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the indulgence of any of their sensual passions; but with the thinking and well informed classes, which happily are now every day increasing, reason soon assumes her sway, and points out the propriety of a public, or rather national interference, in a matter of this sort. This then cannot be the cause of the dislike expressed, in murmurs general and deep, towards the Abkari, for almost all, without exception, unite to run it down : it must therefore be in the system, or management of the system, that the faults lie, or in both. Now we have had considerable acquaintance with the matter, and confess our opinion, that much of the fault lies in the latter cause ; but we must further confess that they all arise more or less from the system, enhanced of course, or subdued by the individual spirit, directing or guiding the management. Let us say at once, we mean the superintendent in charge of the Abkari Mehals.

We will examine then the system and the management of it, and we hope to be able to show, how materially they can both be reformed; and if we use the word "reform,” not in the sense of correcting existing errors, but in that of reforming the system, radically, we do not think we shall be expressing a stronger meaning than the occasion requires.

How the system ever came to be instituted, we do not know, but we fancy it is a modification of that in force under the Mohammedan rule, hedged in, like all civilized customs, by rules and regulations.

The way they managed in former days was very expeditious and simple. A man went to the Fouzdar of the district, and gave a certain sum for the monopoly of the sale of intoxicating drugs, &c., and he received in exchange a “sunnud," authorising him to sell, and directing all within the illaqua, to purchase those articles, from none but the bearer of the sunnud or his assigns. He in the mean time made his arrangements with the retailers in the hauts, and so everything was settled. Rules and regulations there were none, and if there had been, we can imagine the pure and hearty contempt with which they would have been regarded. The whole transaction was, in fact, a private affair of the Fouzdars, for the Government being Mohammedan, an acknowledged permission to sell intoxicating drugs would have been in direct violation of the precepts of the Koran, which is the foundation of their governing policy. There were other reasons too, which rendered laws, &c., on the point of no use--for instance, the monopolist gave so small a sum for his right, that he was easily able to recover it, and make something handsome, as the Anglo-Saxon says, over. Again, the selling price of intoxicating drugs was so low that no one thought it worth while to have recourse to illicit trade: that is, the tax was so small that the smuggler had no chance ;-a civilized idea which they managed to stumble on, unaccountably and naturally, but which enlightened statesmen found it so difficult to fathom, and civilized Britons to comprehend, as witness Pitt's bill for the doing away with the smuggling between France and England. Then again, and lastly, the monopolist had generally power to take the law into his own hands, for of course there was a " lex non scripta," or law of custom in a Mohammedan as well as in every other nation under the sun. If the offender was too powerful, a compromise was made, and a last appeal always remained to the Fouzdar, who, as a matter of course, made both parties pay—and so the Abkari jogged on—and so it was found by the East India Company when they took possession of the Dewany of the provinces, made over to them by the Delhi Emperor in the year 1774.

How is it now?-In the North-West Provinces of India, and up the country generally, the same system prevails, fundamentally, with the modification of laws, &c., for the protection of this Excise Revenue. A man, or men become farmers of this tax, stipulating to pay so much monthly for the monopoly of the sale of intoxicating drugs. One farmer perhaps may take the license for the sale of spirituous liquors, and another for ganjah, including opium. In Bengal the new system par excellence, has usurped the place of the above, and this consists in making a settlement, not with a single farmer, but with the men who were once his under-venders. This system was introduced, because it was supposed, we fancy, that the farmer made immense profits, and it was therefore conjectured, probably, that as the tax was extant, the Government might as well derive the full advantages of it as the farmers. It was generally found to be profitable, and all the districts into which it was introduced, showed a fair increase of revenue; but then the management necessitated an increase of establishment, with a judicial officer to look after it, and a Commissioner to look after him, and so entailed an increase of expense; this was a case of cutting off a strip from the bottom of a blanket to sew on to the top for the purpose of lengthening it, and a half return has been made to former measures, by replacing the Abkari under the Zillah Collectors, and doing away with Abkari Commissioners.

