Archive

Posts Tagged ‘British Raj’

Indian Bania On British Raj Economics

December 6, 2011 Leave a comment

Indian minds decipher Western economic mechanisms.

Vithaldas Thackerdas from the Bhatti community  |  An illustration of the 1358 Bhatti Parishad meeting  |  Image source and courtesy - globalbhatia.org

Vithaldas Thackerdas from the Bhatti community | An illustration of the 1358 Bhatti Parishad meeting | Image source and courtesy - globalbhatia.org

Nearly a 100 years ago, in 1915, even before Keynes’s star had risen, an Indian economist, SV Doraiswami, published his book, Indian Finance, Currency And Banking. Doraiswami’s ideas were opposed to those of Keynes and his views are vindicated by events today.

Doraiswami had already published his views in several outlets like London’s Statist, and his book was reviewed around the world. In the decades that followed, though Doraiswami’s work was known in academic circles, the Keynesian economists who gained control of academia were dismissive of his ideas and relegated him to the footnotes as they were conditioned to believe that governments could solve all problems.

Doraiswami faulted the British economic policies in India and demanded that the central bank be an ‘instrument for allowing and encouraging the free and unfettered inflow of gold into India.’ He wrote that a ‘gold standard without a gold currency is an absurdity’ and wrote in support of a resolution by Vitthaldas Thackersey in the Imperial Legislative Council calling for the opening of mints for the free coinage of gold. (via Special: Economic meltdown vindicates forgotten Indian economist – Analysis – DNA).

In Days Gone By

Some of colonial India’s leaders and activists knew of and believed in भारत-तंत्र Bharat-tantra. For instance, the link between war and gold – forgotten today, but well known then.

One such person was Vithaldas Thackersey. His proposal for setting up a mint at Mumbai received wide attention – and support. The best of British brains were needed to derail and delay the project till such time that all its ‘problems’ for the British Raj were removed.

Keynes himself reviewed this proposal and included this in his tract on Indian currency.

Men and Money

From pre-Gandhiji era, Vithaldas Thackersey (a Gujarathi Bhattia) worked to deliver credit banking to Indians and  in urban and rural areas – at a time when the British Raj was working to extract and fencing access to capital for Indians.

Today India’s ‘intellectuals’ have forgotten both.

भारत-तंत्र Bharat-tantra and gold.

WWII Propaganda: 70 years later

October 31, 2011 2 comments

Ceaseless propaganda – the one weapon that the Desert Bloc never tires of using. 70 years after the start of WWII, the propaganda continues.

At least this Nazi was correct about Churchill. The caption: “I am the friend of all the small countries!” Winston Churchill removes his mask. A standard Nazi propaganda argument was that England used smaller nations, tossing them aside when they were no longer useful.  Source and courtesy : bytwerk.com). Click for larger image.

At least this Nazi was correct about Churchill. The caption: “I am the friend of all the small countries!” Winston Churchill removes his mask. A standard Nazi propaganda argument was that England used smaller nations, tossing them aside when they were no longer useful. Source and courtesy : bytwerk.com). Click for larger image.

Trade wars are, perhaps, the most serious threats to the global economic order. Because of that, they are also the least likely. So, while the current rumblings in Beijing and Washington may lead to increased frictions, even economically ignorant politicians will not do anything drastic.

Both Germany and Japan tried in the 1930s to limit unemployment and political vulnerability by maximising domestic production and restricting imports. But, since World War II, economic activity has increasingly crossed political borders. (via Mutually assured destruction).

Is this plain ignorance?

Given that Reuters is a British news agency, the propaganda motive can never be discounted. The author forgets that Germany, home of the automobile (inventors of petrol and diesel engines, and the motor car itself), Italy and Japan were significantly industrialized countries before WWII. These countries were shut out of colonial markets with high tariff barriers by Britain and France.

