§ MR. MACNEILL
I beg to ask the Under Secretary of State for India whether the attention of the Secretary of State for India has been directed to a letter appearing in the Echo of the 6th April, signed by Sir A. Cotton, R.E., K.C.S.I., that the prospects in the part of India now subject to drought seem quite as bad as in 1877, when four millions of people perished, and that, except in the Punjab, where some real grappling with irrigation is now evident, not one single thing has been done since the last famine to provide against another; whether it is the fact, as stated in Sir A. Cotton's letter, three populous districts in Madras—Godavery, Kistna, and Tanjore—had been effectually provided with water, and that in these districts there was sufficient food for the sustenance of the inhabitants, and for the export of provisions which saved millions of lives in the adjacent districts; and will an inquiry be made into Sir A. Cotton's charge, which he says calls for peremptory investigation, that, after the awful results witnessed, not one single step has been taken to extend these effective works to the rest of the country dependent on the North-East monsoon?
The Secretary of State has seen Sir A. Cotton's statements. There is no ground for fearing that the distress in South India this year is as severe or as widely extended as at the same season in 1877. Then there were 783,000 persons receiving relief in Madras and Mysore; now the corresponding total is 39,500. The latest information received during the present week from the Governor of Madras does not justify any fresh alarm. As regards the allegation that,except in the Punjab, not one single thing has been done since the last famine to provide against another,the capital expenditure on irrigation works since 1877 has amounted to Rs.123.85,000; while, in addition to continued expenditure upon existing works, the following new irrigation works have been commenced since 1877:—North-West Provinces.—Betwa Canal. Madras.—Sangam Anicut, Barur Tank, 1105 Rushikalya Canal, Periyar Canal, Scinde.—Desert Canal, Unharwah Canal. The facts stated in the second part of the question were, broadly speaking, true of the situation in 1877, and not to the present scarcity, to which they refer. In view of the facts which I have mentioned, the Secretary of State sees no reason to inquire into Sir A. Cotton's allegations.