The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for India and Burma, who had given Notice of six Motions continuing in force Proclamations issued under Section 93 of the Government of India Act, 1935, said: My Lords, I beg to move the first of the six Motions standing in my name. I am obliged to the noble Lord opposite, Lord Faringdon, for kindly removing a Motion which stood in his name on the Paper to-day in order that I might present these Resolutions to the House for approval. The debate which will follow will naturally give noble Lords every opportunity to discuss the general situation which now prevails in India. The purpose of each one of these Motions is to extend, for a further period of twelve months, the Proclamations which have been issued under Section 93 of the Government of India Act. Your Lordships may remember that in that section provision is made for a Proclamation to be issued by the Governor of any one of the eleven Provinces of India if he is satisfied that a situation has arisen in which the normal functions of government cannot be carried on. In the six Provinces referred to in these Resolutions such Proclamations have been in force since the collapse of normal constitutional government in 1939, when the Congress Ministries abdicated their responsibilities and resigned their offices at the dictation of the Congress “High Command.” Although there seems to be no immediate likelihood of the Congress Party re-accepting office, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State is just as anxious as any of your Lordships to see responsible government restored in these Provinces at the earliest possible moment, and for this purpose the situation is kept constantly under review by the Viceroy and by the Governor of each of the Provinces, who are always on the look out for any opportunity that may present itself.
Your Lordships will have read in the newspapers last week that the Prime Minister of Bengal had tendered his resignation to the Governor, which resignation has been accepted The remaining members of Mr. Fazl-ul-Huq’s Ministry have also resigned. With the approval of the Viceroy, the Governor of Bengal has issued a Proclamation which is now in operation under Section 93 of the Government of India Act, but it is to be hoped that quite shortly a new Government will be formed, and in that case the Proclamation issued by the Governor will be revoked. Some months have passed since a discussion on India was initiated in this House, and, as a very new arrival at the India Office, my task to-day will be to endeavour to render an account of recent happenings in India, and to touch also upon topics of general interest to the war effort. During the period now under review, the political situation in India has been overshadowed by outbreaks of violence which have been committed under the auspices of the Congress Party and of its leader, Mr. Gandhi. I have no desire whatever to examine in detail the White Paper which was recently published. Those of your Lordships who are concerned with the problem of India will have made yourselves acquainted with the facts enumerated in that document. It must be crystal clear to all your Lordships, however, that the primary object of that campaign was to force the hands of the Government of India and of His Majesty’s Government at home to surrender the control of government in India to the Congress Party and, in the words of Mr. Gandhi, to “quit India.” With that purpose in mind, and to achieve that object, attacks were launched upon all centres of strategic importance. An orgy of destruction followed. Communications, railways and Government property were wrecked, and an effort was made completely to paralyze all transport, trade and industry. These outbursts gradually spread their evil tentacles to concentrate on those parts of India which were most likely to be exposed to immediate enemy attack. Considerable damage was done, as we know, but happily the state of anarchy into which it was hoped to plunge the country was arrested by the firm and determined action on the part of the Government of India. Law and order were re-established, although spasmodic outbreaks of violence still from time to time occur. I must recall to the memory of the House that the decision of the Government of India to place the leaders of Congress under restraint was reached with the unanimous decision of the Executive Council, which on that day consisted, besides the Viceroy, of eleven Indian members and one European. At the beginning of this year Mr. Gandhi undertook a twenty-one days’ fast “to capacity.” The object of this self-inflicted starvation was to secure from the Government of India his unconditional release. It would be difficult to speculate on what might have occurred if Mr. Gandhi had secured his release, but it is quite certain that the Government of India would have suffered a heavy reverse and Mr. Gandhi would have claimed justification, if not a victory, for his campaign of civil disobedience. But the Government of India stood firm. There was however, one regrettable result of the fast—namely, the resignation of three very able members of the Viceroy’s Executive Council. The reasons for their resignation will be familiar to everyone, but the Viceroy hopes very soon now to be in a position to announce the names of the Indians who will succeed to the vacant seats. I have dealt with some of the political issues prevailing in India to-day and, with your Lordships’ permission, I should like to turn for a moment to deal with another side of the Indian picture—namely, the India of the warrior races. Perhaps I may give the House a brief account of the present state of the Armed Forces in India. The size of the Indian Army confines to expand steadily and recruitment, which is entirely on a voluntary basis, shows no sign of any slackening. It is a remarkable fact that during the period of the internal disorders last year the figures for recruiting reached their highest peak of 70,000 a month, and for the last three months the average voluntary enlistment has still been 60,000. During the disturbances to which I have just referred the Indian Army was employed in assisting the civil power in the maintenance of law and order. Here was indeed a difficult and uncongenial burden, but the task was carried out with the complete loyalty and devotion to duty for which Indian soldiers have so long been renowned. The Governors of Provinces have all borne testimony and paid tribute to the good conduct and friendliness of all troops in their handling of the civil population. Today the Indian Army stands at over