In India

Even after crippling tariffs, industry from Germany, Italy and Japan was able to stand up to British and French products. For instance during the Great Depression, the British Raj imposed a towering 75% duty on Japanese mill cloth to India – which was becoming highly popular. In turn the Japanese stopped buying cotton from India. British mills made a killing by then buying Indian cotton at throwaway prices.

What of the Lees-Mody Pact?

While the Churchill Norman extraction of gold continued to bleed the Indian peasant, such trade barriers further damaged the Indian economy. Edward Hadas surely knows this.

Why this propaganda – 70 years after the start of WWII?

Confused Pragmatic

October 12, 2011 4 comments

Political commentators are turning amoral and cynical. A prominent tweeter was singing praises of the British – to the extent saying, what if they had massacred people at Jallianwala.

No reply at all

Why do you keep on talking about Jallianwala Bagh? Look at the non-corrupt governance provided by the British. (from a tweet by @pragmatic_d).

Has @pragmatic_d done any checks on records and reports during the times, when the British were providing clean administration to Indians? Two messages asking him to substantiate his statement got no reply.

Some evidence

The Indian State, on Independence and for at least the previous 20 years, was seriously worried about corruption.

In fact, this anxiety on corruption forced JL Nehru to set up, in the early fifties, a 3-man Corruption Commission – with JB Kripalani, Paul Appleby (a Ford Foundation consultant), AD Gorwala (a retired ICS officer) as members.

Back home

Meanwhile, back in Britain, the British Prime Minister faced a series of scandals.

For instance, between WWI and WWII, many questions were raised in the British Parliament – and outside. About Neville Chamberlain’s holdings in ICI shares estimated at 11,000. His son, Francis Chamberlain, had joined the Kynoch Works, an old firm with which the Chamberlain family was associated. As also with BSA Company (Birmingham Small Arms) in which he was a director.

The base of corruption in India

In fact the British Raj created legislation which directly encouraged corruption. For instance, against money-lenders, in India. But much before this, way back in 1928, then a much-less famous man, wrote

Corruption will be out one day, however much one may try to conceal it; and the public can, as its right and duty, in every case of justifiable suspicion, call its servants to strict account, dismiss them, sue them in a law court or appoint an arbitrator or inspector to scrutinise their conduct, as it likes. – Mahatma Gandhi in Young India (1928).

But then, this is secondary issue.

Cynical, insensitive – and …

Even if the British were able to give a corruption-free rule, would it mean we should accept rogue-rulers, who will corner unarmed people, against a wall and shoot them dead?

Just because you were the one who was not shot, does not mean, you can pragmatic, Shri Desi. This is just like Carnegie Institute suggesting that Genghis Khan’s killings of millions of people, was good for the environment.

Responsibility before … pride

With more than 45,000 tweets to his credit, more than 11,000 followers, featuring on nearly 200 lists, tweeple like Pragmatic Desi (User Name – pragmatic_desi; handle – @pragmatic_d) cannot give gubbish to their followers. A self-described blogger on the Indian National Interest platform; these tweets are ‘personal’.

Whatever that means.

It still makes me question, what kind of Think Tanks India is getting?

‘British Raj was not a vampire empire’

October 1, 2011 5 comments

India must be bled, it must be done judiciously. The lancet should be directed to those parts where the blood is congested, or, at least, sufficient, not to those already feeble for the want of it. (Lord Salisbury – Secretary of State for India – 1866-1867; 1874-1878; Foreign Secretary – 1878-1880; Prime Minister – 1885, 1886 – 92, 1895 – 1902).

Hastings, unlike Clive, offered no personal defence. Instead he portrayed himself and the British Raj as the Saviour Of India. (Original by James Gillray titled 'The Political Banditti Assailing the Saviour of India', published by W. Holland in 1786 or 1788. Warren Hastings was attacked by Edmund Burke, Lord North, and Fox, in the House of Commons. See 1851 water color version from Bohn Collection at  http://goo.gl/a90mq). Click for larger image.

