HC Deb 03 May 1935 vol 301 cc758-80

  1. (1) The Governor-General shall, in the exercise of his individual judgment, appoint a person to be Inspector-General of Irrigation (in this section referred to as "the Inspector-General").
  2. (2) The Inspector-General shall hold office during the pleasure of the Governor-General and the salary and allowances of the Inspector-General shall be such as the Governor-General in the exercise of his individual judgment may determine and shall be charged on the revenues of the Federation.
  3. (3) The Inspector-General shall be the Chairman of a Board known as the Federal Irrigation Board (in this section referred to as "the Board"), and the said Board shall further consist of the Chief Engineer of such Province and the head of the Irrigation Research Bureau.
  4. (4) The members of the Board (other than the Inspector-General) shall not as such receive any salary, but there shall be paid to the members of the Board such allowances, and to the staff of the Board such allowances and salaries, as the Governor-General may in the exercise of his individual judgment determine, and such allowances and salaries and all expenses of the Board shall be charged on the revenues of the Federation.
  5. (5) It shall be the duty of the Irrigation Board to advise the Governor-General, when requested so to do, as to all irrigation schemes in operation or proposed to be undertaken in any Chief Commissioner's Province, and to advise any Government of a Province, when requested so to do, as to any irrigation scheme in operation or proposed to be undertaken in such Province.
  6. (6) If it is proposed in any Province to extend or improve any existing system of irrigation, or to undertake any new scheme of irrigation at an estimated cost in each case of ten lakhs of rupees or more the Government of that Province shall request the Board to advise as to such extension, improvement, or undertaking.
  7. (7) If any Government of a Province, having been advised by the Board under the provisions of the preceding sub-section, is desirous, contrary to the advice given by the said Board, to incur an estimated expenditure of ten lakhs of rupees or more on any extension, improvement, or undertaking as aforesaid, the matter shall be referred to the Governor-General whose decision, given in the exercise of his individual judgment, shall be final.
  8. 759
  9. (8) The Governor-General, in the exercise of his individual judgment, but after consultation with the Board, shall make rules for the transaction of the business of the Board.
  10. (9) The Governor of each of the following Provinces, that is to say, Madras, Bombay, the United Provinces the Punjab, the North-West Frontier Province, and Sind, shall have in the exercise of his functions an additional special responsibility for the conservation, distribution, and extension of water supplies in the Province of which he is Governor for the purposes of irrigation.—[Sir R. Craddock.]

Brought up and read the first time.

2.37 p.m.


I beg to move, "That the Clause be now read a Second time."

This new Clause is to provide for inspection and advice from the central authority in India in respect of the large irrigation works situated in various parts of the country. I do not think any Member of this Committee or the Government can contemplate the handing over of these vast irrigation works completely to the Provinces and to inexperienced Ministers with complete equanimity. Do hon. Members generally realise the magnitude of these works, and their vast importance, not only to the actual areas which they cover but to the country at large, from the point of view of insuring the food supply? They cover some 35,000,000 acres, which is five times the area of the Nile irrigation scheme; and in the Sukkur barrage scheme there are three distributory canals which are larger than the Suez Canal, the largest being even bigger than the Panama Canal.

Irrigation experts who were beard by the Joint Select Committee and Sir Charlton Harrison, former chief engineer of the Sukkur Barrage, whom I heard speak in one of the committee rooms upstairs, are insistent on the necessity of a strict supervision over the maintenance of these irrigation schemes. Sir Charlton Harrison, whose authority is, no doubt, very great, said that any deficiency in the management for even a short period might practically destroy the value of that great undertaking for several years. In the case of the Sukkur Barrage, the Bill provides a special responsibility, which I presume covers the whole of that irrigation scheme; but it is a mistake to suppose that the Sukkur Barrage is of any really greater importance than the triple canal projects of the Punjab and many other works of vast magnitude in other Provinces.

The magnitude of the interests concerned and the terrible losses that might ensue if a work of that kind were allowed to deteriorate make it very necessary, although the day-to-day administration of irrigation may be left under provincial control, to have an expert adviser under the central Government who can go round giving advice to the local governments and bringing to their notice any tendencies to deterioration in management which he observes. The appointment of Inspector-General of Irrigation was greatly valued by the local governments of India. Under the new Constitution the Provincial Governments will probably have capable chief engineers as advisers, but the problems here are often so complicated and involve such large expenditure that any head of a Government is only too pleased to have a second referee, as it were, before he is committed a large outlay which may end in failure. There can be nothing derogatory to a Provincial Government in having such a central adviser as is proposed here, with whom should be associated a board, the members of which would be selected from some of the chief engineers of works in the various Provinces.

It is not proposed to go beyond advice and inspection; there is no proposal to exercise active control over the day-to-day administration of ordinary irrigation work by Provincial Governments and their engineers. It is important that there should be such advisers, and that there should be a board recognised for the purpose. The Bill provides for a special commission, in cases of disputes about water rights and so on, but that commission has a somewhat narrow scope, and, if irrigation is to be put to the very best purpose, vast sums are not to be risked, and, if there is to be security for the great loans which have been contracted by the Government of India for the maintenance of irrigation, there must be some co-ordinating body on the lines suggested in the proposed new Clause.

