Posted in Art and Culture, History of Modern India

Young Bengal Movement-Derozio

updated on March 18th, 2019

Young Bengal Movement-Derozio

Henry Lui Vivian Derozio, joined the Hindu College of Calcutta as a teacher. He had come from Scotland to sell watches in Calcutta, but later made the spread of modern education in Bengal as his life’s mission.

Derozio promoted radical ideas through his teaching and by organizing an association for debate and discussions on literature, philosophy, history and science. He inspired his followers and students to question all authority. Derozio and his famous followers, known as the Derzians and Young Bengal, were fiery patriots. They cherished the ideals of the French Revolution (1789 A.D.) and the liberal thinking of Britain. Derozio died of cholera at the young age of 22.

The Young Bengal Movement continued even after Derozio’s dismissal and his sudden death. Though deprived of leadership, the members of this group continued preaching radical views through teaching and journalism.

A radical trend arose among the Bengal intellectuals during the 1802-1838 The leader and inspirer were the young Anglo-Indian, Henry Vivian Derozio, who taught at Hindu College from 1826 to 1831. Derozio promoted radical ideas through his class lectures and by organizing student societies for debates and discussions on various subjects. His students collectively called the Young Bengal. ridiculed all kinds of old traditions, defied social and religious conventions, demanded freedom of thought and expression and education for women.

However, they did not succeed in creating a movement. Rammohun Roy ‘s more moderate approach to social reforms found greater support.

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Posted in History of Modern India

British Administration and Judicial System

updated on March 18th, 2019

The Indians found it difficult to adjust to the new system of administration introduced by the British. The Indians were denied political rights and the British officers treated them with contempt. Indians were excluded from all higher positions in the civil administration and military.

The British also introduced a new system of law and justice in India. A hierarchy of civil and criminal courts was established. The laws were codified and attempts were also made to separate the judiciary from the executive. Efforts were made to establish the ‘Rule of Law’ in India. But this only helped the British to enjoy arbitrary powers and to interfere with the rights and liberties of the Indians. The law courts were not easily accessible to the common people. Justice became a costly affair. The new judicial system also discriminated between Europeans and Indians.

British imperial ideology for India was shaped by intellectual and political crosscurrents at home, i.e., in Britain, and, the ‘sub-imperialism ‘ of the men in their empire, i.e., in India, who were regarded by some as the ‘real founders of empire’. Pressures from the ruled, the crises occurring now and then at times led to changes in the functioning of that ideology . The fundamentals, however, never changed.

Developments in Britain and India

For several initial years, the government of the East India Company functioned more like a traditional Indian ruler, avoiding innovation or intervention, but keeping a vigilant eye on extracting an agricultural surplus. It recognized the authority of the Mughal emperor, struck coins in his name, used Persian as the official language and administered according to Hindu and Muslim laws in the courts. Lord Clive himself had recommended a system of double government’ as a matter of expediency, under which the criminal justice sy stem would be left in the hands of Nawabi officials, while civil and fiscal matters would be controlled by the Company. It was a pragmatic policy bom out of Company’s immediate circumstances.

Cultural and Educational Developments To know and understand Indian culture and tradition, the endeavors of scholars like Sir Willian Jones and Max Mueller were important (refer to the box) This urge for knowledge and understanding led to the founding of institutions like the Calcutta Madrassa (1781), the Asiatic Society of Bengal (1784) and the Sanskrit College of Banaras (1794), all of which promoted the study of Indian languages and scriptures. The scholars of these institutions highlighted the classical glory of India crafted by the Aryans, the distant kin of the Europeans.

This led to the European rulers being informed of the customs and laws of the land for the purposes of more efficient administration. It was with this political vision that Fort William College at Calcutta was established in 1800—to tram civil servants in Indian languages and tradition.


