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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 49.djvu/310

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POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

rights in the nature of land tenures are recognized in the assessments, and heed is also paid to the character of the lands and the purposes to which they are devoted. No increase of rent is ever allowed upon improvements made by the tenant himself, or upon improvements arising from the expenditure of public money; so that, in the opinion of those who have given personal attention and study to this subject, the English officials have finally established a land revenue system in India on a just basis.

The expense of collecting the land tax is heavy. In the so-called "village assessments" the collection is made by the local authorities. In other cases the large proprietors and notables pay the Government levies and recoup themselves by including their payments in the rents charged to their subtenants—the ryots, or peasantry. While the revenues from this source are very reliable, they are not regarded as capable of much further expansion. The gross receipts—imperial, provincial, and local—from the annual rental of tax on land in all India was officially returned for 1893-'94 at 25,589,600 Rx. (or about $123,000,000), representing an average rent or tax of $1.53 per acre. About nine tenths of the entire population of India belong to the agricultural class.

Second in order of importance of the sources of Indian revenue is the tax on salt, which, since its discontinuance in France in 1789, has ceased to be an excise or internal tax in European countries, with the exception of Italy, and which finds its warrant and justification at the present time in India in the fact, that apart from the land tax there is no other method so practical and economic of compelling the masses of its people to directly contribute anything for the support of the Government, inasmuch as the consumption of salt is a necessity for every individual. A very large proportion of the salt required for Indian consumption is imported—chiefly from England—and the total amount on which taxes are collected is about 500,000 tons, or 3,000,000 barrels. The rate of tax is two and a half silver rupees (nominally $1.00) per maund of 82·28 pounds. Previous to 1879-'80 the Government maintained, at great expense and popular annoyance, a customs line twenty-five hundred miles in length, to keep salt produced in the states under native rule from entering into British territory without the payment of a heavy duty. This barbarous system, necessitating the constant employment of a large force of native constables, known as chuprassies, invested with inquisitorial powers, was abolished at the time above named, by entering into treaties with the native states possessing salt sources, in virtue of which British officials are permitted to supervise their salt works and tax their product before it left them. But this could be only accomplished by paying the states concerned a satisfactory compensation for this con-