The Abkari settlement is made in Lower Bengal in the following manner: The Abkari Superintendent issues notices that on a certain day, he will dispose by auction of the right of sale of all intoxicating drugs, &c., at the different markets in his district; each excisable article is put up separately, as also each market, and the highest bidder for each particular one, gets the monopoly of the sale in it. This to begin with is bad. What stranger can possibly know the value of a shop? He may, seeing a neighbour growing rich on the sales in it, be inclined to bid for it; and if he does so, the old pattadar will run him up to that extent, that he retires with the sure conviction that the interloper is safe to be done up in a few weeks, when the shop will be restored to him (the old vender) on his own terms. Again, the pattadars bring their trade to such exact calculations, that shops have been known to close, and re-open at a decrease of jumma, because two men within the shop's bounds had died. These defunct men used to drink on an average a bottle of country spirits each, daily, which at six annas per bottle used to clear them twelve annas, and the pattadar confessed that he only took the shop on the strength of the consumption caused by these two drinkers. This cannot be called fair trade, but sheer speculation; and what better can be expected from the system ? Here are men stipulating to pay a certain sum of money daily for anticipatory profits, entirely chance, and they are bound down under penalty to do so ; it is a lottery, and the stake is the daily tax. All trades have their chances and changes, it may be said, and a haberdasher buys his silks only on the hope and expectation of selling them.- True, but it must be recollected, that if the haberdasher does not sell to-day, he may to-morrow, and no harm. It is not the same with the Abkari pattadar ; he pays a daily tax which must be recovered, besides his usual profits; and a day lost is so much lost beyond the losses incidental to common trade : with him to-morrow's profits are to-morrow's rights. But consider to what shifts the pattadar must resort; if his jumma is at all high, he must cajole people into drinking, and take every means to prevent their buying out of his bounds. He has always the power to put any price he likes on his articles, for probably there may not be another vender within a circle of some miles to compete with him, and so give a true value level to his wares. This and the law on the sale of country spirits, which makes it illegal for common men to be in possession of more than a quart of spirits at once, is about the climax of hardship that one can conceive. Of course a pattadar evades this law, and will sell any quantity a purchaser will take from him ; but if from the high price he may put on his wines, a consumer resorts to some distant shop, then the harshness of the law tells. We know an instance of a man trading in rice, &c., a very respectable native in his way, fined 200 rupees for being in possession of four or five bottles of common rum. He had brought them from Calcutta, and on the face of it, can it be imagined that a man trading to the extent of hundreds of rupees, would bring up four bottles of rum from Calcutta, a distance of 200 miles, to carry on illicit or smuggling transactions ? There are two faults here, the punishment of the man was the fault of the management; but then the pattadar said, “if all consumers choose to bring up • their wines from other places, how am I to realize the daily • tax I pay?There's the system. But unfortunately it involves a much more serious error, for the pattadar further says “if this • is allowed I shall resign, or insist upon a reduction of my daily • tax.” Which, says the Abkari superintendent, is out of the question; I must keep up the jumma, or I get a bad name at head-quarters. In fact, the system is not only not in accordance with, but directly opposed to, all the true principles of trade, through the means of which only the proper level and correct value of any commodity can be fairly ascertained.

But unluckily the true principles of retail commerce are not understood by the natives of Bengal generally ; certainly not by retail venders of the Abkari department, and therefore are not appreciated. Tell them about small profits and quick returns, and their looks will tell you as plainly as looks can possibly speak, “you are a fool.” We have known many natives hoard their goods for months and years, rather than abate one pice in the so much per-cent. profits they had laid down as that determined on when the speculation was entered on. We are talking of the mofussil shop-keepers. If at the end of a long and patiently endured interval they obtained that per-centage, they were reconciled to their policy, and could not, for the life of them, see, how they had been losers by it; nor would it matter much to any, whether they were or not in general commerce, for if they got their fancied profits, their customers probably got the article somewhere else, at a cheaper rate, or did without it; but when the obtaining of this article is backed by a monopoly which renders it difficult to be come at, within any convenient or reasonable distance, without great extent of trouble and risk; and when, more unhappily still, the article is one which a long course of indulgence will not suffer a consumer to go without, as is the case, not only with opium, but also ganjah-smokers, then, indeed, the evil assumes a form which justice requires, nay, demands should be modified and reformed, even though that reform should entail a consequent loss to the Exchequer.

The above are a few of the evils of the system ; what are its advantages ? Let us see: first, it is excellently well calculated, though quite inadvertently on its own part, to put a limit to the abuse of intoxicating drugs. That is when the system is carried out as it is in the North-western Provinces, but certain. ly not, as we shall be able hereafter to show, in Lower Bengal where the new system prevails.

Without being a morbid philanthropist, we can very well go with the party that decries the use of all deleterious drugs. We should say, we go with them to the extent of desiring to see the abuse of them put down. We do not know whether we should be inclined to go in for the "Maine Liquor Law in its entirety.” We think not; but we should go to every legal length to put down the demoralizing abuse of ardent spirits, as exhibited in Glasgow and other places. But here too, we would act with reason : as for instance, a friend once saw a confirmed opium-eater, who had been without his quantum of that vile drug for two days or so, and who was consequently, perhaps, the most perfect picture of misery that could be conceived. He was rolling on the ground in agony for want of it. It appeared that the opium-vender had gone somewhere on other business, and having sold his usual quantity, and realized his usual profit, did not care to get a supply till the regular time to go for it had arrived. Now we would not go up to this unfortunate, and say-Die; and may God have mercy on you! We believe that would be very questionable philanthropy ; but we would give him some opium and say: "Take this my man and - live; you are a disgusting object, but that cannot be helped

now. We must take care your children don't the same road," and we would legislate accordingly. We have said that the system has the advantage of putting a limit to the abuse of pernicious drugs. What we have above advanced may be taken as an instance; it may then safely be concluded that these advantages are but very doubtful benefits.

We appeal against being misunderstood when we say that intoxication in this country is not carried to that extent that it requires a heavy and rough hand to subdue, and except in large towns, the lower class of the population of which are generally the dregs of any nation, is never carried to that disgusting excess, that it is in many other countries. The rural population of Bengal is almost proverbially abstemious in this respect. The only cases in which one sees indulgence of this sort carried to extremes, and becoming a sottish and dangerous habit, are almost invariably to be found among opium-eaters; and strange enough, this drug is the only one in which there may be free trade : we say" may be,” because, fortunately, there is not. Owing to the trammels that surround the Abkari department, very few respectable men care to enter into it, it is very cordially Dec., 1857.


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