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deciding......no doubt ask the local zamindars or Hindu mukhi their opinion upon
this as upon most matters affecting the peace and comfort of the village. But
the matter is too insignificant for any formal rule to be made or to be neces-

Other evidence.

687. It is perhaps doubtful what might be the effect of an attempt to canvass
public opinion more completely than is at present
done. A missionary in Bengal and another in
Assam think that local public opinion would close every ganja shop. But
Mr. Cockburn, an officer of long standing in the Opium Department, North-
Western Provinces, says: "If the wishes of the people were consulted, the number
of liquor shops would be at once doubled, and ganja and bhang obtained at every
bania's." Mr. Thorburn, Commissioner in the Punjab, takes the same view. A
missionary in Madras, who is an advocate of prohibition, says: "I do not
see the use of consulting local opinion on such a question. Though public
opinion is decidedly against the use of hemp drugs, it is doubtful if the
majority of the people would take the trouble to express any opinion on
the subject, while consumers of the drug would certainly try to show that
opinion was in favour of opening such shops." One witness in the Central
Provinces sees serious objections to referring the question to public
opinion on the ground that, "whenever public opinion is taken, it has led to
many difficulties and mal-administration." There are three opinions, two in
Bengal and one in Madras, for consulting district and local boards
as well as municipalities regarding the opening and shutting of shops; and
one witness in Bengal would ascertain local option through the panchayats
which exist under the Chaukidari Act; but none of these witnesses seem to have
much confidence in the plan they propose.

Commission's view of local option.

688. The Commission feel that except in municipalities where the responsibi-
lity of regulating the number of the shops might with
advantage be shared by the District and Municipal
authorities, there is not much need or opportunity for soliciting public opinion
in regard to the matter; but that the leading rural notables, zamindars, or head-
men should be consulted by the subordinate officer who reports the case when
new shops are proposed, and that objections, if presented, should continue to
receive the most careful attention. But the district officer must be wholly
responsible for not allowing shops to exist where there is not a demand for

Maximum of possession.

689. The object of limiting the amount of the drug which may be legally
possessed by any one person is to place a check
upon smuggling and to restrict consumption. The
imposition of this limit is specially required where the proximity of Native States
affords facilities for the former; and recommendations for lowering the maximum
are made by several witnesses in this connection. Consumption is also thereby
checked, for not only is excess fostered by the possession of a large store, but
means are afforded for more extensive distribution of the drug. The maximum
of legal possession is very different in different parts of India. The limit as fixed
by Act XXII of 1881, which is in force in the North-Western Provinces,

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