Orientalism in practice could be seen in the policies of the Company’s government under Warren Hastings. The fundamental principle here was that the conquered people were to be ruled by their own laws. Initially premised on respect for ancient Indian traditions, the Orientalist discourse, however, produced knowledge about the subject society, which emphasised the subsequent degeneration of the once magnificent Aryan civilisation. It ultimately prepared the ground for its rejection as a policy of governance. Lord Cornwallis abandoned the policy of Hastings and went for greater Anglicisation of the administration and the imposition of the Whig principles of the British government, of a separation of powers between the judiciary and the executive. Lord Wellesley continued these moves.

Economic Developments Industrial Revolution in Britain around 1800 necessitated an integration of the markets for British-manufactured goods throughout India and for her development as a source for agricultural raw materials and much greater penetration of Indian trade, not only with Britain but with other countries as well All this required a change in policy and reform, together with an unequivocal assertion of sovereignty by the British.

Intellectual Trends and Developments There were several new intellectual trends in Britain, which pushed forward the issue of reform. The free-trade merchants wanted that the Company should shift its attention from its functions as a trader to those of a ruler and that India is opened for trade to all. Adam Smith, and his book ‘An Inquiry’ into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations,’ brought in a new school of economic thinking that condemned companies enjoying exclusive monopolies. The Evangelicals started a crusade against Indian barbarism and advocated the permanence of British rule with a mission to change the very ‘nature of Hindostan’. In India the spokesperson of this idea were the missionaries located at Snrampur near Calcutta; in Britain, its chief exponent was Charles Grant. His ideas were given great publicity by William Wilberforce in the Parliament before the passage of Charter Act of 1813.

This was also the age of British liberalism. Thomas Macaulay ‘s liberal vision, that the British administrators’ task was to civilize rather than conquer, set a liberal agenda for the emancipation of India through active governance.

In this atmosphere of British liberalism. Utilitarianism was the box. pressing for reforms both at home and in India. Jeremy Bentham preached that the ideal of human civilization was to achieve the greatest happiness of the greatest number. Good laws and sound administration, it was hoped, would lead to the freeing of individual initiative from despotism, irrational customs, and traditions. This would give free and full scope for capital and labor and place due to the emphasis on individual rights and ownership. The Utilitarians advocated the rule of law ‘ for India. With the coming of the Utilitarian, James Mill to the East India Company’s London office, India policies came to be guided by such doctrines.

It was largely due to his efforts that a Law’ Commission was appointed in 1833 under Lord Macaulay and it drew up an Indian Penal Code in 1835.

The Utilitarians differed from the liberals, especially with regard to the question of Anglicisation. In the Orientalist- Angheist debate on the nature of education to be introduced in India, the liberal Lord Macaulay, in his famous Education Minute of 1835. presented a strong case for the introduction of English education; Utilitarians like Mill favored vernacular education as more suited to Indian needs.

Lord Bentinck, himself an ardent follower of Mill legislated for the abolition of Sati and child infanticide. He believed in the Utilitarian philosophy, but at the same time, he retained his faith in Indian traditions. The Indian Penal Code drafted in 1835 could not become an actor until 1860. Lord Dalhousie, too, was determined to take forward Mill’s vision of aggressive advancement of Britain’s mission in India.

Political and Legal Developments The traumatic experience of the revolt of 1857 convinced many in England and in India that reform was ‘pointless as well as dangerous’ and that Indians could never be trained to become like Englishmen. Not that the zeal for reform totally evaporated, as it was amply represented in the Crown Proclamation of 1858. in the patronage for education, in the Indian Councils Act of 1861 and in the Local Self-government Act of 1882, which is a limited way moved towards sharing power with the Indians. If reforms were introduced, they were more in response to articulated political demands of the Indians.

The Ilbert Bill controversy in 1883 marked the ultimate victory’ of the authoritarian trends and racial arrogance of the colonizers. The Bill—proposed by a liberal viceroy, Lord Ripon, intending to give jurisdiction to Indian judges over Europeans—had to be toned down under the pressure from non-official Englishmen as well as the bureaucracy. It was this authoritarian imperial order that Indian nationalism had to confront in the early 20th century.