Warren Hastings, when attacked by Edmund Burke, Lord North, and Fox, in the House of Commons for corruption, unlike Clive, offered no personal defence. Instead he portrayed himself and the British Raj as the Saviour Of India. (Original by James Gillray titled 'The Political Banditti Assailing the Saviour of India', published by W. Holland in 1786 or 1788. Image source and courtesy - shijieminghua.com. See 1851 water color version from Bohn Collection at http://goo.gl/a90mq). Click for larger image.

Historians today, many in India too, promote  the myth that the British Empire

bore no resemblance to the ‘vampire empire’ created by King Leopold of the Belgians in the Congo, which was responsible for perhaps 10 million deaths, let alone to the genocidal Nazi empire or to Japan’s vicious and corrupt Greater East-Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere.

Imperium et Libertas was a contradiction in terms. What it meant in a Roman mouth, as Gladstone said, was ‘Liberty for ourselves, Empire over the rest of mankind.’

Lord Salisbury (Marquess of Salisbury – then Secretary of State for India) himself exposed the truth. ‘If our ancestors had cared for the rights of other people,’ he observed, ‘the British Empire would not have been made.’ Its purpose was not to spread sweetness and light but to increase Britain’s wealth and power. Naturally its coercive and exploitative nature must be disguised. Bamboozle was better than bamboo, he considered, and ‘as India must be bled, the bleeding should be done judiciously.’
Actually, from the time that Britain had begun to transform its commercial dominance into political ascendancy, India was bled white. During the 1760s Bengal was so squeezed that the province, which the Mughals had called ‘the paradise of earth’, became an abyss of torment. It was ravaged by war, pestilence and famine. A third of the population died of hunger, some driven to cannibalism. Although relief efforts were made, British ‘bullies, cheats and swindlers’ continued to prey on the carcass of Bengal and some profiteered in hoarded grain. Meanwhile Indian revenues (which amounted to perhaps a billion pounds sterling between Plassey in 1757 and Waterloo in 1815) spelled the redemption of Britain, according to the Earl of Chatham. They were ‘a kind of gift from heaven’.

The history of the Raj was punctuated by further famines, which caused tens of millions of deaths. These were not, as Mike Davis claims, colonial ‘holocausts’. But the British failed lamentably in India, as they did in Ireland, in their duty of care. Condemning ‘humanitarian hysterics’ during the worst Victorian famine, Lord Lytton said that the stoppage of his 1876 durbar ‘would be more disastrous to the permanent interests of the Empire than twenty famines’. Despite pleas from the Secretary of State for India Leo Amery during the terrible 1943-44 Bengal famine, Churchill refused to divert scarce shipping to Calcutta. He thought that ‘the starvation of anyway underfed Bengalis’ was less serious than that of sturdy Greeks, particularly as Indians would go on breeding ‘like rabbits’.

After the Indian Mutiny soldiers such as Garnet Wolseley did much to fulfil their vow to spill ‘barrels and barrels of the filth which flows in these niggers’ veins for every drop of blood’ they had shed. During the South African War the British allowed a sixth of the Boer population, mostly children, to die in concentration camps.

British Empire was not only on “slave trade and the indentured labour traffic; cases of acquisitive aggression such the opium wars and the rape of Matabeleland; acts of vandalism such as the burning of the Emperor’s Summer Palace in Beijing and the destruction of the Mahdi’s tomb at Omdurman; squalid fiascos such as the Jameson Raid and the Suez invasion; crimes such as the use of dum-dum bullets and poison gas against ‘uncivilized tribes’ (Churchill’s phrase); massacres such as occurred at Amritsar in 1919, Batang Kali in Malaya in 1948 (the ‘British My Lai’) and Hola Camp in Kenya (1959).”

Piers Brendon does finally fall back on the usual thugee and suttee to justify British rule. And that is where Britain failed the most.

(Cheyte Sing rendering Homage to Warren Hastings. Illustration from The People's History of England; Cassell Petter & Galpin, c 1890). Click for larger image.

