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   Chapter 26 THE TRADE FEATURES OF INDIA

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Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


INDIA'S PAST AND PRESENT COMPARED

To the student of civilisation India is one of the most interesting countries in the world. It has always been one of the most fertile and populous regions of the globe. For centuries it was thought to be one of the richest. In consequence it has, time and time again, been the scene of invasion, conquest, and spoliation. But its riches never consisted so much in natural treasure as in the savings of an industrious and frugal people. Since the year 1600 European nations have had much to do with India, especially England, France, Portugal, and Holland. During the last 140 years, however, England has been the dominant power there. Whatever may be said as to the motive of England's interference in India's affairs in the first place, it can only be said that the present influence of England in India is immensely beneficial to the country. India's prosperity on the whole is now comparable with that of any civilised nation on the globe. And a people that once, because of repeated conquest and spoliation, had lost all sense of honour and self-respect, are now, under the benign influence of peace, law, order, and security, rapidly becoming honourable, self-reliant, and enterprising, and ambitious to possess all the rights and privileges of modern civilisation.

INDIA'S SIZE AND POPULATION

India is a much larger and more populous country than most people think it to be. In shape it is somewhat like a huge kite, each of whose diameters is over 2000 miles long, or more than the distance across the Atlantic from Ireland to Newfoundland. Its territory is about 1,700,000 square miles. Of this area, over 1,000,000 square miles, a territory considerably greater than the territory of all the states of Europe (including the British Isles) except Russia, is directly under British control. The remainder is indirectly under British control. The population is 308,000,000, of which 236,000,000 are directly under British control and 72,000,000 indirectly so. This population is made up of people who speak seventy-eight different languages, of which twenty languages are spoken by not less than 1,000,000 persons each.

INDIA'S GREAT FERTILITY

India owes much of its fertility to the fact that its soil is constantly being replenished by alluvium brought down from its high mountains by its immense rivers. The valleys of the Indus (1800 miles long), the Ganges (1600 miles long), and the Brahmapootra (1500 miles long) include an area of 1,125,000 square miles, a part of which, the Indus-Ganges plain, consists of a great stretch of alluvial soil whose fertility is as rich as that of any portion of the globe. One hundred and eighty millions of people live in this plain. So finely pulverised is its soil that for a distance of almost 2000 miles not even a pebble can be found in it. And so fertile is it that there are some agricultural districts in the plain where the population exceeds 900 to the square mile. In that part of the plain which the Ganges waters, 60,000,000 of people find support on the soil by agriculture, at a density of over 700 persons to the square mile, which is 140 persons more to the square mile than the density of Belgium, the most thickly populated country in Europe.

INDIA'S IRRIGATION CANALS AND RIVER EMBANKMENTS

But, fertile as is the soil of India, and propitious to agricultural industry as is its climate generally, its climate is not always favourable. It suffers periodically from excess of drought. As a consequence artificial irrigation has to be resorted to, or much of this fertile country would oftentimes be a desert. In British India alone 28,000 miles of irrigation canals are under the control of the government, 14,000 of which have been constructed by the present (British) government-works of vast dimensions and the highest engineering skill. Altogether 28,000,000 acres in British India are dependent for their necessary supply of moisture upon general irrigation, and 8,000,000 upon irrigation canals. Were it not for these irrigation canals, 2,000,000 acres in Scinde (northwestern India) would be a perpetual desert, for Scinde is almost wholly rainless. On the other hand, in a great part of India the rainfall is excessive. Some districts indeed are the wettest on the globe. In Assam, for example (which is also one of the hottest places in India), the rainfall is 600 inches yearly, and it has been 650. As a consequence rivers in India often overflow their banks. Therefore to protect the country on the lower river reaches from floods the British government has built over 1500 miles of embankments.