It will be remembered that many of the large canals lie across two Provinces or a Province and a State. It is impossible for one Provincial Government to look after more than that part of a canal which is within its own territory, and if the Government next door and their advisers have failed properly to supervise the maintenance of the upper part, for example, of the canal, the prosperity of the other Province may be seriously prejudiced by such failure. I would like to say a few words about the enormous advantage of irrigation works of various denominations. Under the ordinary rules which prevail, irrigation works are classed as productive or protective. Productive irrigation work is expected to pay a good net return on the capital outlay, but you do not reckon on making much of a profit on protective work. You may get a certain return, but you do not reckon upon receiving full interest.

I am very well acquainted with this subject in the Central Provinces, where all our works are protective. They are not generally constructed for profit; their real value is protection in the year of famine or of failure of crops and consequent loss of revenue as well as loss of every kind which the State otherwise enjoys. Such works are often classed as unproductive because the only item on the credit side is the irrigation revenue, that is, the irrigation fees, and some part of the land revenue on the irrigated land. The protection is much more valuable than that, because when you have protected the land you have gained everything which you would otherwise have lost, not only under the head of irrigation and land revenue but under every other head, railways, textiles or stamps, or whatever revenue accrues to you from the fact that the land is prosperous, and which would be lost by a complete failure of the crops. If you can save them, the protective work has been of the greatest value to the food supply of the country.

Whether the irrigation work be the great productive work, or whether it be the protective work—in my experience it is true that engineers sometimes do not take so much interest in protective work as in the highly productive work—it is of the greatest importance. In my own Province, 500,000 acres are capable of being irrigated where there were none in 1903. The work was only begun after that date. Those works enforce the argument that somebody should be able to advise the local government and the central government, who are paying the interest of many of the larger works, as to whether irrigation is being conducted with due efficiency and without any risk. It is very important also, as has been already mentioned under previous Clauses, that the staff of irrigation engineers should be maintained at a high level of efficiency, and it may be said, as the Secretary of State himself has admitted, that recruitment of British engineers should be resumed.

I would like to dwell on that point. During the years in which irrigation has been a reserved subject, the number of British engineers recruited by the Government could be counted on the fingers of one hand. They would not even complete the five fingers. It is a great disadvantage and a great regret of irrigation officers and engineers that that recruitment was not more fully maintained during those years. Irrigation experts whom we consulted were all of the opinion that the British contingent would be required for many years to come. One of the great points that arise from the Government dropping recruitment during those few years is that you get layers of rank. There are senior men, three or four together, who are British, and then you get four or five layers of men who are Indians. Then the next layer is British, and they do not get promotion. You may be quite sure that very few Indian Ministers will want to pass over Indians and select a British officer over an Indian who is his senior. Even though the Minister might be willing to select a British officer, his friends will make it very difficult for him to do so. It is important, in recruitment of engineers for the irrigation department, that the two races should go along side by side and not, as it were, in strata, one lot being Indian's and the lot below them British.

I hope that the Government will accept the proposed new Clause, subject to such modification as they may find necessary, and that the principle of having British chief irrigation officers to the Government of India will be maintained in the Bill. No one could say that there is anything derogatory to a Province in having a skilled officer of that kind to give them a second opinion when they are not quite certain whether the opinion of their own expert can be relied upon. Another point raised in this connection is the necessity for having advice when Provincial Governments send up schemes involving large expenditure either for new works or remodelling, and the suggestion made in the Clause is that works exceeding 10 lakhs should not be put into effect until they have been passed by a higher expert. This has been the procedure for years, namely, that the irrigation work sent up by a Province when it costs more than a certain amount not only goes to the irrigation expert at headquarters but very often right up to the Secretary of State. Great schemes involving huge loans and great benefits or losses to the State should be thoroughly well examined before a whole lot of money is spent on them, and that has been the rule hitherto.

There is one other matter to which I would like to refer. In India the food supply of the country depends not only on what is grown in a Province but on what is brought from other Provinces. In Madras the greatest food crop is rice; in the Punjab it is wheat. These crops go all over the country. They have a surplus in one Province, which is exported all over the country, wherever the railways can take it. Therefore, everybody in India is interested in the Punjab's wheat crop or in Bombay's cotton crop, and for these reasons we cannot isolate irrigation as a purely provincial concern. It affects the whole of the population; it supplies food to them all, and is concerned with seed supplies. Another point I should like to mention is that we are rather in the habit of saying that famine was banished from India by irrigation works and railways. The position, of course, has been enormously improved by irrigation works and communications, but there are still vast areas all over India which are entirely unprotected by irrigation. And one has always to remember that catastrophic famines such as those I experienced in 1896–1897 and 1899–1900 may at any time recur. History shows that twice or three times in a century you get a failure of this description. And then, when you have been accustomed to saying that it is all right, you find what tremendous effects follow from catastrophies of that kind. Having experienced them myself and having read about them, I think that it is of vital importance that the policy of irrigation and surveys and preparations for these projects and schemes should come under more supervision than is offered by the man who may be chief engineer in a Province.

