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THE INDIAN REVIE
A MONTHLY PERIODICAL DEVOTED TO THE DISCUSSION OF ALL TOPICS OF INTEREST. EDITED BY MR. G. A. NATESAN.
THE REFORM BILL
BY MR. G. A. NATESAN
HEN the controversy on the MontaguChelmsford Report was at its height, I ventured to observe :
"The authors deserve the thanks of the country for the honest and sincere attempt they have made to start India on the road to responsible government. I feel that when the storm and dust of controversy is over, even the few adverse critics of the Report will give Mr. Montagu a place among the small band of noble Britishers who have laboured for the good of India."
After reading the full text of the Bill, the Memorandum and Mr. Montagu's great speech in the House of Commons on the occasion of its Second Reading, I feel convinced more than ever that India's confidence in Mr. Montagu was rightly placed. Despite the defects and the shortcomings of the Bill now before Parliament, few will venture to deny that it is a genuine attempt to embody the main principles enunciated in the Montagu Chelmsford Report.
THE DEPUTATIONS AND THE BILL.
As no other satisfactory alternative scheme could now be considered, the only course open is to accept diarchy as the basic principle of the Bill and try to suggest modifications which will improve and widen its scope. is a matter for great satisfaction that the endeavours of the Moderate Deputation headed by Messrs. Surendranath Bannerjee, Sastri and others are now directed towards this end. We are glad that in their efforts they are supported by Mrs. Besant and by the Hon. Mr. Yakub Hassan who represents the Muslim League. is a great pity that the Congress Deputation, disregarding even the advice of Mr. Tilak, is persisting in advocating the resolutions of the Delhi Congress, when everybody knows that the older and more experienced Congressmen have
disapproved of them as they cut at the root of the Scheme of the Joint Report. It is deeply to be deplored that the Congress Deputation headed by men like Mr. V. P. Madhava Rao should make unity among the Deputations impossible, when such a fearless and doughty champion as. Sir C. Sankaran Nair himself has in his historic Minute of Dissent accepted the principles of the Scheme and contented himself with suggesting some important modifications "strictly consistent with its principles."
THE CENTRAL GOVERNMENT.
Viewing the Bill from that standpoint, it would still be idle to disguise the fact that all sections of politicians feel keenly that it contains no provision for any reform in regard to the Central Government. Even a cursory perusal of their criticisms will show that there is complete unanimity of opinion that the reforms proposed in regard to the Government of India are of the feeblest and of the most unsatisfactory character.
As Sir Dinshaw Wacha and his colleagues have pointed out in their very able and telling Memorandum on the Joint Scheme, the Reforms of the Government of India are altogether based on a wrong formula for which there is no justification in the terms of the announcement of August 20. The distinguished authors of the Report have given absolutely no valid reason as to why "the Government of India must remain wholly responsible to Parliament," and why even the beginnings of responsible Government in the Government of India should be withheld.
It is entirely wrong in principle and is bound to lead to rigidity and unprogressiveness at the centre of the body politic, which would react on the freedom, elasticity and growth of provincial administrations.
THE COUNCIL OF STATE.
Opinion is fairly unanimous that the Council of State must go. It is justly regarded as "a
discredited device," and second chambers have, on the whole, been far from successful, and there is an apprehension that it may "lead to heat, irritation and bad blood, imperilling the constitution itself." It has evidently been conceived as an antidote to the elective majority in the Legislative Assembly," and "to serve as a screen, thin though it be, to cover the continuance of the present system of Government." If this illfated second chamber is to remain at all, the elected element in it should be strengthened, and it should be shorn of some at least of the powers proposed to be conferred on it.
Without entering into a detailed examination of the various provisions of the Bill, we would draw attention to what is generally considered as some of its objectionable features which it should be the endeavour of the Joint Committee to remove. We refer, for instance, to the extraordinary provision forbidding the Legislatures in India to repeal or alter any rules under the Act, to the restrictions imposed on the power of the purse, the powers vested in the Governor to block the progress of a Bill, to the invidious provisions in regard to the salary and status of the Ministers and to the somewhat wide powers given to the Governor-General in regard to certification.
CONTROL OF THE PURSE.
While we are glad that many of the reactionary proposals of the Government of India have not been embodied in the Bill we consider it a matter for regret that Mr. Montagu has, in the important question of financial arrangements, not stuck resolutely to his original proposal of one joint purse but has left it open to the Joint Committee to consider the highly retrograde suggestion of the Government of India for separate purses. The proposal of the Government of India has been unanimously condemned, and as Sir Sivaswami Aiyar with his experience as Indian Member of the Madras Executive Council has rightly pointed out in his Memorandum prepared for the Madras Liberal League:
The separate purse system proposed by the Government of India will have the pernicious effect of dividing the house into two hostile camps each unmindful of the just claims of the other and anxious to aggrandise and benefit itself by extravagant expenditure. While the joint discussion and settlement of the budget by the entire Government will have an educative effect in promoting a better understanding of the needs of all subjects by the different members of the Government and a spirit of compromise, the system proposed by the Government of India will have the deplorable effect of creating a feeling of antagonism
between the interests of the reserved and transferred departments and will imperil the sucess of the Reform Scheme.
But the mischief will not stop here. As Sir Sankaran Nair has observed in his Minute of Dissent, the cumulative effect of the Government of India's financial suggestions will be "to place the Minister and the Legislative Council. in relation to transferred departments not only in a position of no real responsibility but virtually in subordination to the Executive Councils." The adoption of the proposal of the separate purse would certainly be a "negation of responsibility," and altogether opposed to the spirit of the Declaration of the 20th August.
There is intense disappointment too at the omission of a definite pronouncement with regard to Fiscal Autonomy. It is the thing on which the entire country has been keen for years. It is the absence of it that has caused Indian interests often to be victimised to propitiate other vested interests. The Hon. Sir Fazulbhoy Currimbhoy voices the general feeling of the country when he says:
Consistent with Imperial interests, it should be possible to formulate a scheme of scientific tariffs dictated by the interests of India. I cannot help thinking that if a radical change of policy had been outlined in regard to fiscal matters, the disappointment of the public at certain features of the scheme in the reform should not have been so keenly felt.
It would be well to remember the warning of Sir James Brunyate that "the Reform Scheme will, to a large extent, be offered to India in vain if that question is not disposed of as nearly simultaneously as may be practicable."
We regret to find that in the Bill under discussion the provision in regard to the constitution of Grand Committees is still retained. It has been condemned by every shade of Indian opinion. The Grand Committee is evidently created to serve as a check on the popular "and is in itself therefore an unAssembly, desirable institution." According to the proposal it is to consist of 40 to 50 per cent. of the whole Council and that means that a large number of elected members are to be excluded from it-a procedure which is bound to be resented. The purpose of the Grand Committee could very well be attained by adopting the suggestion of the Bombay Government then presided over by Lord Willingdon that in the reserved sphere of legislation the votes of 40 per cent. of the