INDIA'S MINERAL RESOURCES

At one time India was famed for its wealth in precious minerals and precious stones. Poets often celebrated its golden resources. But its wealth in this respect was always fabulous rather than real. India is in reality poor in minerals. It has a good deal of iron-iron of the choicest quality. It has also a good deal of coal, but its coal is poor, owing to its superabundance of ash. It has also a little copper and tin. It has gold-mines that are worked. Diamonds, too, are found in southern India, and numerously so. The celebrated Koh-i-nur (280 carats) was an Indian product. But neither diamond-hunting nor gold-mining is any longer a profitable industry in India. The principal mineral industry of India is salt-mining, pursued in the Punjaub, where there are solid cliffs of pure salt. Owing to the fact that the people of India are mostly vegetarians (250,000,000 of Hindoos would rather die than eat flesh), salt is a necessary article of diet and a universal commodity. Its production, therefore, is controlled by the government as a means of raising revenue.

INDIA'S WONDERFUL AGRICULTURAL RESOURCES

Comparative sizes of India and the United States.

The real wealth of India lies in the luxuriance and economic value of its vegetation. As a consequence the principal industry is agriculture. Only one tenth of the people live in towns. Two thirds of the adult males in the country are engaged wholly in tilling the soil. Every sort of agricultural product known to commerce is raised in India; for from the high levels on the mountain sides to the low levels on the coasts the vegetation of the whole world is produced within its borders. Even in wheat India competes in the world's markets with countries like Russia and Argentina. In 1896 British India had 19,000,000 acres of wheat under cultivation, and (though a dearth year) an exportation of $4,000,000. In 1892 the exportation was $25,000,000. The district known as the Central Provinces of India has become one of the most important wheat areas in the world. But the principal agricultural product of India is rice. British India alone has 70,000,000 acres of rice under cultivation, and an annual exportation of $60,000,000. In all the coast regions rice is grown universally, and also in the lower parts of the river plains, especially in the Ganges valley. It is the staple food of the people everywhere except on the higher levels. On the higher levels millet and maize (corn) are the staple foods. The next important agricultural product of India is cotton, of which $47,000,000 worth in the raw state is exported annually, besides what is used at home. The American civil war was the great cause of the starting of the cotton-growing industry in India. The next important agricultural product is jute, of which the ex

port in the raw state is about $35,000,000. No country in the world can compete with India in the production of this fibre, for jute is very exhaustive of the soil, and in the Ganges valley, where it is principally raised, the soil is annually replenished by alluvium. A fifth great agricultural product is tea, in which India now leads the world. England uses twice as much India tea as China tea, the reason being that India teas are produced with all the economic care of a high-class English or American manufactured product. The value of the tea export of India is about $27,000,000. Other chief agricultural products are opium (which is a government monopoly), oil seeds, hides, and skins, indigo (in which India excels the world, the value of the export being $14,000,000), coffee (the best grown anywhere-except perhaps that of Arabia and Java-though the bean is sometimes injured in transit), raw wool, lac (for dyeing), cinchona or Peruvian bark (which since it has been raised in India, has greatly reduced the price of quinine), raw silk, raw sugar, tobacco, and spices. Spices are produced abundantly in India, but their quality is not equal to East Indian spices. Also the cotton, rice, sugar, and tobacco of India, though produced plentifully, are inferior in quality to those of the United States. Nor are the wheat and corn of India so good as the wheat and corn of the United States and Canada. Improved cultivation will, however, in time improve the quality of all these products. Of exports of natural products not agricultural the principal are wood (chiefly teak, the most valuable timber known for ship-building, and sal, a most valuable wood for carpentry) and saltpetre.

