THE ARMY IN INDIA
"We formerly had bars at which soldiers could buy pure liquor, instead of the poisonous stuff that is sold them in the native quartets of Indian cities, but we soon concluded that they defeated their own purposes. Being situated at convenient locations, soldiers would patronize them for the love of liquor, and induce others to do the same for the sake of companionship. This promoted intemperance, because the soldiers went to the bar only to drink, and for no other reason. There were no reading-rooms or loafing places or attractive surroundings, and they were not permitted to remain at the bar after they had been served with one drink.
"Those bars have been abolished, and, under the present system, an effort is being made to furnish homelike, attractive club-houses, where the enlisted men may pass their leisure time in comfortable chairs, with pleasant surroundings, games, newspapers, magazines, books, writing materials and a well-filled library. We give them a lunch-room and a bar which are much more attractive than any of the native bazaars can offer. They are allowed to drink liquor on the premises in moderation, and the regulations of the institute are enforced by a committee of the men themselves, which appeals to their honor, their pride and their love for their profession. A drunken enlisted man is quite as much of a humiliation to his comrades as a drunken officer would be to his associates, and the men feel quite as much responsibility in restraining each other and in preventing their comrades from getting into trouble as their officers - perhaps more. To this spirit, this esprit de corps, we appeal, and find after several years of experience that the institutes promote temperance, health, discipline and contentment among the men.
"The surgeons of the service will tell you, and their reports contain the details, that the largest amount of disease and the worst cases are due to contact with natives in the bazaars of the cities near which our barracks are located. It is impossible to keep the men out of them, and their visits can only be lessened by furnishing counter attractions. The soldiers' institutes have proved to be the strongest ever devised. Anyone who knows India can tell instantly where soldiers' institutes have not been established by examining the sick reports of the officers of the medical corps.
"You cannot prevent men from drinking any more than you can prevent them from swearing or indulging in any other vice," continued Colonel De Barthe, "but you can diminish the amount of vice by judicious measures, and that we believe is being done by our institutes, with their libraries, reading-rooms, lunch-rooms, cafes, amusement-rooms, bars, theaters for concerts, lectures and amateur dramatic performances. The government does not put in billiard tables or any other kind of games. We allow the men to do that for themselves, and they pay for them out of the profits of the bar. Nor do we furnish newspapers. We require the soldiers to subscribe for themselves. There is a good reason for this which should be obvious to everyone who has ever had experience in such matters. We furnish the building, provide the furniture, fuel, lights, fill the shelves of the library with excellent standard books of history, travels, biography, fiction and miscellaneous works, and have a way of shifting the books between stations occasionally, so that the men will not always have the same titles before their eyes. We furnish a piano for the amusement hall, and all of the permanent fixtures of the place, but the men are required to do their share, which gives them personal interest in the institute, increases their responsibility and takes away much of the official atmosphere. If we should provide magazines and newspapers they would not be so well satisfied with them. There would always be more or less grumbling and criticism. Hence it is better for them to make their own choice. If we should provide crockery and glassware for the refreshment-rooms it would be more frequently broken. The same rule prevails in other matters, and, what is still more important, we want to remove as much of the official relation as possible. The management of the institute is in the hands of soldiers, under the supervision of officers, who simply act as checks or as inspectors to see that things go straight.
"We encourage the men to organize singing clubs, amateur theatricals and other entertainments in which they take a great interest and considerable talent is sometimes developed. They have their own committees looking after these things, which is a healthful diversion; and the institute is the headquarters of all their sporting organizations and committees. The officers of the barracks never go there unless they are invited, but when the men give an entertainment every officer and his family attend and furnish as much assistance as possible."