(Cheyte Sing rendering Homage to Warren Hastings. Illustration from The People's History of England; Cassell Petter & Galpin, c 1890). Click for larger image.

The truth behind Thugee

As though India was being overrun by thugs – and every traveller’s life was at risk. Defenceless Indian’s were waiting helplessly, for a saviour. And then the British anti-thugee campaign saved India.

As if Indians had no productive enterprise to engage in, thugee was the only option, for ‘backward’ Indians.

Till the British shone their bright light on us Indians. If Indians were busy with thugee, who was earning money that the thugs were looting? India could not have been the world’s largest economy, if India was Thug Nation.

After decades of loot-and-ravage, when it was suggested that the Indian economy was fragile, Lord Irwin responded,

It was surely unreasonable, to suggest that a country which had an enormous stock of gold and silver, and which was still drawing them in considerable quantities from the rest of the world, was so weak

Figures talk

If yes, why did the ‘Thuggee and Dacoity Department’ with William Sleeman as Superintendent in 1835, could capture no more than 3,000 highway robbers – of which only 400 were executed. Based mostly on the ‘identification’ by a few ‘hand-picked’ witnesses – from a bank of nearly 500 ‘approvers.’ In nearly a decade! In a population of possibly 25 crores.3,000 ‘thugs’ in a nation of 25 crores? Assuming that all the 3,000 accused ‘thugs’, were ‘guilty’, going by modern imprisonment standards, it remains low.

For instance, in modern Britain, there are nearly 17,000 prisoners for violent crime, in a population of little over, 6 crores (60 million). 3 people per thousand in Britain are criminally violent and in prison.

Were ‘thugs’ a bigger proportion of violent criminals in India. Going by modern British ‘norm’ of 3 per thousand, criminally violent Indians should have been close to 75,000 criminals. Just 3,000 ‘thugs’ out of the possible 75,000 criminally violent Indians?

In a population of an estimated 25 crores.

Some of the most infamous, like Behram was attributed to have committed more than 900 murders – for which he never faced any trial, for murders he confessed to, even after being captured. Most of these thugs were actually rebel peasants who were waging a war against the dispossession of the lands – like the Santhals, Bhils, Gujjars, etc.

Facts speak

Fact is India was not a criminal society then – and not one today.. India today has the world’s lowest police-to-population ratio – and the lowest prisoners-to-population ratio.


Adiga’s Vacuum Theorem

August 26, 2011 3 comments

Arvind Adiga (hereafter Adiga-bhau), ‘winner of the £50,000 Man Booker prize’ makes a complete hash in a lengthy book review. Reading Arvind Adiga for the first time, I am surprised at the man’s obtuseness. Adiga writes,

Post-British Raj India had a difficult choice - which political system to choose! (Cartoon by RK Laxman; courtesy - timesofindia.com). Click for larger image.

Post-British Raj India had a difficult choice - which political system to choose! (Cartoon by RK Laxman; courtesy - timesofindia.com). Click for larger image.

French gives us vivid sketches of the peculiar, gifted men and women of the Gandhi-Nehru dynasty – India’s Julio-Claudians – who governed the country until the 1990s, managing simultaneously to keep India democratic and united, while running its economy into the ground.

French follows the political sketches with portraits of the Indian businessmen who struggled to survive in the socialist economy that their politicians made for them – and who then burst free, with entrepreneurial vigour, when these controls were eased in the 1990s.

To keep falling for this promise, election after election, millions of Indian voters must be utter morons – and not the smart budding world-conquerors that French describes them as. (via India: A Portrait by Patrick French – book review | Books | The Observer).

British Raj – The Golden Age

If the Gandhi-Nehru dynasty were responsible for ‘running its economy into the ground’ is Adiga-bhau implying that the dynasty started with a prosperous and well-run Indian economy – which the dynasty ruined.

I wonder which history book Adiga-bhau reads? Which school taught Adiga-bhau this history? And if it just bad English, who decided to give him that Rs.30 lakh award?

