Page:A Brief History of the Indian Peoples.djvu/40

This page needs to be proofread.

36 THE PEOPLE. Density of the Population.— British India is very thickly peopled ; and some parts are so overcrowded that the inhabit- ants can with difficulty obtain land to cultivate. Each square mile of the British Provinces has to feed, on an average, 229 persons. Each square mile of the Native States has to feed, on an average, only no persons, or less than one-half. If we exclude the outlying Provinces of Burma and Assam, the people in British India average 279 to the square mile ; so that British India is two and a half times more thickly inhabited than the Native States. How thick this population is, may be realized from the fact that, in 1886, France only had 187 people to the square mile ; while even in crowded England, wherever the density approaches 200 to the square mile the population ceases to be rural, and has to live by manufactures, by mining, or by city industries. Few Largo Towns in India. — Unlike England, India has few large towns. Thus, in England and Wales, more than one- half of the population, in 1891, lived in towns with upwards of 20,000 inhabitants, while in British India less than one-twentieth of the people lived in such towns. India, therefore, is almost entirely a rural country ; and many of the so-called towns are mere groups of villages, in the midst of which the cattle are driven a-field, and ploughing and reaping go on. Overcrowded Districts. — We see, therefore, in India a dense population of husbandmen. Wherever their numbers exceed 1 to the acre, or 640 to the square mile— excepting near towns or in irrigated tracts— they find it difficult to raise sufficient crops from the land to supply them with food. Yet many millions of peasants in India are struggling to live off half an acre apiece. In such districts, if the rain falls short by a few inches, the people suffer great distress ; if the rain fails to a large extent, thousands die of famine. Under-peopled Districts. — In some parts of India, there- fore, there are more husbandmen than the land can feed. In other parts, vast tracts of fertile soil still await the cultivator. In England, the people would move freely from the over- populated districts to the thinly-inhabited ones. But in India the peasant clings to his fields ; and parcels them out among