British Parliament and the Empire

In mid-18,h century, when the Company raj was gradually being established in the sub-continent, the difficulties of communication with England gave the Company’s servants a free hand in India to behave like their own masters. Therefore, as the Company’s empire in India expanded, the British government realized that it could no longer be allowed to remain outside the ambit of the state.

The Parliament worked out a compromise; some sort of control over Indian affairs was established, but the company was allowed to continue its monopoly of Eastern trade and the directors of the Company were given control of the Indian administration. The Company itself had very powerful friends in the Parliament, and it doled out hug the e subscription to the government in exchange for continued patronage.

The Regulating Act of 1773 To control the Company’s administration in India, the next important step came in the shape of the Regulating Act of 1773, which formally recognized the Parliament’s right to control Indian affairs. The Court of Directors of the Company would henceforth be obliged to submit all communications received from Bengal about civil, military and revenue matters in India to the British government. Apart from that, territories in India were also subjected to some degree of centralized control. The status of the governor of Bengal, who used to be the president of the Company’s Calcutta factory, was raised to that of the Governor General, to be assisted by a council of four members. They were given the power to superintend and control the presidencies of Madras and Bombay in matters of waging war or making peace with the Indian states, except in emergency situations. The Governor General and his council were under the control of the Court of Directors, to whom they were supposed to send all correspondence and documents pertaining to the administration of the company regularly. A Supreme Court was set up in Calcutta, while the legislative powers were vested in the Governor General and the council. An Amending Act of 1781 defined more precisely the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court.

The Pitt’s India Act of 1784 A further corrective came in the shape of Pitt’s India Act of 1784. But this, too, was a compromise: the Company’s territorial possessions were not touched, only its public affairs and its administration in India were brought under more direct government control. A Board of Control, consisting of six members were constituted and would include one of the secretaries of state, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and four privacy councilors. It would ‘superintend, direct and control all acts, operations and concerns’ related to ‘the civil or military government or revenues of the British territorial possessions in the East Indies’. The orders of the Board became binding on the Court of Directors, which was required to send all its letters and dispatches to the Board for its perusal. The Court of Directors retained its control over commerce and patronage, but only with the approval of the Crown could it appoint its principal servants in India, such as the Governor General, governors and the Commander-in-Chief. The Government of India was placed under the Governor General and a council of three, thus giving greater power to the former. The presidencies of Madras and Bombay were subordinated to the Governor General, whose power over them was now enlarged and more clearly defined. The Governor-General in council in his turn was subordinated to the Court of Directors and the Board of Control. Thus a clear hierarchy of command and more direct parliamentary control over Indian administration was established.

The Act of 1786 An Amending Act of 1786 corrected these anomalies. It gave the Governor General the right to override his council in extraordinary situations and authorized the Court of Directors to combine the two officers of Governor General and Commander-in-Chief, resulting in Warren Hastings for the first time occupying the two positions simultaneously. An effective and authoritarian instrument of control was thus put in place, which continued till 1858 with only little modifications.

The Charter Act of 1793 This Act renewed the charter of the Company for 20 years, giving it possession of all territories in India during that period. In Indian administration, the Governor General’s power over the council was extended and the governors of Bombay and Madras were brought more decisively under his control. A code of all regulations that could be enacted for the internal government of the British territories in Bengal was framed. The regulation applied to all rights, people, and property of the Indian people and bound the courts to regulate their decisions by the rules and directives contained therein. All laws were to be printed with translations in Indian languages so that people would know their rights, privileges, and immunities. The Act thus introduced in India the concept of civil law. enacted by a secular human agency and applied universally.