From an India, which was a ship-to-mouth basket case, in 1950, to an emerging power, in 2010, seems to be have been a facile and an easy experience – and little credit is given to Indian political leadership for managing the post-colonial Indian system.

In this case, is it because Adiga-bhau forgets the state of Indian economy in 1950-1980?

At least in the 60s and the 70s, India was long on promise and short on performance. To imply now that the British Raj was better? Cartoon by RK Laxman. Click for larger image.

At least in the 60s and the 70s, India was long on promise and short on performance. To imply now that the British Raj was better? Cartoon by RK Laxman. Click for larger image.

Indian businessman. Patriotic …?

Coming to Adiga-bhau’s other point of ‘businessmen who struggled to survive in the socialist economy’ makes me hoot. As in laughter and cackle.

May be Adiga-bhau should keep his computer shut. After all, why take pains to prove himself to be an ignoramus?

Did anyone tell him about the Bombay Plan of 1944? India’s leading industrialists of the time proposed the Bombay Plan, which suggested a major role for the Indian State in independent India. Remember, way back in 1944,

the plan was put together by the who’s who of Indian industry (JRD Tata, GD Birla, Kasturbhai Lalbhai, Purshottamdas Thakurdas and Shri Ram) as well as top technocrats such as John Matthai, Ardeshir Dalal and AD Shroff (Matthai, who drafted the document, later became India’s Finance Minister). It was, in fact, half a Tata team. All three technocrats were working with the Tatas. Thirdly, and most importantly, what made everyone sit up and take notice of the Bombay Plan was its approach. Believe it or not, this capitalist-heavy team advocated government intervention and regulation. Words such as control, licenses and allotment were used in a manner no Indian capitalist has used ever since. Part II came a year later.

Left parties, politicians on the Right, Gandhians – all found fault with the Bombay Plan. But, India’s official planning documents that came out 4 years later in 1948, were very similar to the Bombay Plan.

So, much for business which struggled, Adiga-bhau!

A British War poster of 1939. British war poster of 1939. Just 8 years before independence. British racism and attitude towards 'Brown' Indians was discriminatory. Like this poster displays. Click for larger image.

A British War poster of 1939. British war poster of 1939. Just 8 years before independence. British racism and attitude towards 'Brown' Indians was discriminatory. Like this poster displays. Click for larger image.

Soon after WWII

From 1950, Britain still a major economy and a super-power, a victor of WWII, sent its best economists to advise the Indian Government.

They came from the leading Cambridge School, led by the redoubtable Joan Robinson, the keeper of Keynes’ ideological flame – and the group became famous as the Cambridge School. Apart from Cambridge School economists, other leading economists from all over the world came to India.

Long list, Big names

Among them was Harold Laski, of the London School of Economics, and Nicholas Kaldor and John Strachey from Britain. Not a few, but many American economists were sent to India, including Oskar Lange and Michael Kalecki (technically from Poland, but associated with US universities). Prominent among the American group were Neil Jacoby and Milton Friedman.

Apart from the Who’s Who of the world of economics many other big names like Paul N. Rosenstein-Rodan, Arnold Harberger, Richard Eckhaus, Alan Manne, James Mirlees, Ian Little, Charles Bettelheim, Brian Reddaway, Ragner Frisch, Richard Goodwin, Wassily Leontief and Jan Tinbergen – all came to India. Quite a few of these visits were financed by the Ford and Rockefeller foundations.

Many of these economists were neededto ‘sell’ the Indian point of view to the Western institutions like World Bank and IMF. And later the Aid India Consortium.

More than 30 years after this  cartoon, solar power is still not competitive. The West controlled technology, financial markets and raw material sources. Plus they had the killing machines like CIA, Mosssad. Just in case you stepped out of line. (Cartoon by Mike Peters; cartoon from the book-cover of SolarGas by David Hoye, published in 1979. Image courtesy - http://jimsbikeblog.wordpress.com) Click for larger image.