INDIA'S GROWING MANUFACTURES

Though India is now chiefly an agricultural country her people from time immemorial have been adepts in manufacturing. The domestic textile manufactures and the domestic metal manufactures of India were for ages among the most beautiful and ingenious in the world. These domestic manufactures are principally pursued in small villages, of which there are over half a million in India. But under the influences of modern civilisation introduced by British rule, the domestic industries of the country are now giving way to factory industries. These have already become well established, and are rapidly increasing in number and importance. The stability of India as a nation is now so well assured that capital can be had there as cheaply as in England or the United States. Besides, co-operative or joint-stock enterprises are becoming common. The Indian people, with their natural aptitude for weaving, make the best of textile operatives, and India bids fair soon to become a formidable rival of Western nations in textile manufactures. In twenty years the cotton spindles have increased sixfold. In ten years the cotton output has increased twofold. Bombay has become one of the greatest cotton centres in the world, a sort of Liverpool and Manchester combined. It has practically shut the doors of India to English manufactured cottons of the cheaper grades. Bombay manufactured cotton is even sent to England in immense quantities, but the principal export is to China. The total export of Indian manufactured cotton is $23,000,000. Another important modern manufacture is that of jute. The jute factories of Bengal are now competing with those of Scotland, and the total export is $17,500,000. A similar development is expected in iron manufactures, for already iron-smelting has begun. But, notwithstanding these developments, India still remains a tremendous market for the manufactured goods of England, especially in cottons and hardware and machinery. The value of the annual cotton importation from England is $100,000,000, equal to the total of England's exportation of goods of every sort to the United States. The value of the annual hardware and machinery importation from England is $35,000,000.

INDIA'S EXTERNAL AND INTERNAL TRADE

The total yearly value of the exports of India amounts to the enormous sum of $350,000,000, more than a third of the total exportation of the United States for the banner year 1897.[2] Of this England receives about one half. The total yearly value of the imports of India (exclusive of bullion) amounts to $255,000,000, which is considerably more than a third of the total importation of the United States. Of this England sends out about two thirds. (India is therefore England's best customer, although from the United States England purchases vastly more.) Of the internal trade of India no statistics are available, but with the rapid advances in modern conveniences for doing business which the country is adopting, the internal trade is also enormously increasing. Already 20,290 miles of railway are built and opened, and 13,000 miles of canals and canalised river navigation. Railways are rapidly being constructed in every part of the country. Over 31,000 miles of metalled roads for highways and 106,000 of unmetalled roads are now maintained by the government as public works. There are 38,000 miles of telegraph routes. The government highways and canals as well as the railways are all splendidly engineered and solidly built works. The greatness of India is only just beginning.

FOOTNOTE:

[2]The total exports of the United States for the years 1898 and 1899 have exceeded $1,200,000,000, each year. In the year 1897 they were about $1,050,000,000.

INDIA'S CITIES AND TOWNS

Calcutta (862,000) is the capital of the empire of India and the second city in the British Empire. Although situated on an arm of the delta of the Ganges, eighty miles inland, Calcutta is an immense seaport, but its sea-going privileges can be maintained only by great engineering works, because of the silt which the Ganges is constantly bringing down and depositing in its seaward channels. Calcutta enjoys almost a monopoly of the whole trade of the Ganges and Brahmapootra valleys, and until the building of the Suez Canal it had almost a monopoly of the outward trade of the whole Hindustan peninsula. Its total trade is even yet very large, aggregating for outward and inward business together about $700,000,000 per annum, a sum which can be appreciated from the fact that it is about equal to the total import trade of the whole of the United States. Bombay (822,000), the second city of the Indian Empire, owes its eminence to three things: (1) the opening of the Suez Canal, which has made it the port of India nearest England; (2) the starting of the cotton-growing industry in India, owing to the American civil war (the cotton-growing district of India is adjacent to Bombay); and (3) the development of the railway system of India, which is making Bombay rather than Calcutta the natural ocean outlet for the trade of the country. Madras (453,000), the third city of India, is also the third seaport. But it has no natural harbour, and its shore is surf-beaten and for months together exposed to the full fury of the northeast monsoons. An artificial harbour, however, has recently been built. Besides the cities above mentioned there is one (Hyderabad) with a population of over 400,000; there are two (Lucknow and Benares) with a population of over 150,000 each, and eleven more with a population of over 100,000 each. There are besides forty-seven towns with a population more than 50,000 each, and over a thousand towns with a population of about 10,000 each.

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