The Charter Act of 1813 The free traders in the meanwhile had become dominant in British politics and were demanding free access to India. The Benthamite reformists and the Evangelicals, too, tried to influence British politics and policies in India and they gained a decisive voice when the Evangelist Charles Grant was elected to the Court of Directors. The Charter Act of 1813 incorporated in a significant way all these aspirations for change in Britain’s India policy. It renewed the Company’s charter for 20 years, and during that period it was allowed to have its territorial possessions. But at the same time, the act asserted the ‘undoubted sovereignty of the Crown of the United Kingdom’ over the Indian territories. The Company was also deprived of its monopoly of trade with India, although its monopoly of China trade was left untouched for another 20 years. And, in addition to that, Christian missionaries were henceforth to be allowed to enter India, subject only to obtaining a license either from the Court of Directors or the Board of Control. The real beginning of Western education in India can, therefore, be dated from the Charter Act of 1813, which not only allowed the missionaries to travel to India but provided for the allocation of one hundred thousand rupees per year for two specific purposes: first, the encouragement of the learned natives of India and the revival of and improvement of literature: secondly, the promotion of knowledge of the sciences amongst the inhabitants of that country’.

The Charter Act of 1833 When the charter was again due for renewal in 1833, there was a fresh and more widespread agitation in Britain for the abolition of the Company and a direct takeover of the Indian administration by the government.

The Act of 1833 became a landmark in the constitutional history of India. The Company’s monopoly of tea trade with China was now abolished and henceforth it was meant only to have political functions. and here too, the Indian possessions of the Company were to be held in trust for the British Crown. The President of the Board of Control now became the Minister for Indian Affairs, while the Board was empowered to superintend all administrative affairs in India. The Governor General of Bengal became the Governor General of India, who would, in consultation with his Council, control all civil, military and revenue matters in the whole of India. With the extension of territories and the influx of British settlers into India, there was a need for uniform laws. The Governor-General in Council was, therefore, empowered to legislate for the whole of British territories in India and these laws were to be applicable to all persons, British or Indian. A law member was added to the Council (Lord Macaulay) and a Law Commission was instituted for the codification of laws. The Company’s services in India were thrown open to the natives; but there was no provision for their being nominated to the covenanted services.

The Charter of 1833 also instructed the Government of India to abolish slavery. But the actual forms of bondage in India differed, like caste, customs and debt kept the agricultural laborers bonded to their landlords in various ways and for a very long time to come. The impact of the legal ban was also very limited.

The Charter Act of 1853 The Charter of 1833 was renewed in 1853, but this time not for another 20 years. The Company was allowed to retain the Indian possessions ‘in trust for Her Majesty, her heirs and successors until Parliament shall otherwise provide’, thus keeping the door ajar for a future takeover. The Act also provided for the separation of the executive and legislative functions of the Governor General’s Council by adding new members for legislative purposes. And the Company’s control over appointments was curtailed by the introduction of competition for the recruitment of the Indian Civil Service. Already deprived of its commercial privileges, the Company, hereafter, hardly ever controlled policies in India.

The Government of India Act, 1858 In terms of the administrative structure, the Government of India Act of 1858, which followed the pacification of the revolt, meant more continuation than change. It replaced the President of the Board of Control with a Secretary of State for India, who became ‘in subordination to the cabinet, the fountain of authority as well as the director of policy in India’. He was to be advised by Council of India, consisting of 15 members, seven of whom were to be selected from the now superseded Court of Directors. The Governor General of India, who would henceforth be known as the Viceroy, would retain all his powers, but instead of dual control, he would be answerable only to the secretary of state. Continuity was also maintained in the structure of the civil service, and the same recruitment examination introduced in 1853 was carried on. India thus passed from Company rule to Crown rule.

The Indian Council Act, 1861, strengthened the Viceroy s authority over his Executive Council by substituting portfolios’, or departmental system for corporate functioning.

