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Across India by Oliver Optic

Sixteen rupees make a gold mohur


"The

excessive density of the population has induced the government to favor emigration; and over a hundred thousand have gone to British Guiana and the West Indies, and other countries. The currency of India will be likely to bother you a little. The silver _rupee_ is the unit; though when you see 'R.x.' over or at the left of a column of figures, it means tens of _rupees_. The nominal value of a _rupee_ is two shillings, about half a dollar of your money; but it is never worth that in gold, the standard of England in recent years. It was some years ago at a premium of twopence, but for the last three years it has averaged only 1_s_. 5-1/8_d_. Its value varies with the gold price of silver in London.

"There is also a government paper currency in circulation, amounting to L16,000,000 sterling. The smallest copper coin is the _pie_, worth half a farthing, equal to a quarter of a cent of your money. Three of them make a _pice_, a farthing and a half, three-quarters of a cent. Four _pice_ make an _anna_, a penny and a half, three cents. Sixteen _annas_ make a _rupee_. Sixteen _rupees_ make a gold _mohur_."

"Those small pieces are about as insignificant as those of Egypt," suggested Mr. Woolridge.

"There are not many millionaires among the natives, and these smaller coins are mostly used among them. They are convenient also to the stingy Englishman when the plate is passed around in

church," added his lordship with a chuckle, which pleased Uncle Moses more than the remark. India has a public debt of about L200,000,000, contracted for railways, canals, war, and other purposes. The revenue last year was L84,932,100, and the expenditures were L84,661,700. Not a large margin; but you must multiply the pounds by five, or nearly that, to reduce them to dollars.

"The poppy is extensively cultivated in India; and the export tax in Calcutta amounts to six and a quarter millions, in Bombay, to three and a half millions, on the manufactured opium. The producer sends his crop to the government factory, whence it is sold to the exporter; all this to prevent frauds on the revenue.

"Wages and prices have gone up under British rule. The best class of laborers get four _annas_ a day, and others not more than two,--six to twelve cents a day. Grain for food is a penny for two pounds,--a cent a pound. Women and children earn small wages. The clothing of the poor is scanty and cheap; fuel costs nothing; and rent for dwellings is hardly known. The masses in the country, not laborers, live on the land as owners or lessees. There has never been anything like a poor-law, and ordinarily there is no need of such.

"It would be quite impossible for me to give the history of India in detail in the limited time at my command, especially as we are now approaching the land. Vasco da Gama, the Portuguese navigator, was the first to reach the East Indies, in 1498; but his countrymen never did much trading here, being more intent upon securing the rich treasures of the Indies. As early as 1600 the English turned their attention in this direction. Companies were formed; but being driven by the Dutch from the islands which they still hold, they began to make settlements on the coast of this peninsula. Madras dates from 1639, Bombay from 1686, Calcutta from 1686. The Company said, 'Let us make a nation in India;' and they went to work at once to do it. They accomplished their purpose, fostered by the government, raised and borrowed money, and in the course of time had an army and a navy, and ruled the country. They defeated the Grand Mogul, drove the French out of the peninsula, and were generally very prosperous.


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