19. WHEN A GOVERNOR IS GOOD
Whilst on the one hand social
service work of the kind I have described in the foregoing chapters was
being carried out, on the other the work of recording statements of the
ryots' grievances was progressing apace. Thousands of such statements were
taken, and they could not but have their effect. The ever growing number
of ryots coming to make their statements increased the planters' wrath,
and they moved heaven and earth to counteract my inquiry.
One day I received a letter
from the Bihar Government to the following effect: 'Your inquiry has been
sufficiently prolonged; should you not now bring it to an end and leave
Bihar?' The letter was couched in polite language, but its meaning was
I wrote in reply that the inquiry
was bound to be prolonged, and unless and until it resulted in bringing
relief to the people, I had no intention of leaving Bihar. I pointed out
that it was open to Government to terminate my inquiry by accepting the
ryots' grievances as genuine and redressing them, or by recognizing that
the ryots had made out a prima facie case for an official inquiry
which should be immediately instituted.
Sir Edward Gait, the Lieutenant
Governor, asked me to see him, expressed his willingness to appoint an
inquiry, and invited me to be a member of the committee. I ascertained
the names of the other members, and after consultation with my co-workers
agreed to serve on the Committee, on condition that I should be free to
confer with my co-workers during the progress of the inquiry; that Government
should recognize that, by being a member of the Committee, I did not cease
to be the ryots' advocate; and that in case the result of the inquiry failed
to give me satisfaction, I should be free to guide and advise the ryots
as to what line of action they should take.
Sir Edward Gait accepted the
condition as just and proper, and announced the inquiry. The late Sir Frank
Sly was appointed Chairman of the Committee.
The Committee found in favour
of the ryots, and recommended that the planters should refund a portion
of the exactions made by them which the Committee had found to be unlawful,
and that the tinkathia system should be abolished by law.
Sir Edward Gait had a large
share in getting the Committee to make a unanimous report, and in getting
the agrarian bill passed in accordance with the Committee's recommendations.
Had he not adopted a firm attitude, and had he not brought all his tact
to bear on the subject, the report would not have been unanimous, and the
Agrarian Act would not have been passed. The planters wielded extraordinary
power. They offered strenuous opposition to the bill in spite of the report,
but Sir Edward Gait remained firm up to the last, and fully carried out
the recommendations of the Committee.
The tinkathia system,
which had been in existence for about a century, was thus abolished, and
with it the planters' raj came to an end. The ryots, who had all
along remained crushed, now somewhat came to their own, and the superstition
that the stain of indigo could never be washed out was exploded.
It was my desire to continue
the constructive work for some years, to establish more schools, and to
penetrate the villages more effectively. The ground had been prepared,
but it did not please God, as often before, to allow my plans to be fulfilled.
Fate decided otherwise, and drove me to take up work elsewhere.