one and a half million strong, and, besides having the largest volunteer Army in the world, it also has the largest force of any one of the Dominions serving overseas in all theatres of war. This Army also includes considerable forces of the Princes, ho have placed the whole of their services at the disposal of the King-Emperor. Your Lordships will have seen the accounts recently published of the 4th Indian Division, which has fought from Abyssinia to the Mareth Line, and also of the 5th Indian Division, and they have both won undying fame and glory. There is another Army about which very little is heard but which is carrying out its vital but monotonous duties of watch and ward on the North-West Frontier of India. It is seldom in the limelight or participating in active operations or giving battle to the Japanese or any other of our enemies, but nevertheless when I recall the constant source of anxiety of these frontier areas to India in the last war, I know how vital are the duties it is fulfilling in order to maintain the peace and tranquillity of the frontiers. We should not forget either the Nepalese battalions which were so readily offered at the beginning of the war by our firm friend the Maharaja of Nepal. Concurrent with the building up of the Army vast engineering projects have been undertaken by the civil population in conjunction with the Services. Quite apart from the military highways that have been built, railways have been improved, enlarged and modernized, and new factories have been constructed. A vast number of aerodromes have been made to meet the requirements of the expanded Air Force. To those of your Lordships who are interested in figures I might mention that the runways that have been laid down would easily make a broad concrete road stretching across the breadth of India from Bombay to Calcutta, a distance of 1,100 miles. The Indian Air Force is the youngest of the Fighting Services. The first flight came into being in 1933 and the first squadron was not completed until 1939. The tenth birthday of the Force coincided with the twenty-fifth anniversary of the founding of the Royal Air Force, but to-day this Force has been greatly expanded, and in addition to its regular squadrons it also includes the Indian Air Force Volunteer Reserve in which both Europeans and Indians serve as pilots. This Force has taken its full share in the war.Units have operated in Burma, and besides patrolling coastal waters have also provided air co-operation and support to the Army of the North-West Frontier. I come lastly to the Royal Indian Navy, whose size has increased tenfold since the outbreak of hostilities. Ships of the Royal Indian Navy have served and steamed in all seas, including the Atlantic, and the action of the “Jumna” off Java and of the “Bengal” against Japanese armed raiders in the Indian Ocean are both outstanding examples of the accomplishments and heroism of Indian sailors. But all this effort has placed upon India, both administratively and physically, a strain greater than has ever been previously attempted, and probably as great as the resources of that country are capable of carrying. I turn now to give your Lordships some indication of the financial problem involved, as I am informed that there is a good deal of misapprehension and misconception abroad. Though India has to finance the whole of this effort in the first instance, not all of it is chargeable to Indian revenues and a considerable part is ultimately recoverable from the Imperial Exchequer. We have followed the principle always hitherto followed that India is financially responsible for her own defence, which means in fact that the revenues of India are not applied to the maintenance of Imperial interests beyond the borders of India. For instance, India pays for all Forces, British as well as Indian, as long as they are in India. She pays for the numerous aerodromes that have had to be constructed there and all the military works necessary on so great a scale, because this time the attack threatens from the east and not from the west, where, as the House well knows, the military preparations of India have hitherto been principally made. She has also agreed to pay a share proportionate to her interest in the various factories for the output of war materials which are in course of coming into production. On the other hand, she does not pay for Indian Forces operating outside that country or for materials which may be supplied to Imperial Forces in external theatres of war, nor indeed for those we have to obtain in India for our own use in this country to meet our own wartime necessities. The effect of all this is that, from the beginning of the war up to the present time, India has recovered a sum of £400,000,000 from the British Exchequer, and has spent some £350,000,000 on her own defence. In the financial year which has just been concluded the Indian taxpayer’s share of defence expenditure was no less than £180,000,000 as compared with some £34,000,000 before the war—by Indian standards, at any rate, a very heavy burden. The recoveries which have been made in respect of expenditure by the Government of India and chargeable to us, together with payments for supplies of all kinds through the channels of private trade, have led, as many of your Lordships know, to the accumulation in this country, in India’s favour, of large sterling balances which have been partly used for the repatriation of her pre-war sterling debt. I am told that by making rupees freely available to finance what we need from India, and by receiving repayment in sterling, the Government of India have ensured that exchange difficulties do not interfere with the production in India of the largest quantities of those services and supplies which we need for the prosecution of the war over and above the liability of Indian defence for which India herself is responsible. I hope the House will forgive me for turning to that side of the question, but before I conclude I must come back again to the constitutional side. During the period which I have under review there can be no dispute in any noble Lord’s mind that the political situation has not progressed along the path which we could have wished or anticipated. Therefore we find that the chapter in the tale of India’s advance to complete self-government has yet to be written. All political opinion in this country is agreed, I think, that the issue at stake to-day is not whether India should be granted complete control of her own destinies but only when and how that should be attained. There are many noble Lords in this House to-day who have, at