Indian Railways - Impediments to Progress
An extract from the Railway Engineer, April 1884.
Taken from source material made available by the Institute of Railway Studies and Transport History, of the University of York. The material is believed to be out of copyright.
A remarkable paper which we published in our last issue explained with commendable clearness the position which the railways of India should occupy in relation to the productive powers and prosperity of that country. The author pointed out, with some force of argument, the very urgent necessity for more vigorous measures to promote and encourage the construction of railways. By an array of carefully-selected figures, he contrasted, with startling effect, the rapid development of the American railway system with the tardy and feeble progress of railway enterprise under the supervision of the Government of India, and sounded the key-note of an agitation which has awakened public interest at home.
Had he indicated with equal perspicuity the best means, consistent with the present State finances, to prosecute the needful works, he might have spared us much laborious enquiry and perplexity.
It was not his intention to elaborate any remedial scheme for the sluggishness which he believes to be crippling the industrial energies of our Indian Empire, and preventing her entering into competition with America in the supply of grain to Europe. To be eloquently exhaustive in the criticism of administrative shortcomings is always an easier task than to collect and weigh the evidence on which useful reforms can be effected.
All the surroundings and conditions of America and India are so utterly unlike that we may dismiss the comparison of railway progress in the two countries as practically worthless.
In India we have conditions, political, social, industrial, and geographical, which have no parallel in the history of the world: a great region, densely populated by races clinging tenaciously to institutions, customs, and habits centuries behind the ideas of Western civilisation, yet governed by a Western Power isolated by the ocean, and separated in religious sympathies by a widely different creed. The individual skill, courage, and indomitable energy of English statesmen and soldiers have built up this wondrous Empire, and have bequeathed to us the firm grip which we now hold over the destinies of 300,000,000 of human beings. In our desire to advance the prosperity of this vast population, we must not forget the difficulties of the past, the high administrative ability which has overcome them, and the great dangers which still lie suppressed under the firm grasp of a watchful Government.