More than 30 years after this cartoon, solar power is still not competitive. The West controlled technology, financial markets and raw material sources. Plus they had the killing machines like CIA, Mosssad. Just in case you stepped out of line. (Cartoon by Mike Peters; cartoon from the book-cover of SolarGas by David Hoye, published in 1979. Image courtesy - http://jimsbikeblog.wordpress.com) Click for larger image.

Unhappy endings

Apart from the Cambridge School economists, the other big name was the leader of the Chicago School. Milton Friedman.

Unhappy at the reception to his proposals, Milton Friedman went for greener climes. Specifically, Chile.

Chile’s descent into the hands of a military junta, the human rights abuses, the political assassinations are the stuff of a Le Carre novels – except it was all real. And they happened under Milton Friedman’s very nose.

Sad and real, Adiga-bhau!

Neil Jacoby became advisor to another dictatorship – Taiwan.

The summer of hunger and poverty

Joan Robinson, it is claimed, used to say,The frustrating thing about India is that whatever you can rightly say about India, the opposite is also true.” Joan Robinson felt that in India the ‘problem is so formidable, that the mind boggles at it’.

Was it surprising that ‘more than half the world’s planning models were probably about India.’ And economists remembered Joan Robinson appearing dressed in a saree, at a conference in Europe.

British propaganda poster, promoting the 'special relationship' among Anglo-Saxon Bloc members. Was it possible for Nehru-Gandhi dynasty to confront the Anglo-Saxon Bloc in the 1950s and 1960s. Image courtesy - http://bertc.com. Click for a larger image.

British propaganda poster, promoting the 'special relationship' among Anglo-Saxon Bloc members. Was it possible for Nehru-Gandhi dynasty to confront the Anglo-Saxon Bloc in the 1950s and 1960s. Image courtesy - http://bertc.com. Click for a larger image.

The Ugly American

Post-War Europe itself, went down the way of planned economies – with some hilarious implementations.

Academic disagreement was battened down by threats and violence. Nehru appeared in CIA assassination lists.

It is unclear if it was Stalin’s lukewarm response to Nehru’s overtures or the alleged CIA plot against Nehru in 1955, temporarily Nehru did get close to Eisenhower.

The subsequent killing of Patrice Lumumba, the assassination of Salvador Allende or the ongoing coup in Iran, managed by USA and UK made these assassination fears real. One must not forget, (if one knows), that the price for independence was (and still is) CIA assassination or a regime change by USA.

For instance, the Shah of Iran worked against his own nationalist Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadeq – to protect Western Oil interests. To turn public opinion,

declassified documents detailing the 1953 U.S. overthrow of Iran’s Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadeq reveal that something actually called the “CIA Art Group” produced cartoons to turn public opinion against the democratically elected leader.

The CIA, led by Kermit Roosevelt Jr., and the British intelligence, launched Operation Ajax. Finally, in 1979, the Shah was replaced by the regressive regime of Ayatollah Khomeini, which has taken Iran out of the USA orbit.

The real story, Adiga-bhau!

The Stick … and the carrot

Western aid was tied to India following Western advice. This continued to happen – at least till 1991. For instance, MJ Akbar quotes how American influence was behind Manmohan Singh’s appointment in 1991.

Really, Adiga-bhau!

India’s post-colonial choices were a mix of pragmatism, necessity and accepted wisdom of the times – and Western pressures and influences that are responsible for more than a fair share of guilt in these wrong choices.

This is scene from Kolkatta in 1943. Just 4 years before independence. Millions died, like flies, on the streets of Kolkatta, and across Bengal. Is this the economy that that the Nehru-Gandhi run into ground?

This scene from Kolkatta in 1943. Just 4 years before independence. Millions died, like flies, on the streets of Kolkatta, and across Bengal. Is this the economy that the Nehru-Gandhi run into ground?

Insult – but was there injury

Western media and academia conveniently forgets that Western institutions like World Bank, IMF, stampeded India (and Nehru), into some of these bad choices – which the West now claims were India’s own choices in the first place.

