Chapter 5: BRITISH POLICY AND EFFECTS
was known for agriculture and handicraft. The national income,
foreign trade, industrial expansion all economic activities
depended on agriculture. British however started a policy of
ruthless revenue collection without caring for the
The principal types of
land tenure obtained by the British were:
1. Zamindari or Permanent
Bengal and Bihar, odissa and extended to a total of 19% of
India. It was introduced by Lord Cornwallis.
were recognized as owners as long as they paid revenue to
the Company. They had heritary positions. Once appointed
couldn’t be removed. The revenue was high but fixed 89% would
belong to Company and remaining to zamindars. The
administrative and judicial powers of zamindars were taken.
Ryots [tillers of soil] became the tenants. Ryots could be
zamindars extorted as many as they could and passed on a fixed
pat to the government. Many intermediaries were introduced
for revenue collection. Illegal levies were common.
now dealt with zamindars rather than Lakhs of peasants.
long term the Company faced losses as land productivity was
high but the revenue for Company was fixed.
cultivators were exploited and no agrarian reforms were
in madras, Berar, Assam, Bombay by Thomas Munroe. It was
operating in 51% of India.
peasant was recognized as the owner who had full rights over his
land as long as he paid the revenue.
had to be paid in cash. Farmers grew cash crops for this. During
famines no relief was given so he borrowed from money lenders to
pay revenue. This made him indebted.
revenue was fixed to 20-40 years.
was introduced in Punjab and North West provinces and operated
in 30% of India.
unit of revenue settlement was the village. The village lands
belonged jointly to the village community and hence the
responsibility of payment also belonged to the entire village.
were no middlemen for collection of revenue.
British policy on handicrafts:
India was a leader
in handicrafts. Its products on art and sculpture were famous.
It was also known for its textiles. The shipping of cotton,
silk, woolen products and embroidery was known. Even marbles
and cutting polishing of precious stones, ivory and sandalwood
was done. Despite enjoying fame in the world Indian
handicrafts industry started declining by 18th
century. The policies of east India Company were responsible for
British policy encouraged India to be a supplier of raw
materials to England and consumer of finished British goods.
Indian markets were flooded with cheap manufactured goods of
tariff and octroi policies were also modified to suit British
interests. A high export duty was imposed on Indian goods but a
low import duty on British goods. Also the goods from England
could only be brought by English ships.
the domination of British over Indian states the demand by
Indian royalty for luxury domestic goods like art, objects of
attire declined. Traditional royalty also were removed and this
caused a decline in patronage to Indian handicrafts.
replaced manpower in India as well and power loom made goods
were introduced replacing handloom made goods.
Language and Education Policy
British captured India in 1757 but education remained
responsibility of Indians only. Warren Hastings was a prominent
patron of oriental education. He started a madrassa in Calcutta
for Muslim traditional learning. Then John Duncan started a
Sanskrit college in Varanasi. Education was imparted only
through these traditional institutions. In India there was one
leaning center for every village.
India Company followed a dual policy by discouraging oriental
education and encouraging education of western science and
English language. In 1813, the charter act allotted Rs. 1 lakh
for education in India. But due to the debate on education for
the next 20 years not a penny was spent.
British scholars were divided into two groups, orientalists
[wanted promotion of oriental subjects in Indian languages for
education] and Anglicists
[wanted promotion of western science and literature though
had interest in learning eastern culture, values and sciences.
They learned Indian languages and the first oriental institute
was created with the support of other like minded officials Asiatic society of Bengal.
respected culture of east and west and felt study of ancient
tradition would help in future development of India. They
started translating ancient texts to help Indians rediscover
ancient heritage and glory. They wanted to become guardians of
Indian culture. By teaching Indians Persian, Sanskrit and
literature the British would get their respect. The
Orientalists favored social stability over modernization and
believed in introducing western science gradually.
conservative policy changed as it didn’t lead to expansion of
trade or perpetuation of British supremacy. Anglicist felt
oriental thinking was unscientific and full of errors. They
wanted education to teach useful and practical things and not
Lord Macaulay was an advocate of Anglicism. He rubbished eastern
knowledge and emphasized English language. He wanted Indians to
read English so that they would be familiar with the
developments in the west. This would civilize them and change
their culture and values.
and Governor General Bentinck passed the policy of western
science and education in English language in 1835.
Social policies and reforms:
British had a policy of indifference for social and religious
practices. They refrained from interference as they feared they
might lose their trade advantage over others. But later on they
indulged in criticism of it to create an inferiority complex in
and religious reforms launched in mid 19th century
had caught the attention of British authorities. The work of
Christian missionaries, impact of newspapers and western
thought and education had created an impact on minds. William
Bentinck and other governor generals and colonial authorities
took steps to bring in reforms.
abolished Sati and female infanticide by legislations
Dalhousie passed the widow remarriage act and the lex
loci Act [Allowing converts to christainity to
inherit ancestral property]
Voices were raised against child marriage and purdah system.
BRITISH CHANGES IN THE ARMY After 1857
There was a systematic reorganisation of the Army since, as Dufferin
warned in December 1888, "the British should always remember the lessons
which were learnt with such terrible experience 30 years ago."