The zeal for reform and change had died down and in the aftermath of the revolt, one could discern in every aspect of British policy in India a ‘new attitude of caution and conservatism’. There was now an assertion of the racial superiority of the ruling race, which carefully distanced itself from the subject society in order to formalize a more authoritarian regime. Indians were held to be tradition-bound’ and, therefore, beyond reform to live up to the high moral standards of the West. And trust was reposed in their ‘natural leaders’, the landed gentry and the aristocrats, who were restored to prominence, in the hope of securing their loyalty.

The imperial Darbar of January 1877, where Queen Victoria assumed the title of the Empress of India was organized with great splendor and pomp, by Lord Lytton, the then Viceroy of India. Its purpose was to effectively display the ‘omnipotence of the paramount power’ to its allies, the princess of India, and its subjects, the people of India. The relationship between the princess and paramount power was institutionalised through an elaborate hierarchy fixed, for instance, through the number of gun salutes each, native prince received to determine a place of precedence in the new imperial social order.

Judicial System

Clive appointed Muhammad Reza Khan to represent the Company ‘s civil jurisdiction between 1765 and 1772; as Naib Nazim, he also administered the criminal jurisdiction of the Nawab.

Judicial System from 1772-1780 After Warren Hastings took charge as governor in 1772, Reza Khan was dismissed and a new system was introduced. Each district was to have two courts, a civil court or Diwani Adalat and a criminal court or faujdari Adalat Thus the Mughal nomenclature was retained, and the laws to be applicable were Muslim laws in criminal justice and the Muslim or Hindu laws in adjudicating personal matters, such as inheritance, marriage, etc The civil courts in India were to be presided over by the European district collectors, and they were to be assisted by maulvis and Brahman pundits interpreting indigenous laws for their understanding. There would be an appeal court in Calcutta, which too would be presided over by the president and two members of the council. The criminal courts were to be under a kazi and a mufti, but they were to be supervised by the European collectors. The appeal court, the Sadar Nazamat Adalat, was removed from Murshidabad to Calcutta; and the control of the court was vested in the president and council members. All their orders were sent to the Nawab for his final sanction.

In the civil justice system, further changes took place between 1773 and 1781. partly in response to the demands of revenue collection and partly in deference to the Whig principle of separating executive functions from the administration of justice. According to the plans worked out by Hastings and Sir Elijah Improv, the Chief Justice of the Calcutta High Court, district collectors were divested of their judicial duties. In the areas of civil justice, instead of district courts, six provincial courts were created which were later replaced by eighteen mofussil courts. They were to be presided over by only the European covenanted officers of the Company, who would be designated ‘judges’for this purpose. For some time the new Supreme Court created by the Regulating Act of 1773 at Calcutta, acted as an appellate court; but its conflict with the Supreme Council over the definition of jurisdiction led to the confinement of its authority to the city of Calcutta and to matters related to factories dependent on Fort William. In its place, the Sadar Divvani Adalat was now reconstituted to sense an appeal court, with Sir Elijah himself taking over its superintendence in 1780.

The Code of 1781 The Code of 1781 prescribed specific Riles and regulations to be followed in all the civil courts down to the lowest level and all judicial orders were henceforth to be in writing. The major problem that hindered certainty and uniformity in the system was that of conflicting and varying interpretations of indigenous law s, as Brahman Pundits, for example, often gave divergent interpretations of the various schools of dharmashastra and sometimes their opinions on the same law varied widely from case to case. To reduce this element of uncertainty, a committee of 11 pundits compiled, at the behest of Hastings, a digest of Hindu laws in 1775, and it was translated into English by N.B. Illahee in 1776 for the purpose of lessening the dependence of European judges on indigenous interpreters of these laws. A model of Muslim laws was also compiled by 1778. With this standardization of law’, the practice of law now needed professional expertise that could only be expected from a specially trained group of people, the ‘lawyers’. Thus, in its effects, the reforms of the Hastings ‘tended to centralise judicial authority, and reduce administration to a system.’

