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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 49.djvu/311

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295
PRINCIPLES OF TAXATION.

cession. The receipts of the imperial (Indian) revenue from the salt tax for 1894 were 8,228,000 Rx. (tens of rupees), or nominally about $41,000,000. The present average annual consumption of tax-paid salt by the people of India has been officially estimated at about ten and three fourths pounds per head, and the average annual burden of the tax on each Indian family of five persons at one rupee and a quarter, or 6d. (ten cents); and in considering this tax it is desirable to bear in mind that there is no direct taxation in India either on tobacco or sugar, so that the salt tax is the only direct tax that the Indian peasant need pay, unless he indulges in alcohol or narcotics—the land assessment being regarded as in the nature of rent.

As the price of salt, by reason of the tax, is somewhat higher in India than in most other countries, the question as to its effect upon its population is one of high social and sanitary interest, in respect to which authorities differ. By some[1] it is contended that the consumption of this prime necessity is thereby greatly restricted, and that much disease, both of men and animals, is thereby engendered; and the trade in salt fish, which might supply a cheap and abundant article of food, is greatly hampered. Others assert that "the poorer classes do not feel aggrieved or complain about it"; that "as a rule the peasantry do not stint themselves on account of it"; and that "no one has ever taken exception to the tax as it stands but the European grievance-monger in the country." But, be this as it may, all are agreed that it would be very difficult to raise a revenue equivalent to that derived from the taxation of salt by any other method.

The third largest source of imperial revenue in India is from the Government monopoly of the production and sale of opium; and the annual receipts from which, although at one time in excess of $40,000,000, have of late years greatly diminished, and were officially reported in 1894 as 6,037,571 Rx. ($33,137,855). As the opium product of India is sold mainly to China and the Straits Settlements, and as the export taxes embodied in its price are collected from the people of these countries, they can not, therefore, be regarded as a fiscal burden upon the people of India.

The method of collecting the revenue from opium is substantially as follows: No person in British India may cultivate the poppy, from which the drug is derived, without a license from the Government; and every cultivator is bound to sell the crude product of his crop to the Government at certain factories, where it is manufactured into the opium of commerce. A portion of the manufactured opium is retained for consumption in India, and distributed through venders licensed by the excise depart-


  1. ↑ Wilson's Resources of Modern Commerce. London, Longmans, 1878.