Chapter 1: INDIA SINCE INDEPENDENCE - I
After 1947 a new era had dawned for India. Colonial rule was over
and now a journey towards overcoming the colonial legacy of
poverty, illiteracy, social inequality, injustice and economic
underdevelopment. The task of nation building was taken by the
people with the confidence to succeed.
Basic goal with the new leadership was to strengthen and
consolidate the Unity of India. Indian-ness had to be developed by
acknowledging the multiple diversity of India and giving space to
all Indians in the Union. Along with political freedom, social and
economic development too was needed. The Indian planners realized
that unhampered market forces couldn't led to a independent
national economy. thus since 1955 the public sector was seen as
the device for this.
The second task was to change the caste and un-touchability
ridden rural society. Females had no right to education and had to
face social oppression's. In-spite of this the Indian leaders
decided to pursue a policy of building a democratic, civil
libertarian society. This was an innovation as other countries
that saw economic development had limited civil liberties in the
Colonial Legacy and Economic Exploitation
Colonial Britain transformed India both economically and in other
spheres. The country saw the introduction of railways,
communication, transportation, finance, architecture, law and
order and education. All these developments were positive but
since the operated under the colonial framework some have called
them "Development of Underdevelopment". They strengthened the
colonial economic structure that led to poverty and subordination
to Britain. India's development since 1947 has been influenced by
The colonial structure of India led to the following changes in
its economy: India became integrated to world economy due to
colonization but its economic interests were wholly subordinate to
Britain. Secondly, India became an importer of high technology
goods and an exporter of raw materials. This was done to suit
British economy. This international division of labor was
done deliberately by Britain to force India to become
subservient to it.
Third feature, Low investment in the economy for expansion from
the surplus generated due to economy activity. The
post-independence trend shows the high difference between them.
The large part of the surplus would be usurped by landlords and
colonial government and misspent.
Finally, the drain of wealth due to the potential surplus and
investment capital being unilaterally being sent to Britain. India
got no returns from this in any form. The lack of state support to
agriculture and industry which is a norm seen in most independent
countries too led to the exploitation.
The state of agriculture in the colonial era was worst. No
capital was invested in improving productivity. The government was
only interested in revenue collection. The agrarian structure was
dominated by landlords who controlled 70% of the land. The
subinfeudation, landless farming, sharecropping and tenancy were
seen in ryotwari and zamindari areas.
The peasants had no incentive to invest in agriculture. Landless
peasants were on the rise and fragmentation of land holdings made
it difficult to even have subsistence farming. Even the rich
farmers preferred becoming landlords or moneylenders and
rack-renting farmers was considered safer investment than
investing in land.
Agriculture became globalized as food crops reached global
markets due to colonization. However Indian agriculture saw
neglect in the field of agriculture education. It also neglected
investment in machinery, instruments, fertilizers and soil erosion
techniques. Irrigation was the only field that saw
improvement as nearly 27% of cultivated area was irrigated, but
India had always been advanced in irrigation cultivation.
Industries was another sector of the economy that remained
backward. The high rural to urban population ratio was a sign of
this. Indian artisans and handicrafts collapsed due to free trade
policy with Britain and machine made goods of Britain. These
artisans moved to agriculture for subsistence. The high index of
import of machine instruments and tools also is a sign of
backwardness of industry. Gross underdevelopment was seen
in electricity production and banking. Cotton and jute were the
most labor intensive industries and iron and steel to developed
by 20th century.
Foreign capital controlled industries and was responsible for the
negative effects. The industrial development was lopsided and
caused regional imbalance in incomes. The spread of road and rail
lines didn't lead to corresponding industrial spread. It only
aided further colonization as rail lines were to transport raw
materials to ports for exports and deliver imports to interior
regions. The needs of the Indian industry were ignored. Most of
the managerial and technical manpower of the country were Non
Indian, this was due to lack of technical education facilities in
A strong indigenous capitalist class grew in India by 1914. The
Indian entrepreneurs unlike other colonies weren't junior partners
of foreign capitalists or intermediaries between foreign capital
and Indian market but had an independent base. They soon dominated
the Indian market and nearly all the small scale industries were
controlled by Indians.
Thus poor industrialization, low agriculture productivity
and apart from these high mortality rates, poor education
facilities and low healthcare and food security were the legacy
of the colonial state to India.
Contrasting image of Colonialism
The Colonial forces produced several contrasting features in
India. The built upon the Mughal administration and created a
unified administrative system in India. But this was used to crush
the people's aspirations.
The army and the civil service were created as apolitical
institutions and so separated from the rest of the populations.
Due to the governments strategy they were made subordinate to the
population. This indirectly has benefited India even
after independence than Pakistan that saw wave of military
Education system too had contrasting features, on one hand it was
introduced to refine India tastes and culture. But it also
contributed to making Indians trained for clerical administrative
jobs than intellectual work. English language based education
suppressed the growth of Indian languages and even in the post
independence period created conflicts.
British policy on administration and education had an
indirect positive aspect as it created a unified nation and
India-wide intelligentsia that shared common outlook on polity
and society and thought in national terms.
The constitutional reforms introduced by Britain were for
reforming institutions and making them more democratic and
responsive. However they were used as instruments to divide the
main political opponent, Indian National Congress. They also
provided full powers to the executive to remain in charge and take
decisions as it wanted. Indians could be nominated or elected but
the narrow vote and the opaque nomination policy defeated these
initiatives. Benevolent despotism is what
British constitutional reforms succeeded in creating.
Under the British rule the bureaucracy got full power to make
decisions without political consideration. Mostly such decisions
were against the public interest. The excesses committed by the
bureaucracy too were never probed. This steel frame of the civil
service created by British to stop national movements has
continued to oppose reforms even in independent India.