally heavy coinage of new rupees during the last few years by the Government has something to do with this general rise in prices.” The Hon'ble Member computed that during the “last 10 years,
the Government made a net addition to the stock
of over And although, in fact, as stated by Sir Edward Baker, the net addition to the currency during this period was
some 82 crores of rupees, still it cannot be denied that redundancy of the rupee (in spite of the increase in trade) has diminished its value and enhanced prices. As the Rt. Hon'ble Henry Fawcetobserved in the Parliamentary Budget Debate of 1873 "of the 172,500,500 of specie which has been poured into India during the last 11 years, a considerable proportion has of course been added to her circulation. This has naturally produced a rise in prices and a similar effect has followed the increase of the paper currency on its being made a legal tender From the peculiar nature of the Indian trade it seems almost certain that this importation of specie will continue. This rise in prices will be assisted
. by the general rise in prices that is taking place throughout the world, which is due to a depreciation in the value of the precious metals, a fact now admitted by almost every financier and economist of eminence."
What Fawcet said some 35 years ago has now come to pass and the proposal of a congress or an international conference has been opportunely made. But the question, how far the Government of India will be able to participate in it, is one with which the present writer has no concern.
JOGINDRA Nath SAMADDAR. HAZARIBAGH,