3.0 p.m.


In supporting this new Clause, I hope it may be possible not only to get the support of the Government but also the support of the principle of it of members of the Labour party, because the Clause does deal with a really important matter in regard to the future of India. It deals with the life of the poorest class of the community in India, the peasants, to whom irrigation must be their very life's blood. As matters stand at the moment, irrigation is in fact purely a Provincial subject. It is not a transferred subject, and, in fact, the superior officers in the Irrigation Service belong to the All-India service. To-day, unless you have some alteration made in the Bill, you have this vast service, which affects at any rate a quarter of the food supplies of India and the livelihood of somewhere about 50,000,000 peasants, a purely Provincial service. It can only be a Provincial service if the rivers and canals of India were all prepared to be provincial and not to pass from one Province to another. But the rivers and canals run through many Provinces. Take, for example, the Indus, which serves the North-West Frontier, the Punjab, Sind and elsewhere. Not only the rivers but the canals pass over more than one Province.

If you have vast canals and rivers going from Province to Province, at once the question of trouble between Provinces arises unless there is some authority over and above the warring Provinces which can deal with a dispute. Consider the form of the dispute that may break out. The up-river Province proceeds to engage in some irrigation construction. The down-river Province is immediately fearful lest it should interfere with what is its life's blood. Under the Bill as it stands today you have no central authority up above which can allay the anxiety. You have certain machinery to deal with matters after a breakdown has taken place, certain responsibilities given to the Governor-General; but that machinery is a cumbrous machinery, and it cannot come into operation until there has been a breakdown. You may have bloodshed and war between Provinces in a short time, because this comes down to fundamentals. What we ask is that you should have some central authority, a Federal Board containing the greatest experts in irrigation, set up to assist the Governor-General and Governors to deal with these disputes when they arise instead of having to wait for a breakdown If you wait for a breakdown you will find very often that it is too late to tackle the question, that lives have been lost or at any rate property destroyed.

There is this further point, that, although there is some machinery in the event of a dispute between two Provinces, there is no machinery at all in the Bill for dealing with the question of giving useful advice to Provinces which are going to extend their existing schemes or start new schemes of irrigation in their own districts. If a Province is embarking on a big scheme, a needs expert advice—the best advice in all India. The ordinary Province has advice for dealing with ordinary matters, but often it is devoid of the very best advice such as is required for a scheme very much bigger than a Provincial scheme. In many instances it is rather like the surveyor to a small district council finding himself in the position of being the only man who is to judge and deal with the vast town planning scheme, needing the very best information that can be obtained. The same analogy applies to the Province which needs a bigger scheme than an ordinary Provincial scheme, and which has not the expert advice that is necessary to ensure that the scheme shall be a success; and on the success or failure of irrigation schemes in India depends more than on anything else the future prosperity of the peoples of India as a whole.

The Clause proposes that in the case of a scheme costing 10 lakhs or more the Federal Board should examine the scheme and give the necessary advice to the Province. That brings me to my last point, which again is important. There is a great opportunity for an extension of irrigation in India, but, if such a scheme is to be successful in a Province, the Province has to float a loan. It is very often difficult to raise money for purposes of irrigation schemes, but, if the Province has received advice and support for their scheme from the Federal Board, consisting of the best experts in India, that will have a big influence on the amount of money that the Province will get when it raises its loan. I am not tied, any more than my hon. Friends are, to the exact terms of the Clause, but we do ask that we should be given some assurance that the Government are prepared to consider setting up a Federal authority to link together the Provincial irrigation services, in order that the best use may be made of irrigation for India, and that this Bill at last may, if I may say so without offence, produce something new and valuable in the interests of the peasantry of India, who, after all, are India, whatever politicians may say or think.

3.9 p.m.


