Gurgaon in 1883

A district gazetteer for Gurgaon was published in 1883-84. “During the flourishing times of the Mughal empire Gurgaon may be said to be without a history; but with its decay, mention of the district is again found in the pages of the historians, and events occurred which still live, although often distorted and exaggerated, in the memories of the people. At first the prominent actors are Rao Bahadar Singh in the centre of the district, the Baloch chiefs of Bahadurgarh and Farrukhnagar in the north, and the great Jat ruler, Suraj Mal of Bharatpur, in the south.” Gurgaon district was the following. “The district at that time (exclusive of the parganah of Pali, which was transferred to Delhi in 1863), consisted of the eleven parganahs — Jharsa, Sohna, Nuh, Hathin, Palwal, Hodal, Punahana, Firozpur, Bahora, Rewari, and Shahjahanpur. In 1803 it was a principle of English policy to make the Jamna, as far as possible, the limit of actual British possession, and to interpose between that border and foreign territory a buffer of semi-independent States; and in consequence of the effect given to that policy, it was only gradually that the greater part of the district came under direct British rule.”

The irrigation story is interesting. “In former times, under native rule, much irrigation was carried on by throwing dams across the hill streams, and thus causing the water to flood an expanse of country. Many of these works were allowed to fall into disrepair while under the management of the irrigation department on account of the small direct revenue derived from them; but since the District Fund Committee took charge in 1879, the system has been extended by repairing old embankments; and constructing new ones.” But as for other districts, irrigation brought some health-related problems. “The flooded tracts near Nuh are terribly fever-stricken in years of abundant rain-fall, and few men can stand a lengthened residence at Nuh without injury to their constitution. The higher parts of the district and notably the Taoru table-land, and the high plain of Palwal and the east of Nuh and Firozpur, used to be very healthy; but fever has come with the Agra canal into the villages along its course in the high plain; and in 1878-79 the east of the district, and in 1879-80 the whole district was, like the neighbouring tracts, devastated by fever. The town of Rewari has been unhealthy ever since the incursion of the Sahibi in 1873.”

How were ailments treated? “Among the general agricultural population, there can hardly be said to be any practice of medicine. For fever, which is the most prevalent form of illness, a mixture of butter-milk with flour and water is drunk; or sometimes the more rigorous course of a hard turn at the plough, so as to induce perspiration, is followed. For a scorpion sting you may choose among the following prescriptions; rub the place with the root of a certain onion-like plant; apply the ashes of' the scorpion or the dirt from a cow's ear or hare dropping; or cook the scorpion in ghi and rub it on the sting. There are somewhat similar recipes for bites from a snake or a mad dog; but the above will suffice to show the character of the ordinary remedies applied in the villages. In the towns hakims are met with, who generally practise the Yunani system of medicine.”

About the Meena tribe, “The actual number of convictions of the Minas is more than doubled by convictions under the Criminal Tribes’ Act. From this statement it appears that, while the Jats, Brahmins, and Ahirs are comparatively law-abiding, the Gujars, Meos and Banias are the classes more addicted to crime, while the Minas far and away distance all the others in this respect. If the Meos and Gujars are to be classed as criminal classes, the Banias should be placed along with them. Indeed, except in the year 1878, when Mewat suffered most from scarcity, the Meos were entitled to be classed among the less criminal tribes… If anything can be inferred from this, it would appear that the Jats and Gujars are now comparatively less criminal than they were, while the Ahirs and Banias are much more so. The only tribe to which the provisions of the Criminal Tribes’ Act have been extended is the Minas, who are found chiefly in the outlying town of Shahjahanpur, which is surrounded on all sides by the Alwar territory. There are smaller bodies of them residing in Guraora, &c. They are most incorrigible robbers, and notwithstanding the most stringent precautions, numbers of them manage to absent themselves from their homes on distant dacoity expeditions, chiefly in the Rajputana States. They are skillful in planning the highway robberies in which they most delight, and bold in executing them, being generally prepared to meet resistance with violence. Proposals have been made to give them land and establish them in a reformatory village, or to employ them in a class regiment. Their fellow-tribesmen in Alwar are employed in military duties, and make excellent cultivators... It is, however, satisfactory to notice that, since the above description of the character of the Minas was written, the number of them convicted of crime has decreased, and that many of them have taken to agriculture and other honest callings, while others have taken service in the police, and some again have obtained employment as village watchmen.” />
The author is chief of the Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister. Views are personal