The Code of 1793 Lord Cornwallis and his code of 1793 separated revenue collection from the administration of civil justice as a safeguard for property rights against abuse of power by revenue officials and their agents. The new system provided for a hierarchy of courts from the Zillah (distinct) and city courts to four provincial courts and the Sadar Diwani Adalat with appellate jurisdiction. All the courts were to be headed by European judges, with provision for appointment of ‘native commissioners’. The criminal justice system was also completely overhauled, as the district magistrates complained to Cornwallis about the anomalies of Islamic laws and the corrupt practices in the criminal courts. But more importantly, it was felt that such an important branch of administration could no longer be left in charge of an Indian. The faujdar adults were, therefore, abolished and replaced by courts of the circuit, headed by European judges. The office of the Naib Nazim itself was abolished and the Sadar Nizamat Adalat was brought back to Calcutta and placed directly under the supervision of the Governor-General-in-Council. The jurisdiction of these criminal courts did not extend to the British-born subjects, who remained under the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court at Calcutta.

The Cornwallis regulations were extended to the province of Banaras in 1795 and to the ceded and conquered provinces in 1803 and 1805 respectively.

In ryotwari areas, where the collector had to function also like a settlement officer and assess revenue, and where there was no such powerful class as the zamindars of Bengal, the separation of revenue collection and magisterial and judicial powers posed serious problems. Therefore, on Thomas Munro’s insistence, the Court of Directors in 1814 proposed a different system for Madras, which included provisions for greater Indianisation of the system at the lower levels (village panchayats, district and city courts) and the union of magisterial, revenue collection and some judicial powers in the office of the collector. Fully introduced in Madras by 1816, it was later extended to Bombay by Elphinstone in 1819.

Further Codification: The Charter Act of 1833 The the issue of codification of laws, which would establish a uniform judicial administration and civil authority throughout British India, was not raised until the Governor-Generalship of Lord Bentinck and the Charter Act of 1833. The act, first of all, threw open judicial positions to Indians and provided for the appointment of a Law Commission for the codification of laws. By this time, the collectors had once again resumed magisterial authority and some judicial power. The Law Commission appointed under Lord Macaulay completed the task of codification by 1837, but it had to wait until after the revolt of 1857 for full implementation. The Code of Civil Procedure was introduced in 1859, the Indian Penal Code in 1860 and the Criminal Procedure Code in 1862. These were, however, applicable only in British India, where the judicial administration now looked significantly different from what it was under the Mughal rule. The ordinary Indians found it hard to comprehend these changes.

Law and Order

When the East India Company took over the Diwani in 1765, the Mughal police system was under the control offaujdars, who were in charge of their‘sarkars’ or rural districts: the kotwals were in charge of towns, while the village watchmen were paid and controlled by the zamindars. This system continued for some time under the authority of Muhammad Reza Khan acting as the Naib Nazim with his station at Murshidabad.

The faujdar system continued with minor modifications until 1781, when English magistrates finally replaced the faujdars. The zamindars retained their police duties but were made subservient to the magistrate.

The Reforms of 1793 and 1795 Lord Cornwallis in 1793 decided to divest the zamindars of their policing duties and instead divided the districts into thanas or units of police jurisdiction of twenty to thirty square miles, each placed under a new officer called damage, who was to be appointed and supervised by the magistrates.

In 1795, Jonathan Duncan, the resident at Banaras. modified the system somewhat to make the tehsildars, who were to be in charge of the policing units, more subservient to the magistrates and the zamindars more responsible for crime prevention in their estates. The daroga system was extended to Madras in 1802 and the tehsildar system to the ceded and conquered upper provinces in 1803 and 1804 respectively.