I desire to say a few words in support of this proposed new Clause, which I believe may, if adopted, yet save the service of irrigation in India. There has been nothing more disgraceful than the light-hearted way in which the Joint Select Committee treated this question. The Simon Committee turned down the idea of doing away with all-India recruitment for the service of irrigation, but, ever since the White Paper appeared, it has been decided to provincialise entirely the service of irrigation. What does that mean? I do not think that Members of the Committee can realise the extent which irrigation covers in India. It covers five times as much territory as it covered by the whole of the Nile irrigation works; it is the biggest irrigation service in the whole world; and yet it is proposed to hand it over to the control of groups of politicians in the future. It is light-heartedly assumed that, if there is a breakdown, the Governor-General and the Secretary of State can intervene and resume recruitment from England, but where are you to get trained engineers in this country should India fail? The Indian service of irrigation is carried on by people who have gone out there as boys from this country, and have gradually learned their job by practical work. If the service breaks down in India, it will be impossible in any part of the world to find people to set it right again. I remember that a gentleman who is a responsible engineer in connection with the Sukkur barrage scheme told us here that three years' maladministration of that scheme would be enough to ruin it. That scheme cost £14,000,000 In the last Sub-section of this Clause it is proposed that the Governors of each of the Provinces where irrigation plays a large part shall have: an additional special responsibility for the conservation, distribution, and extension of water supplies. They have that in Sind at present, but it is only one of the Provinces which really exists on irrigation. Do the Committee realise that 35,000,000 acres are at present irrigated in India and that it is the lifeblood of the peasantry of the country? The hon. Gentleman the Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) spoke of the group with which I work as repressionists or oppressionists, I forget which, and I would like to point out that, in moving this new Clause about irrigation, we are standing up for the rights of the people of India, the poor cultivators, whose welfare we have chiefly at heart. I hope that the Under-Secretary, even in the absence of his chief, will be able to give us some assurance that he will accept this Clause, which I really believe is a Clause which will do something to mitigate some of the great evils of this awful Bill.

3.12 p.m.


I am afraid that I cannot accept the concluding words of the hon. and gallant Member for Wycombe (Sir A. Knox). In fact, he would not expect me to do so. I had better at once address myself to the important new Clause which he has been supporting. The Government are fully aware, and are proud of the great Irrigation Service in India. Nothing that hon. Members have said about the importance of irrigation, its almost dramatic importance, to India can possibly be exaggerated. We think that the British race is wisely proud of the achievements of its engineers in bringing water to thirsty lands and in putting so many people on the land in colonies and so forth which derive benefit from irrigated areas. I think that when we reflect upon some of the immense schemes in operation we must pay every attention, as indeed the Joint Select Committee did, to the problem of irrigation. I cannot accept what the hon. and gallant Member has just said about the Joint Select Committee lightly dismissing this subject. They considered it very carefully, and in paragraph 307 they suggest that a Board should be developed on the lines of the recommendation which they made for the Forestry Board, which latter was in the following words: We think that in future co-ordination will best be secured by the creation of a Board of Forestry on which, in addition to forestry experts, representatives of the Provincial Governments would serve. The Joint Select Committee considered that it would be in the interests of irrigation if a similar board were set up for irrigation. I shall be dealing with this problem of co-ordination in the remarks which I propose to make, and, in doing so, I shall try and show the Committee how it will develop under the proposals of the Bill. First, I will answer the point touched on about the importance of personnel in the Irrigation Service, efficient engineers and possible recruitment in this country. This subject cannot be gone into now, because it does not directly arise. It has been referred to by two hon. Members. May I remind the Committee that in considering Clause 234 my right hon. Friend definitely undertook to reconsider that Clause, which concerns recruitment for the Irrigation Service, with a view to giving the Secretary of State powers to recruit British officers in the Provinces where it may be necessary. Hon. Members should bear that in mind when they consider the care with which the Government have gone into the question of irrigation.


Surely that is only in case of breakdown.


I think I should be out of Order in discussing that redrafted Clause now, but if my hon. and gallant Friend will wait for the Clause which will be submitted on the Report stage he will be able to examine it and see whether or not its terms are satisfactory.


On a point of Order. Is not the Under-Secretary to be permitted to give us, in a sentence, the effect of that Clause? He raised the paint about Clause 234, and my hon. and gallant Friend asked whether it is only to operate in the case of a breakdown. As the Under-Secretary Mentioned Clause 234, surely he could answer that very plain question.


My right hon. Friend puts his request in such a way that I cannot resist him. It is intended to redraft the Clause slightly to enlarge its scope. At the present time the resumption of recruitment is envisaged and in the redrafted Clause—I hope the Committee will not bind me down too much at this moment—it is suggested that in any case where necessary in the Provinces the Secretary of State shall be able to start from the beginning to continue the recruitment of British engineers for the Irrigation Service.


"Where necessary". What does that mean?


In a case where the Secretary of State considers it necessary to continue recruitment in a Province he will have the power to do so under the terms proposed in the new Clause 234. Ron. Members will therefore see that that Clause will come a great deal nearer what they desire than Clause 234 as at present drafted.


Does that mean that the Secretary of State in certain Provinces will not hand over the power of recruitment?


The question whether that new Clause is going to extend beyond a certain point is one that I cannot allow to be answered. We cannot discuss the new Clause now.


Having regard to your ruling, I would remind the Committee that we shall have an opportunity fully to examine the new Clause later.




On the next stage of the Bill.


The Report stage.




On a point of Order. It is a very difficult and inconvenient situation into which the Committee has been led. This question is being raised on the new Clause that we have moved, but the Government have another plan, quite different from the one that we have hitherto been led to believe was the scheme of the Bill. Vague indications of that plan have been given, and yet we are expected to continue discussion of our new Clause without knowing what is the policy of the Government. To debate the new Clause 234 which is to be introduced on the Report stage is no doubt out of Order at the moment, but the policy of the Government ought to be laid before us now if this discussion is to be useful. I submit that at the point we have reached it is extremely difficult for us to discuss the new Clause, when the Government have an entirely different plan, a modified plan, which they intend to introduce on the Report stage. Surely, we ought to know now exactly what is the policy of the Government. The actual form of drafting may well be left until we reach the Report stage.


The right hon. Gentleman will realise that what the Committee have to deal with now is the new Clause which has been put down. In going through the Clauses of the Bill, when a certain Clause was reached, the Government, as I understand it, made a promise that they would introduce a new Clause to deal with the matter of that Clause in a way different from that provided in the original Clause in the Bill. We cannot in the circumstances do more than consider the new Clause now on the Order Paper and cannot in any way, nor can the Government, discuss a Clause which has already been dealt with or a new Clause which they propose to substitute on Report.


The question of recruitment is quite apart from the question of an Irrigation Board, and perhaps I was not right in bringing in the question of irrigation on the question of an Irrigation Board. Therefore I will confine my remarks solely to the question of the Irrigation Board. The new Clause asks that the Governor in a certain specified number of Provinces shall have a special responsibility for irrigation. The only case in the Bill in which the Governor has a special responsibility is that of the Sukkur Barrage in Sind. The whole financial future of the district is bound up in the administration of that barrage, and it was thought wise to give the Governor special responsibility for the administration of the scheme in order that from the receipts the Province may prosper. It has not been thought necessary to come to any different decision for irrigation in other Provinces than has been made for law and order.

It has not been thought necessary to reserve irrigation, but to transfer it to the control of Indian Ministers; and the Government at this stage cannot accept the suggestion that we should go back on that main decision. Provincial autonomy means responsible Government within the Province, and that responsibility must carry with it the care for the peasants in the Province, the provision of water supplies and irrigation services. If the new Clause were accepted it would remove from the provincial field the department of irrigation, and that would mean that it would almost become a concurrent subject. We maintain that we cannot allow hon. Members to move into the Bill a new Clause which would take irrigation out of the control of a Province as we consider it to be in the main a provincial subject. If a new scheme is to be started for the sake of a particular Province, and if new supplies are found, the administration of the scheme is fundamentally and primarily a question for the Provincial Government.

There is the question of research. Research in irrigation will be a central subject. It is referred to in item 12 of the legislative list. Co-ordination, on the other hand, must in our view follow the recommendation of the Joint Select Committee. There must be a board on which, in addition to experts, representatives of Provincial Governments will serve. That is the sort of board which ought to co-ordinate irrigation policy all over India. The hon. Member for South East Essex (Mr. Raikes) referred to the possibility of water disputes on the Indus which flows through several Provinces, whose waters are valuable to mankind in that area and said that there should be some machinery for arranging disputes. This matter was examined by the Joint Select Committee and the Government have inserted in the Bill Clause 129 and onwards, which deals specifically with the interference of water supplies, and Clause 130 has the sub-head "decision of complaints," in the case of water supplies. The decision is left to an ad hoc tribunal which the Governor may summon for the purpose. Therefore, the difficulty of the hon. Member in the case of water disputes is not met through some special responsibility but by the definite provisions of the Bill about water disputes and anything arising therefrom.


I admitted that there was machinery to deal with the matter, but my criticism was that that machinery came into operation only if you had had a breakdown and that it was a cumbersome method of dealing with disputes.


It comes into operation as soon as any complaint is made. It is then possible for the Governor-General to take action as suggested in Clauses 129 and 130. We consider that that part of the subject is dealt with in that part of the Bill. When we come to co-ordination our point of view does differ from that of the hon. Member. We consider that in the Federal Constitution that we suggest this matter should be done by consultation between the Provinces, and that is why we have inserted in the Bill Clause 133, which makes it possible for an inter-provincial council to be set up. Paragraph (c) of that clause gives that inter-provincial council power to make recommendations upon any such subject, and in particular recommendations for the better co-ordination of the policy and action in respect of that subject. The Joint Select Committee definitely hoped that the Governor-General would set up an irrigation board under a section to be inserted in the Bill. We have inserted Clause 133 with a view to co-ordinating policy on such vital matters as health, irrigation, forestry and so forth. The question of health has already been raised in an earlier Debate. Now we have the same problem of co-ordination of policy, but this time with regard to irrigation.

I would remind the Committee that paragraph xxi of the Instrument of Instructions instructs the Governor-General to encourage by all reasonable means consultation with a view to common action between the Federation, the Provinces and the Federated States. If Members of the Committee will refer to that Instrument they will see that it calls upon the Governor-General to encourage co-ordination, which would include the establishment of a board such as hon. Members desire. We cannot, however, accept their exact definition as to what sort of board it should be. They lay down the condition that any project which costs over 10 lakhs should be referred to the suggested board. Ten lakhs would mean that every irrigation scheme over and above the ordinary level of a tank scheme or boring for water would have to be submitted to the board. We think that that level would be too low, and in our proposals we do not make any specific suggestion for a money limit. But under the following provisions in Clause 159 the Provincial Government, if it wants to borrow, is tied up in the manner suggested and will have to depend upon the Federal Government and various conditions for the loan which would certainly be necessary in the case of any large sum, and there is provision in Clause 159 for the Governor-General finally to adjudicate in cases of dispute.

If a Province had to undertake any irrigation scheme of over 10 lakhs it would probably be a scheme involving a perennial supply and of such a large nature that a loan, as far as we can see, would be essential. In that case, there would be an element of control from the Federal Government over the unit which was seeking a loan from the Centre for the purposes of that irrigation supply. We think that the combination of Clauses 133 and 159, read together with the Instrument of Instruction, which we can if the Committee so desire further examine—giving power as they do to set up an inter-Provincial Council and asking the Governor-General to encourage this by every reasonable means—we think that those provisions, together with the borrowing provisions in the Bill, achieve what is legitimate and right in the proposals of the new Clause. The Government attach importance to the question of irrigation and they think that apart from coercion, which would be impossible in a Federal scheme, the method of consultation is essentially the best and that, as far as it can be achieved through the method of consultation, the various proposals which I have mentioned, taken together, do achieve the object which hon. Members have in view.

3.32 p.m.


I have heard with regret the Under-Secretary's rejection of this new Clause, the purpose of which is to mitigate in some way the evils which we apprehend will arise from transferring the control of irrigation to Indian Ministers in the different Provinces. May I have the attention of the Under-Secretary?


I am paying attention to the right hon. Gentleman's remarks.


I do not think that I had actually achieved any remarks—certainly not any which called, for legal consultation or advice.


The right hon. Gentleman forgets that he made some very important remarks earlier and I pay attention to every remark of his.


I am much obliged to the Under Secretary and while I do not wish to interfere with any consultation, I would like to have his undivided attention. I am trying to put to him the relation of his present decision to the general attitude of the Government on this Bill. They have said that the dangers to be apprehended of divergencies between the Provincial Governments, are so great that it is necessary to have a Federal Government at the Centre instead of the present weak Government at the Centre so as to control the Provinces. That is their major promise. They have further let us know that a long period must elapse before the much stronger Government at the Centre takes the place of the present Government. In the meanwhile, we are to continue under various transitional arrangements. The third factor in the data before us is that if the Princes do not come in, this transitional period will be of indefinite duration. Therefore, according to the Government, for an indefinite period of five or six or it may be 10 years we shall be in a position under transitional arrangements, in which the weak Government—according to their argument—at the Centre, will be incapable of controlling the divergences between the Provinces.

That is the general proposition and what subject is there I would like to know which is more likely to cause divergences between the Provinces than irrigation and what question is there which can be less effectively dealt with on a purely Provincial basis? Anyone who reads the passages referring to this matter in paragraph 330 of the Simon Report will see the importance which was attached by that body to the difficulties of co-ordinating the work of the Provinces and preventing disputes on irrigation. Damming the waters of a great river at some high point in its course, and distributing those waters by canals along the salients of the ground instead of allowing them to flow down to the re-entrants, for the distribution of that water over large areas, must affect, in a great many cases, as any student of the irrigation system of India can easily see, more Provinces than one. Here we are to have a condition of affairs which may last indefinitely, and will last certainly for a great many years before the Federal system can be brought into being, when the Provinces will be tearing each other apart, when all those centrifugal tendencies which so alarmed the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster some time ago will be operating with all their devastating and detrimental force, and yet at this time, at this period, there is to be no central control, no gripping together of this process of irrigation which is vital to the welfare of the people of India.

There is a callousness about this, flinging down the irrigation system of India into the tumult of chaotic provincial disputes, into the weak and feeble, infantile beginnings of provincial self-government, when you consider what rests upon it, that the food of a quarter of the people of India—


More than that.


—is grown by means of artificial irrigation erected by British organisations—that is to say, nearly 100,000,000 of people. The population has increased during the last 50 years by nearly 100,000,000, and those 100,000,000 people have come on to this earth to greet the light of the sun in response to this system of irrigation and to the augmentation of the food supply arising therefrom and only capable of being maintained thereby. That is the position. Now the Government, in pursuit of their political schemes, in this insensate, headstrong top-heavy mood which they have gained in the course of this Bill, that it is a thoroughly bad Bill but that they must thrust it through lest worse befall them—the Government now propose to leave the irrigation system of India to be gravely deteriorated—I will not say more than that—by the conflicts between the Provinces which they foresee will occur during the whole period before the Federal system can be brought into operation. The consequences of allowing the irrigation system to deteriorate will only manifest themselves in famines and in abridgements of the population. Some years ago, when I was responsible for the administration of Iraq, or Mesopotamia, I remember hearing from Sir William Willcocks, that great irrigation engineer, of a tragedy which occurred there, which illustrates in the most effective manner the perils of a population which has been brought into being as a result of irrigation when that irrigation is allowed, through Oriential inefficiency, to fall into decay. There was the great system of barrage and canals in the Euphrates Valley, and from a particular barrage, constructed 2,000 years ago, the water was driven along a canal for nearly 300 miles under the head accumulated behind the barrage, and at this end, a whole province had come into being, great groves of palm trees, temples, cities, an entire population subsisting at a high state of economic well-being, all at the end of this canal, separated by blistering deserts from the rest of the country, very much like the Fayoum Oasis in Egypt, though on a very much larger scale. What happened? The Church 700 years ago overran the place and the same kind of retrogression of civilisation took place that I may well believe some of those responsible for these matters in the future may allow to take place in India. The efficiency of the system deteriorated bit by bit along the Tigris and Euphrates. The foundations of the barrage crumpled, and one day the barrage gave way, the whole of the water ran out of this canal, and the whole province was doomed to certain extinction—just as certain to be blotted out as the bulk of the passengers in the "Titanic," when that vessel struck an iceberg and they were plunged into the icy sea.

That is the kind of problem with which we have to deal in India. You say, "Will not the Indian Ministers be careful?" Of course they will be careful, but I do not believe that Indian thought, Indian science and Indian skill could have raised these great irrigation works, and in consequence, you could not have brought into being these vast populations which are now there, which are the real children of the British Raj, because they would not exist but for the peace, order and organisation of irrigation which you have given them, and, having given them, having, as it were, lured them into this precarious existence, you then proceed callously to disinterest yourselves in the very means by which their existence is preserved.

I very much regret that the Under-Secretary has not been able to accept this proposal. We cannot pretend that, in itself, it is a complete proposal, but, obviously, following the clear lead given by the Simon Commission, irrigation should have been kept as a strictly reserved service. They gave a very clear lead. They distinguished carefully between those security services which they said without hesitation they would hand over and this irrigation service which they admitted is far more doubtful and disputable matter. But ignoring their recommendations, filled with your desire to make some kind of symmetrical proposal which shall conform at each point to the political canons and theoretical standards you have set up for yourselves, which form no contact with realities, you are determined to plunge this vital part of the economy on which the whole of the Indian population exists, into the vortex of your ill-conceived political projects.

3.42 p.m.

Lieut.-Colonel APPLIN

There are one or two points which, I think, the Committee ought to realise. First of all, the canals to-day are the life-blood of India, and the people of India are dependent entirely on the canals for their daily bread. In 1877 and 1899 there were two terrible famines which very nearly destroyed the people. Again there was a general famine throughout India which ended with terrible dysentery and loss of life amounting to something like 1,000,000 people. All that has been swept away since we built these canals, took over the water and distributed it to the people of India, and we must continue that distribution. A new and great work such as that the people of India cannot carry out themselves until they have had the experience we have.


Are there not very important irrigation works in the native States?

Lieut.-Colonel APPLIN

The irrigation works in the native States of India are entirely controlled by the British Government.


Is that true with regard to Mysore?

Lieut.-Colonel APPLIN

It is a comparatively small amount of irrigation compared with that in Sind and the Punjab. India cannot do without canals. There are two systems of irrigation in India—the minor system, which is provincial, and the major system, which we built and we control, and for the last five years we have not recruited one British engineer. Of the acreage under crops in India, 244,000,000 acres are watered naturally, and no fewer than 32,750,000 acres are watered by major irrigation. It is important to remember that in bad districts we make a loss on the supply of water. People are fighting for it, and evidence was given before the Commission showing that vast numbers of people asked for water and offered to pay for it. The fact that we have controlled it enables the ryot to get the same amount of water as the rich man. No evidence was given before the Select Committee by the Irrigation Department. That is an important fact. They did not do so because they dare not, for they knew that the one vital question is that of irrigation. It is essential, if we are to see that the people of India do not go back to the days of famine and the common people are allowed to get the fair share of water with the rich people, that this Clause should be passed, and we should continue to control the major irrigation system of India.

3.48 p.m.


May I ask the Government to make one concession. I gather from the Under-Secretary that in various portions of the Bill the position is safeguarded, but many of us think that, although that safeguard may be adequate, the water scheme should not be laid down in the Bill in some special position. The Under-Secretary said that the principle of Sub-section (9) of the new Clause already applied in Sind. If part of the Clause is applied to one particular Province because of the importance of that Province it might be possible to insert this Sub-section in the Bill so that it may be generally applied. It lays down that it is the duty of each Governor to have a special responsibility for the service, distribution and extension of water supplies in his province. That seems to be the main principle of the Clause. I was almost converted by the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill), but I believe that the natural flow of communications between the Governor-General will enable anything like a big barrage being erected for several Provinces and looked after. It is, however, rather the more local side of the question with which I would like the Government to deal. I would like them

to extend the principle which they have already accepted for one Province to certain of the other Provinces. It will not necessarily take away anything from Provincial control, but will make it easier for the Governor to see that the water supply is adequately administered in his Province.

Question put, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

The Committee divided: Ayes, 24; Noes, 133.

Division No. 166.] AYES. [3.50 p.m.
Applin, Lieut.-Col. Reginald V. K. Hartington, Marquess of Reid, David D. (County Down)
Browne, Captain A. C. Hunter, Capt. M. J. (Brigg) Remer, John R.
Carver, Major William H. Keyes, Admiral Sir Roger Rutherford, John (Edmonton)
Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston Spencer Knox, Sir Alfred Taylor, Vice-Admiral E. A. (P'dd'gt'n, S.)
Craddock, Sir Reginald Henry Lennox-Boyd, A. T. Touche, Gordon Cosmo
Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H. Macquisten, Frederick Alexander Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)
Fleming, Edward Lascelles Marsden, Commander Arthur
Fox, Sir Gifford Nunn, William TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E. Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple) Mr. Emmott and Mr. Raikes.
Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South) Geidle, Noel B. Penny, Sir George
Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.) Grattan-Doyle, Sir Nicholas Petherick, M.
Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G. Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan) Powell, Lieut.-Col. Evelyn G. H.
Allen, Sir J. Sandeman (Liverp'l, W.) Grimston, R. V. Preston, Sir Walter Rueben
Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'k'nh'd) Groves, Thomas E. Procter, Major Henry Adam
Apsley, Lord Gunston, Captain D. W. Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)
Attlee, Clement Richard Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H. Ramsbotham, Herwald
Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'th, C.) Hamilton, Sir George (Ilford) Rea, Walter Russell
Beit, Sir Alfred L. Hamilton, Sir R. W. (Orkney & Zetl'nd) Reed, Arthur C. (Exeter)
Blindell, James Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry Reid, James S. C. (Stirling)
Boulton, W. W. Harvey, George (Lambeth, Kenningt'n) Reid, William Allan (Derby)
Bower, Commander Robert Tatton Harvey, Major Sir Samuel (Totnes) Rhys, Hon. Charles Arthur U.
Brass, Captain Sir William Herbert, Capt. S. (Abbey Division) Rickards, George William
Briscoe, Capt. Richard George Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Waller Robinson, John Roland
Brocklebank, C. E. R. Hope, Capt. Hon. A. O. J. (Aston) Ropner, Colonel L.
Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T. Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.) Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)
Butler, Richard Austen Jackson, Sir Henry (Wandsworth, C.) Russell, Albert (Kirkcaldy)
Campbell, Vice-Admiral G. (Burnley) Jackson, J. C. (Heywood & Radcliffe) Samuel, M. R. A. (W'ds'wth, Putney)
Caporn, Arthur Cecil James, Wing-Com. A. W. H. Savery, Samuel Servington
Chapman, Col. R. (Houghton-le-Spring) Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) Selley, Harry R.
Clayton, Sir Christopher Ker, J. Campbell Smithers, Sir Waldron
Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D. Kerr, Hamilton W. Somervell, Sir Donald
Colman, N. C. D. Law, Sir Alfred Spencer, Captain Richard A.
Conant, R. J. E. Lewis, Oswald Spens, William Patrick
Cooper, A. Duff Lloyd, Geoffrey Stevenson, James
Courthope, Colonel Sir George L. Loder, Captain J. de Vere Storey, Samuel
Crookshank, Col. C. de Windt (Bootle) Lovat-Fraser, James Alexander Stourton, Hon. John J.
Crookshank, Capt. H. C. (Gainsb'ro) Lumley, Captain Lawrence R. Strauss, Edward A.
Croom-Johnson, R. P. Mabane, William Strickland, Captain W. F.
Cruddas, Lieut.-Colonel Bernard MacAndrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr) Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart
Davidson, Rt. Hon. J. C. C. McEntee, Valentine L. Tinker, John Joseph
Davies, David L. (Pontypridd) McKie, John Hamilton Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.
Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil) McLean, Major Sir Alan Wallace, Captain D. E. (Hornsey)
Denville, Alfred Mallalieu, Edward Lancelot Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)
Dobbie, William Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R. Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.
Duckworth, George A. V. Mason, David M. (Edinburgh, E.) Whiteside, Borras Noel H.
Duggan, Hubert John Mayhew, Lint.-Colonel John Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)
Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N.) Mills, Sir Frederick (Leyton, E.) Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)
Elliot, Rt. Hon. Walter Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham) Wills, Wilfrid D.
Elmley, Viscount Moore, Lt.-Col. Thomas C. R. (Ayr) Wood, Sir Murdoch Mckenzie (Banff)
Emrys-Evans, P. V. Moreing, Adrian C. Young, Ernest J. (Middlesbrough, E.)
Fremantle, Sir Francis Morrison, William Shepherd
Gardner, Benjamin Walter Muirhead, Lieut.-Colonel A. J. TELLERS FOR THE NOES.
Gluckstein, Louis Halle Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H. Captain Sir George Bowyer and
Glyn, Major Sir Ralph G. C. Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth) Commander Southby.
Goff, Sir Park North, Edward T.