For instance, one of the worst choices made by India, tied to World Bank, IMF and US aid, was to follow the infamous population control policy. Blaming Nehru-Gandhi has become an article of faith in modern India.

But is it justified?

Lethargy As Opinion

August 16, 2011 3 comments

Examining governance records of selected ten premiere post-WWII governments across the world could throw up some surprises.

Colonial motivations

The British Raj needed to mock and diminish the Indian politician. The Indian political leader was trying to dislodge the colonial Government from their position of power. Churchill’s famous descriptions of Gandhiji as ‘that naked fakir’ and Indian politicians as ‘men of straw’ was a sentiment shared across ruling elites in Britain.

Seems like in India, too

Post-independence, this mockery of the Indian politician has only grown. This criticism, carping and mockery has no basis in fact – statistics, measurements, performance metrics. Anything at all.

The drag government’s been on the Indian story is astonishing. No government in the world’s been such a burden to a country. It’s done none of the things it’s meant to while it seems to eye private success with greed. There’s only so long this frame can hold…

One of the things making me happiest in America was the man coming up was celebrated. In India, I sense disgust, revulsion for that person, that he should suddenly have aspirations, riches, ambitions. In Noon, I’ve tried to get at this. (via ‘I think of myself as Indian in a sense that includes Pakistan’ – Page 2 – Times Of India).

Aatish Taseer, whose books and writings have been met with much fanfare, publicity and soundbites, is another one who bites into the dust of empty criticism.

If we are to examine governance records of selected ten premiere post-WWII governments across the world, Taseer’s emptiness (he is not alone) will stand exposed.

These 10 governments four from Europe (France, Germany, Italy and UK), two from South America (Argentina and Brazil) Japan and USA, China and India. Looking back at the 65 years after WWII (1945-2010), the context and strategies of these ten countries throws up some surprises. India would definitely be a part of the Top-3 anyway that such a performance can be rated.

Image source and courtesy - economist.com.

Image source and courtesy - economist.com.

Just on what basis have other governments have done better? All that bedevils Indian governance are present in all other countries. And the answer to all that ails ‘modern’ governance, can only come from India.

You can do a 10 country evaluation here and vote. And maybe, Taseer-miya …

You should read about भारत-तंत्र Bharat-tantra, .

The British Salt Tax. How Damaging?

July 29, 2011 3 comments

British taxes on salt made common table salt into a high-expensive commodity; created shortages which killed millions.

Gandhiji Dandi Salt March (March 12 - April 6, 1930) channeled seething rage on the salt tax into a frenzy. Click for larger image.

Gandhiji Dandi Salt March (March 12 – April 6, 1930) channeled seething rage on the salt tax into a frenzy. Click for larger image.

In 1770 famine hit Bengal. The land revenue had only been sporadically collected by the Mughals, especially in times of difficulty. After the Company took over the Diwani it was fully and ruthlessly collected. In 1969 the crop was poor. In 1770, after six months without rain, the crop almost totally failed. There has never been a failure of crops all over India. Local shortages can always be rectified if there is money to buy in grain. However, following the looting of Bengal by the Company and its employees, money was extremely scarce. The Company had no mercy; it took its dues in full. As people began to die, the amount of land revenue due from the survivors increased. It was so fiercely collected that many had to sell their seed corn. Out of the millions they collected, the Company gave back 90,000 rupees in famine relief — 90,000 rupees for 30,000,000 people.

