Chapter 5: OUR PAST PART - V
Printing press came to India from the Portuguese
missionaries. However it was the East India Company that
imported presses in the 17th century that boosted the press. English
censorship was directed towards Englishmen and Lord
Wellesley curtailed freedom of press to prevent
Englishmen from publishing reports about the Company rule.
Story of Opium in India
China was a country famous for tea, silk and porcelain. These
product had a huge demand in World trade but mostly the demand was
Chinese Tea. To import tea English traders had to pay in gold or
silver. The balance of trade was unfavorable and so Englishmen
devised a second strategy.
They manufactured Opium in India, smuggled it through traders
into China and sold it to Chinese traders for gold and silver.
This was used to pay for Chinese imports. This trade was now in
favor of British but morally damaged the Chinese. The entire
nation was now addicted to this drug, it is estimated that 12
million Chinese were opium smokers.
The story of opium production in India is different. The Indian
farmers were forced to manufacture opium and this was damaging to
- They had to sell only to British traders and at a low rate.
Thus producing opium wasn't beneficial for them.
- Opium was a delicate plant and it had to be nurtured and so
farmers didn't have time for other crops.
- It had to be grown on the best lands, well watered and
manured. Since usually pulses were grown on such lands they had
to be shifted to other lands which were poor in fertility. This
led to food insecurity
- Farmers who had no capital to cultivate their lands were
offered loans by the government agents. They were to cultivate
opium and then had to sell it to the government agents so that
the loan could be repaid. But the selling price was too low and
the farmers had to take a loan again from the agents for the
next crop. this cycle continued.
However the farmers rioted and refused to accept advances.They
cultivated other crops instead. The farmers sometimes would sell
opium to other traders who paid a higher price.
Soon farmers outside governments areas started making opium. This
would then be sold to traders in Calcutta who would ship it to
China. Thus the governments monopoly over opium was reducing.
Pastorals and the Colonial State
Pastorals had multiple factors to decide as a part of living like
where to find suitable pastures or grazing grounds for the herds,
how to form a relationship with the farmers so that herds could
graze harvested soil and manure the fields, calculate timing of
the movements of the herds so that they could pas uninterrupted
and also decide how long herd could stay in one area.
Pastoral life under Colonial rule:
- Colonials hated the pastorals and treated them like shifting
agriculturalists. There was no revenue from the herders and so
they were regarded as nuisance.
- Colonials wanted to transform all grazing land or open lands
for agriculture as this would get them revenue. They offered
land to people and gave them concessions to begin cultivation.
Waste land rules were enacted and so open grazing grounds or
pastures were brought under cultivation. The pastorals were now
facing a problem of finding new grazing grounds.
- Forests were declared under various Acts as Reserved or
Protected. In reserved forests no access was allowed to people
as these provided commercially important timber. Whereas in
Protected forests grazing was allowed but it was restricted as
British believed grazing would harm new saplings and prevent
growth of forest.
- Permits were issued regulating the timings for which pastors
were allowed and duration of stay was also regulated. This meant
that pastorals were to be fined for exceeding stays.
- Pastorals were constantly moving and difficult to monitor or
control. So British declared them as Criminal Tribes and now
there were to be allowed in notified villages only. Their
movements were restricted by permits and village police would
- Grazing tax was imposed on cattle and contractors would
collect these on behalf of the British. These contractors would
ask for as much as possible and pass on a fixed percent to
British and pocket the rest.
Fig 1: Pastorals in India
Textiles and Colonial State
Indian textiles had a huge
demand in the World markets. The Indian cloth were hand made
and exquisite. However after colonization the Indian textile
industry declined as artisans lost their markets overseas as
well as in India. The British policy was to blame for this:
- Indian textiles had to compete with machine made textiles
of British manufacturers. The large quantity of gods made it
difficult for Indian manufacturers to compete with.
- Due to high import duty in Britain the market of Indian
textile was lost as the cloth became noncompetitive.
- The British goods also captured the Indian market in
Africa, America and Europe. The Indian weavers and spinners
lost their jobs and turned to agriculture or moved to cities
or to overseas plantations.
- However not all types of clothes could be made by machines
like coarse cloth worn by poor people, intricately decorated
saris with traditional patterns. Sholapur and Mathura
emerged as new centers for such weaving activity.
- Traditional demand from royalty also declined as
British conquered these areas.
However during the First World
War the Indian industry boomed again and recovered its share
in the domestic market.
Iron Smiths and
The iron industry too was
affected by the British policies like cotton industry.
- Forest Acts prohibited the
smiths from accessing wood from Reserved forest from which
charcoal would be obtained. This charcoal was necessary for
smelting of Iron.
- Permits for accessing forests
and fines for violating them were applied on smiths.
- Britain saw the industrial
revolution and so cheap and efficient techniques were
developed for manufacturing Iron.
- Indian market was captured by
Britain till the First World War and Indian artisans lost
out. Indian blacksmiths too preferred British made iron.
- The traditional royalty was
replaced by Colonial state and saw a demand that existed for
iron for manufacturing swords, shields was no more.
- Emergence of Indian steel
manufacturers who set up huge plants with high
investments and had better economies of scale couldn't be
matched by traditional artisans.