some time or other, been associated with the constitutional issues in India. During the past twelve years—for I think I am right in saying it was in the autumn of 1930 that the first Indian Round-Table Conference met—we have gone forward with speed and determination to find, in concert with Indian political thought, a basis for the solution of this bewildering problem. We have not, it is true, on all occasions been able to carry the Indian political leaders with us. Indeed, the nearer we have approached, or thought we were approaching, a final solution, as in the passing of the Act of 1935, the sharper became the divisions and the deeper appeared the divergencies within the ranks of Indian political Parties. There is, as I have pointed out, no unwillingness whatever on the part of His Majesty’s Government to transfer full responsibility to India once these internal disagreements have been removed and resolved. No man desires to return to the status quo ante bellum, but no man desires, either, to trust India, in Mr. Gandhi’s words, “to God or, in modern parlance, to anarchy.” We have exerted all our power and influence to obtain a settlement of this question. Proposals, culminating in the Cripps Mission, have been made, but to our regret, and I believe to the regret of all moderate political opinion in India, they have all been rejected. No doubt many noble Lords will recall the late Mr. Gokhale, a wise, strong, and liberal-minded man and one of the founders of the National Congress, who advocated the reform of government in India by steady, progressive, constitutional methods, and who hoped to attain and achieve results by political evolution. The whole of the knowledge that he possessed was derived from a close personal study of the art of government as it was understood and practised in this country. He demonstrated very clearly his own wish for the National Congress to be organized on purely democratic principles, and under his lead the Party represented a real national movement, including amongst its members all classes and all sections of India’s national life. But under Mr. Gandhi’s lead the Congress Party no longer represents the whole of India’s aspirations. The Moslems, who twenty years ago were disposed to cooperate with Congress, became alarmed at the prospect of being permanently in a minority in a Central Government founded on Parliamentary majorities, broke away and set up their own League. That League, which ultimately developed a policy to preserve the political solidarity of their own followers, sacrificed that unity which our association with India had conferred. On the other hand, the Congress Party has moved far away from Mr. Gokhale’s principles, and has become a body which is imbued with totalitarian tendencies. As I have pointed out, all our efforts to find a basis of settlement designed on the British model have failed, and there is no chance, as I see it to-day, to expect any sudden change of heart. For a large number of years we have made ourselves responsible for educating Indians to the form of democratic government under which we live and thrive. Every Act of Parliament that has been passed has been designed to promote and foster this form of rule in India. We have all of us consistently assumed that our own Constitution is quite adaptable to this sub-continent, and we have always been fully prepared to assist in the export of our system for remaking indeed a constitutional government for the whole of India. I venture to think that, if, before the passing of the Act of 1935, any of His Majesty’s Ministers had suggested that constitutional government based on the system under which we live was impracticable for India, there would have been an outcry that we were challenging the ability of Indians to shape their own government upon the model which we had taught them and which had been practiced so successfully in its home of origin. It would have been further said that we were insulting their political leaders and damaging their prestige throughout the whole world. So, my Lords, any repudiation on our part would have been met by statements to prove our underlying insincerity towards India. But times change and in a changing world amendment is always necessary. Whilst the broad principles of the offer which was taken to India by the Minister of Aircraft Production are still open, I wonder whether the deadlock would be removed and progress made towards a settlement if Indian leaders of all Parties would discuss, with calm and quiet deliberation, the chances of finding a Constitution of their own manufacture—a Constitution not necessarily built upon the institution which we have found best fitted to our own widely different conditions, but one which would nevertheless, afford India a position as a full self-governing State within the British Empire and which, by their own exertions, would be made weather-proof and habitable for all. Surely it is not too late now to ask the great political Parties in India to solve this problem in their own way. It is quite certain that no exertions on their part can be too great. Wisdom and sympathy are predominantly required but, above all, a spirit of compromise and understanding, must be the sum and substance of any settlement. We should, of course, be prepared to render any assistance and any help to such a body. I am not without hope that when India is confronted, as indeed she must be, with her own position in a post-war world, with all the opportunities that will be open to her and with all the dangers that will persist, the prospect of agreement amongst Indian political leaders may be more hopeful than it is at present. Before I conclude let me finally add this. It is now for Indians to adapt their beliefs to their own unique problems and needs. Let them turn to their task, gifted with vision and foresight, so that they may eventually find an escape from their present perplexities. But until that day arrives when we can announce to the world that agreement has been reached among Indians themselves, the British people cannot surrender to the forces of anarchy and they must continue to be responsible for the welfare and for the peace of this vast land and of its millions of inhabitants. I beg to move.
Moved, That this House approves the continuance in force of the Proclamation issued under Section 93 of the Government of India Act, 1935, by the Governor of Madras on 30th October, 1939, and of his Proclamation varying the same issued on 15th February, 1943, copies of which were presented to this House on 28th November, 1939, and 16th March, 1943, respectively.—( The Earl of Munster.)