To prevent the recurrence of another revolt was the main reason behind
this reorganisation. Also, the Indian Army was to be used to defend the
Indian territory of the empire from other imperialist powers in the
region—Russia, Germany, France, etc. The Indian branch of the army was
to be used for expansion in'Asia and Africa, while the British section
was to be used as an army of occupation—the ultimate guarantee of
British hold over India.
To begin with, domination of the European branch over the Indian
branches was ensured. The commissions of 1859 and 1879 insisted on the
principle of a one-third white army (as against 14% before 1857).
Finally, the proportion of Europeans to Indians was carefully fixed at
one to two in the Bengal Army and two to five in the Madras and Bombay
Armies. Strict European monopoly over key geographical locations and
departments, such as artillery, tanks and armed corps, was guaranteed.
Even the rifles given to Indians were of an inferior till 1900, and
Indians were not allowed in these high departments till the Second World
War. No Indians were allowed in the officer rank, and, the highest rank
an Indian could reach till 1914 was that of a subedar (only from 1918
onwards were Indians allowed in the commissioned ranks). As late as
1926, the Indian Sandhurst Committee was visualising a 50% Indianised
officer cadre for 1952.
The India branch was reorganised on basis of the policy of balance and
counterpoise or divide and rule. The 1879 Army Commission had
emphasised—"Next to the grand counterpoise of a sufficient European
force comes the counterpoise of natives against natives.”
An ideology of 'martial races' and 'non martial
Just as their systematic exclusion from law and policy-making bodies,
the Indians were mostly kept out of the institutions responsible for
policy implementation such as the Indian bureaucracy and other like
spheres of administration. European supremacy was assured in the civil
service also. This was done in mainly two ways.
Firstly, although Indians had 'started' making it to the coveted ranks
of the Indian Civil Services ever since Satyendranath Tagore became the
first Indian to do so in 1863. entering the civil services was still
extremely difficult for the Indians. The entrance examination for ICS
was held in London in English medium only, and the subjects included
classical Greek and Latin learning.
Moreover, the maximum age for
appearing at the examination was reduced from twenty-three in 1859 to nineteen in 1878 under Lytton. Secondly, all key positions of power and
authority and those which were well paid were occupied by the Europeans.
Despite slow Indianisation after 1918 under nationalist pressure, key
positions continued to be occupied by Europeans. But gradually, the
Indians came to realise that Indianisation of civil service had not, in
any way, transferred effective power to Indian hands. The Indian members
of the civil service continued to serve imperialist interests of their
The claim that British rule was an agency of 'modernization' rests ultimately on facts like railway
construction, the development of plantations, mines and factories through British capital, and the
introduction of capitalist production relations and modern methods of banking and industrial
management by whites.
Though railways comprised the single biggest item in British
capital investment in India, much of the burden was shifted to the Indian tax-payer through the
guaranteed interest system, by which the government paid a minimum dividend even if profits
peculiar system of 'private investment at public risk' inevitably involved wasteful construction
and operation—a standard and quite justified nationalist complaint.
The network was entirely
geared to British commercial and strategic needs, and Indian businessmen often complained of
discriminatory freight charges. Above all, the normal 'multiplier' effects of railway investment
were largely absent.
The bulk of railway equipment was imported from England, and the
development of ancillary engineering industries consequently remained very inadequate—only
about 700 locomotives, for instance, were indigenously produced in the entire pre-independence
period. As late as 1921, only 10% of the superior posts in the railways were manned by Indians,
so the diffusion of new skills remained limited while a substantial part of the income generated
through railway investment leaked out abroad
Plantations and mines, jute mills, banking, insurance, shipping and export-import concerns—
promoted through a system of interlocking managing agency firms which usually combined
financial, commercial and industrial activities—all undoubtedly implied significant innovations of british in India. However, even with them the ultimate objective was to create capitalist enclaves to be held by foreigners.
The British presence inhibited indigenous capitalism not just through occasional grossly
discriminatory tariff and excise policies directed against the Bombay industry, but through a
whole variety of structural constraints.
The government policies often actively promoted European enterprise (railways under the guarantee
system, and the allotment of vast tracts of land to Assam tea planters at nominal prices, would be
two obvious examples) while discriminating against Indians.
The railway network and freightrates
encouraged traffic with ports as against that between inland centres. The organized moneymarket
was largely under white control, the only two major Indian banks before 1914 being the
Punjab National and the Bank of India.
Most significant of all perhaps was the fact that
nineteenth-century Indian economic growth was largely geared to export needs, and the British
controlled the bulk of the external trade of the country through their Exchange Banks, exportimport
firms and shipping concerns
The white 'collective monopoly' came earliest and remained most pronounced in eastern India.
Indian merchants (particularly but not solely Parsis) of western India, in contrast, had always
retained a 'toe-hold' on overseas commerce with China and elsewhere, largely because British
political control came much later there (necessitating a greater dependence on Indian
collaborators) and was somewhat less pervasive.
'Native' political power in western India was
formidable till the collapse of the Marathas in 1818, and the patchwork of native states which
survived even afterwards contrasts sharply with the map of Bengal. The Bombay hinterland was
difficult to penetrate before the construction of railways, and had no indigo, tea or coal—the
early targets of British interest.
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