The Collector as the Power Centre The Cornwallis system was scrapped within a few years, the tehsildars were divested of police duties in 1807, the daroga system was formally abolished in 1812. and the supervision of the village police was vested in the collector, who was now responsible for revenue, police and magisterial functions at the same time. This extreme concentration of power led to other problems. The subordinates in the revenue department, who were now in charge of revenue collection as well as supervision of rural policing, became the new agents of oppression and coercion.

The New Model: ‘Rule of Law’ But such patchy reforms were hardly satisfactory and the colonial state clearly needed an appropriate and uniform police system that would assert its authority, secure property and ensure the introduction of its the version of the ‘rule of law’ throughout the empire. The new model, based on the model of the Royal Irish Constabulary, which was found to be ideally suited to the colonial conditions, was first experimented in Sind when Sir Charles Napier conquered it in 1843.

Under this model, the whole territory was to be under the supervision of an inspector general, while the districts would have their own superintendents of police, answerable to both the inspector general and the district collector, representing the civilian authority. While the rank and file were to be Indians, the officers were to be invariably Europeans. The Sind model, which was found to be adequately suited to tackle any political agitation, was later introduced in Punjab when it was conquered in 1849, and later, with various modifications to Bombay in 1853 and Madras in 1859.

Aftermath of the Revolt: The Police Act, 1861 The revolt of 1857 shook up the foundations of British Rile and made it more conscious of the need of effective machinery for collecting information and policing the empire. The Police Commission appointed in 1860 provided for a basic structure of a police establishment for the Indian Empire that was enacted in the Police Act of 1861. And the structure, with only minor adjustments, remained unchanged for the next century of British Rile.

In the new organization, a somewhat modified version of Sind model, the civilian police was organised on a provincial basis, with the inspector generals answerable to the provincial governments, and the district superintendents to the collector Thus the entire police organisation w as placed under the control of the civilian authorities, and for a long time the positions of the inspector general were filled in by civil servants. The distRct superintendents were to be in charge of rural police, the daroga becoming the sub inspector, thus solving the age-old problem of integrating rural police into the imperial structure. In this way the police organisation established a well-defined hierarchy of command, from which Indians were systematically excluded The Police Commission of 1902 provided for the appointment of educated Indians to the position of officers in the police force; but they ‘stopped in rank where the European officer began’. A police raj’ gradually emerged between the revolt of 1857 and the transfer of power in 1947.

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Posted in History of Modern India

Commercialisation of Agriculture under British Rule ****

updated on March 14th, 2019

Another major economic impact of the British policies in India was the introduction of a large number of commercial crops such as tea, coffee, indigo, opium, cotton, jute, sugarcane and oilseed. Different kinds of commercial crops were introduced with different intentions. Indian opium was used to balance the trade of Chinese tea with Britain in the latter’s favor. The market for opium was strictly controlled by British traders which did not leave much scope for Indian producers to reap profit. Indians were forced to produce indigo and sell it on the conditions dictated by the Britishers. Indigo was sent to England and used as a dyeing agent for cloth produced in British towns. Indigo was grown under a different system where all farmers were compelled to grow it on 3/20th part of their land. Unfortunately cultivation of Indigo left the land infertile for some years. This made the farmers reluctant to grow it. In the tea plantations ownership changed hands quite often. The workers on these plantations worked under a lot of hardships.

The commercialization of agriculture further enhanced the speed of transfer of ownership of land thereby increasing the number of landless laborers. It also brought in a large number of merchants, traders, and middlemen who further exploited the situation. The peasant now depended on them to sell their produce during harvest time. Because the peasants now shifted to commercial crops, food grain production went down. So, less food stock led to famines. It was therefore not surprising that the peasants revolted. You would read about it in detail in the coming chapters. There was an enormous drain of wealth from our country to Britain due to the various economic policies. The additional financial burden was placed on India due to expenditures on salaries, pensions, and training of military and civilian staffs employed by the British to rule India. If this wealth was invested in India it could have helped enormously improved the economy in this country. Let us learn how the economic policies implemented by the British changed the social structure of Indian society.

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