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Reform in Credit, Co-operatives, Education and Agriculture I n addition to the important reforms needed to the key institutions of land tenure and rent, a whole range of other, related reforms were needed to ensure an adequate livelihood for rural cultivators. Nightingale’s aim was, if not the elimination of poverty, the establishment of basic income security measures to ensure health in good times and reserves against famine in bad. Credit institutions were crucial in providing access to funds that would permit the sowing a crop without ruinous rates of interest or, in effect, bond servitude for non-payment. Nightingale was familiar with the growth of co-operatives in Derbyshire and thought they could be effective in India. She had discussed savings’ banks, or banks serving small-income earners, with Gladstone, and encouraged their use for all kinds of workers in Britain, including nurses. In the next set of letters, she and her correspondents explored the possibility of a national bank in India. A great range of educational reform measures also came under discussion in the following letters, beginning with the provision of basic schools in villages, which would include girls in their classes. Nightingale felt that classes at all levels should include education on issues of basic sanitation, health promotion and disease prevention, and felt that there was, perhaps, too much provision of literary education for the middle class. Her preference was for more practical, especially scientific , education, and this is what she urged in her letters. Agricultural colleges she saw as key to improving agricultural productivity. Ryots’ Banks and Co-operatives As much material has already shown, the recurrence of drought and famine made the ryots’ miserable situation even worse. To survive those disasters ryots often had to borrow from moneylenders. Enormously high interest rates had to be paid, making repayment of the debt precarious. Borrowers ‘‘are ousted from house and home, made / 621 paupers and even slaves’’ (see p 623 below). Even in normal times ryots were regularly forced into debts by the machinations of the zemindars. The problem of ryot indebtedness led to consideration of alternative means for credit, such as national banks, co-operatives and monts de piété (usually state-owned pawnshops). Nightingale wrote about those remedies to Gladstone in 1879, urging him as ‘‘the greatest master of finance’’ to release credits to help the ryots. In another letter of the same year she again tried to move the chancellor of the Exchequer to action and she sent him the sketch of a national bank of India that could ‘‘enlist the co-operation of some of the best of the native bankers,’’ more able to manage the details of such an enterprise.1 The same concerns appear in the correspondence and notes below. Source: From a note for John Sutherland, Add Mss 45753 f246 [end May 1869] Lady Napier (of Madras) has effected the most wonderful reform in the charities of Madras, the worst managed in the world, has paid off the debts of all but one—all were in debt—by getting them out of the hands of Hindu malversation and working the supplies by co-operative stores and making the East Indian ladies (half-caste) interest themselves in the maintaining this system. She is the most plucky and efficient woman. But she too is come to England to collect money (she says only two people ever gave her anything ) and work for her penitents to do. Source: From a letter to Henry Stewart Cunningham, in Margaret M. Verney, Sir Henry Stewart Cunningham 80-81 29 November 1877 I am coming to London to see you, please God, before you leave us. . . . I would make any hour that is convenient to you suit me, as your time is too important. Two suggestions have been often sent me from Madras which, if they were of any value, have probably been thought over by you hundreds of times. One—that the orphans in the relief camps, who with the destitute children form their main population, should be taught useful trades, instead of going back to swell the agricultural hosts. 1 Society and Politics (5:451-53 and 462-64). 622 / Florence Nightingale on Social Change in India The other—that the only way to raise the ryots, who seem to be getting poorer and poorer every year, out of the moneylenders’ hands (into which alone goes the ryot’s full crop—if he has one), would be a system of small loans at a...


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