Meanwhile the Company’s employees and their agents cornered the rice market. They bought up rice in those areas where the crop had not failed, warehoused it under armed guard, and sold to those with the most money. The price of a maund (82 pounds) of rice rose from about 0.4 to 13 rupees. The wealthier Indians exchanged their savings and jewellery for food. The peasants and labourers, who only earned 1 or, at most, 2 rupees a month, perished. Between one-third and one-half of the entire population — at least ten million people — died. The Salt Tax was, of course, still collected by the Company in full on the salt that was consumed. However, many could not afford to buy salt. In any case, the supply of salt was severely disrupted by the death of so many salt workers, bullock cart drivers and boatmen. …

The size of an average family was another point of contention. However, at the lower end of the scale, it is reasonable to assume that a small family, of two adults and three children, needed at least half a maund of salt, 41 pounds a year. Half a maund of salt, in 1788, retailed for 2 rupees or more — two months’ income for many families. The situation continued for many years and agrees with the evidence given to a Parliamentary Select Committee of 1836 by Dr. John Crawfurd of the Bengal Medical Service: ‘I estimate that the cost of salt to the rural labourer, i.e., to the great mass of the people of Bengal, for a family, as being equal to about two months’ wages, i.e., 1/6th of the whole annual earnings.’

(via The Salt Tax – Excerpted from The Great Hedge of India by Roy Moxham, Harper Collins, India 2001).

By the time Gandhiji picked up this peice of salt from the sea-shore, hundreds of thousands had died due to salt-starvation. Click for larger image.

By the time Gandhiji picked up this peice of salt from the sea-shore, hundreds of thousands had died due to salt-starvation. Click for larger image.

The Salt Famine

One more chapter in famines created by British misrule in India.
Roy Moxham’s book traces how extortionate taxes by the British Raj created virtually a salt famine – which also killed hundreds of millions. In today’s world, where salt has become common, easily available and cheap, it is not easily understood how salt imbalances killed many Indians.

The British Raj created a price regime where Indians could not afford to eat salt.

How Tax was Levied

Interestingly, Roy Moxham’s book details how the British tried for 10 years to create a thorny hedge, to prevent smuggling of cheaper salt from bordering kingdoms ruled by Indian kings. Rarely mentioned in history, it was referred to as the The Great Hedge of India or Inland Customs Line.

A customs line was established, which stretched across the whole of India, which in 1869 extended from the Indus to the Mahanadi in Madras, a distance of 2,300 miles; and it was guarded by nearly 12,000 men and petty officers…it consisted principally of an immense impenetrable hedge of thorny trees and bushes, supplemented by stone wall and ditches, across which no human being or beast of burden or vehicle could pass without being subject to detention or search. (Strachey and Strachey 1882, 219-20).

Gandhiji at the Dandi , Gujarat Salt March. Surrounded by adoring crowds, the end of the British Raj came in sight. (Image source - Associated Press File; Courtesy - pressherald.com ).

Gandhiji at the Dandi , Gujarat Salt March. Surrounded by adoring crowds, the end of the British Raj came in sight. (Image source – Associated Press File; Courtesy – pressherald.com ).

Birth of corruption

The Customs Line soon became a Corruption Line. Many small little Clive’s sprouted wings and extorted money for salt and other commodities. This corruption persisted, in a perverse way even encouraged by the Raj, in the other laws – in the money lending regulations, excise, customs, octroi – at every tax point.

Even as India was on the verge of independence from the British Raj, in September 1946, Nehru reminded his party of the “the colossal corruption and nepotism that are rampant everywhere.” In late 1945, Nehru said “Corrupt people have to be swept away by a broomstick,” while campaigning for Congress Party.

But much before this, way back in 1928, then a much-less famous man, wrote

Corruption will be out one day, however much one may try to conceal it; and the public can, as its right and duty, in every case of justifiable suspicion, call its servants to strict account, dismiss them, sue them in a law court or appoint an arbitrator or inspector to scrutinise their conduct, as it likes. – Mahatma Gandhi in Young India (1928).

Sarojini Naidu carried forward Dandi Salt March to the Dharsana Salt Works, Gujarat, in May 1930, which was covered by the international press in chilling detail. End of British Raj and the Salt Tax is close to end.  Click for larger image.

Sarojini Naidu carried forward Dandi Salt March to the Dharsana Salt Works, Gujarat, in May 1930, which was covered by the international press in chilling detail. End of British Raj and the Salt Tax is close to end. Click for larger image.


%d bloggers like this: