Saturday, July 12, 2014

Connecting minor dots...

One of the small pleasures of this work is the connecting of minor dots.  In this case,  this is about some statement about Pakistan that M.A. Ispahani mentioned in a letter to M.A. Jinnah.

Briefly, in the Second Series, Volume X of Z.R. Zaidi's Jinnah Papers, item #28 is a letter from Ispahani to Jinnah, dated October 23, 1943. An excerpt:

At the last Food Conference in Delhi, Chhotu Ram and Baldev Singh, who attended the Conference on behalf of Punjab would not give in on the point of food supply to Bengal on the question of price. This had a very bad effect, so much so that you must have read in the papers what Lord Hailey had to say about Pakistan.
I hold the view that this is a most opportune time for you to take a decisive step in relation to the Punjab Ministry.  Khizar Hayat must now make his decision whether he is a Leaguer or not.  If the Unionist Party get a few rupees more for their food-grains by the present action of Chhotu Ram, the League's cause with the agriculturalists and zamindars will definitely suffer in the Punjab. 
The present relationship existing between the two provinces of Bengal and Punjab is one to cause ridicule as both these provinces of Bengal and Punjab are included in the area of Pakistan, and yet one section is starving while the other is holding on to foodstuffs for higher prices.  If this is going to be the co-operation between one section of Muslim India with another, what hope is there in years to come of unity amongst Muslims.  Already, our Pakistan areas are not so strong as to give a decisive fight to Hindustan.   If there is going to be a zonal Pakistan with a typically different policy in vital matters which are confronting us today, like food and death due to starvation,  it certainly does not help a clear-thinking man to accept the possibility of Pakistan unless the fallacy is immediately remedied by the Quaid-i-Azam to whom the whole of Muslim India today looks forward to give the lead on such fundamental questions.
Z.R. Zaidi does not have a reply from Jinnah to Ispahani.

What was it that Lord Hailey said about Pakistan?  It was likely at the October 20 sitting of the House of Lords on the food situation in India. (Hansard)

From what Lord Hailey said, we learn a few things, about the famine and the level of inflation:
….We must admit all these difficulties; but still the question remains whether it was not possible to prevent a price inflation so extreme as that which has actually occurred. The normal price of rice in Bengal is about 5 rupees a maund of 82 lbs. It rose to 35 rupees; it is said that at Dacca it even rose to 80 rupees. The Government of India stated in March that the rise in the price of a certain essential range of foodstuffs had amounted to 950 per cent. 
…..The Government of India began to exercise control over inter-provincial exports in order to reduce competition between the different areas suffering from shortage, and attempted to fix a ceiling price for wheat. But the Punjab and Sind—among the principal producers of wheat—had already begun to show themselves unwilling to co-operate. For one thing, the ceiling price fixed for wheat was five rupees a maund, whereas the market price had already risen to ten rupees. The Punjabi peasant, naturally, resented the suggestion that the price of his own product, wheat, should be controlled, and very strictly controlled, while producers of other crops elsewhere were able to take full advantage of the rising prices for their production. 
At the beginning of 1943, when the general rise in prices began to cause anxiety, Bombay began to make preparations to ration the population of the city; a measure which was brought into full effect in the following May. Bengal had not, apparently, at that stage, taken alarm at the situation. The Government of India now withdrew the ceiling price on wheat, and as a result somewhat larger supplies came forward. But the measure did not have full effect, for the Punjab and Sind Governments still showed themselves unwilling to co-operate. The Punjab in particular was able to point out that while they were sending wheat to Bengal at ten rupees a maund, free on rail, the Bengal Government was selling it to the mills at 15½ rupees, and earning a considerable profit for itself from the transaction. That was an unfortunate incident, and it undoubtedly added to the difficulties of the situation. 
And this is what Lord Hailey said relevant to Pakistan, highlighting added:

Let me conclude by asking whether these events have for us any lesson which bears on future constitutional developments in India. I will say here, if I may, that I join with Lord Catto in deprecating any suggestion that we should make a gesture to India such as the noble Earl, Lord Huntingdon, proposed. India has only one objective and one ambition, and that is independence. Already the word "trusteeship" as used by us is in very little favour in Indian political circles, and I doubt whether the association of our Allies or of the United Nations in the form of guarantee suggested, or the joint assumption by them of trusteeship for India, would be any more satisfactory to India than it would be flattering to us.  
But, looking to the future, there is certainly one lesson that stands out. There could be no stronger argument than that provided by these events to prove the inadvisability of the fragmentation of India, which would inevitably result from such schemes as that for the creation o[...] separate Dominion consisting of the Moslem Provinces. Again, though it may well be that the future, so far as we can foresee it, will demand that the Centre should no longer occupy a predominating position as a political and legislative factor, yet there must somewhere remain a strong reserve of executive action, capable of dealing with emergencies of this nature, and it must be placed in hands which will have both the initiative and the resolution to override the individualistic policies of Provinces.  
More and more does it become clear that whatever the benefit to India of the growth of her political institutions, and whatever the benefit of a broad-based form of popular government, she cannot dispense in the future, any more than she has been able to in the past, with the necessity for a strong, a competent and a reliable form of executive. 

I'm including a bit of Lord Strabolgi's response:

My Lords, I think that I can congratulate the noble Earl who is to reply for the Government in this debate on the masterly defence of his Government which has been made by the noble Lord who has just addressed the House. Most respectfully and with great humility I should also like to congratulate Lord Hailey himself. Never before do I remember hearing so masterly a defence of inaction and indecision, or a more competent finding of reasons why nothing could be done, and why what has happened could not be helped, and was inevitable, and would have happened in any case. I cannot withhold my admiration for this feat.

I am very grateful to your Lordship !

I have heard better Governments defended with far less ability than the noble Lord has shown. That is not to say, however, that we do not all recognize that he feels as deeply as any of us the implications of this terrible tragedy in India, and is not as conscious of the sufferings of these people as any one in your Lordships' House. The noble Lord informed us that India was self-supporting in food. I understand that the statisticians have been rather nervous for a number of years on this point, and have been alarmed for a long period at the shrinking margin of foodstuffs available in India. Indeed, I believe it is correct to say that quite apart from this present emergency of war, if the war had not taken place India could have been self-supporting in foodstuffs at the present time only if we had set an inadequate standard of diet for a very large proportion of the Indian population, below the needs of normal life and health.
If I may trouble your Lordships with a few figures, I should like to do so. My noble friend Lord Huntingdon put the case a little differently, and spoke of the countryside providing foodstuffs for the big cities. I should like to deal with the whole peninsula. On the supposition that a pound of grain food a day is needed per person—and that is very low, when we remember that grain and vegetable foods are the only diet of vast numbers of her people—India needs every year 50,500,000 tons. If we add to that 4,500,000 tons for seed, we have a total requirement of 55,000,000 tons of grain a year. The production in a normal year, however, is of the order of 50,000,000 to 51,000,000 tons. If the supposition of a pound of grain food a day is correct, there would have been by this year, even If the war had not intervened, a deficit in India which would be quite different from the deficits with which Lord Hailey and his colleagues had to deal in the famine years, and of which we have heard something in the very able speech of my noble friend Lord Catto.
I think there has been general agreement in this debate that the conditions which we now have to face are not to be compared with the ordinary catastrophes due to failure of the monsoon and other climatic difficulties in the past. Indeed, I believe that it is right to say that the present trouble in India has been foreseen for years, but it was coming on very gradually, and has been accentuated by causes attributable to the war. My noble friend Lord Huntingdon referred to the very large Army in India, and to the great amount of food required for the active soldier, and that has accentuated it. But if these danger signals have been, or should have been, noted by the Central Government and by the Provincial Governments, the unfortunate fact is —this was not dealt with either by Lord Hailey or by any other of your Lordships who have spoken—that considerable quantities of food continued to be exported from India for war purposes to the Middle East. It went on because it was the normal thing to do, and unless there is some strong hand at the centre—which, as Lord Hailey said, will always be needed in India—to take command of the situation and to insist on the Forces in the Middle East getting their foodstuffs elsewhere, you are bound to have this trouble. 

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