NCERT Extracts - Economic Impact of the British Rule
Category : UPSC
Economic Impact of the British Rule
- The economic policies followed by the British led to the rapid transformation of India’s economy into a colonial economy whose nature and structure were determined by the needs of the British economy.
- As the American writer, D.H. Buchanan has put it, "The armour of the isolated self-sufficient village was pierced by the steel rail, and its life blood ebbed away”.
- William Bentinck, the Governor-General, reported in 1834-35 : "The misery hardly finds a parallel in the history of commerce. The bones of the cotton-weavers are bleaching the plains of India".
- While India had been for centuries the largest exporter of cotton goods in the world, it was now transformed into an importer of British cotton products and an exporter of raw cotton.
- By introducing transferability of land the British revenue system enabled the money- lender or the rich peasant to take possession of the land.
- The first few decades of British rule witnessed the ruin of most of the old zamindars in Bengal and madras.
- This was particularly so with Warren Hastings policy of auctioning the rights of revenue collection to the highest bidders.
- At a time when agriculture all over the world was being modernised and revolutionised, Indian agriculture was technologically stagnating : hardly any modern machinery was used.
- The first textile mill was started in Bombay by Cowasjee Nanabhoy in 1853, and the first jute mill in Rishra (Bengal) in 1855. These industries expanded slowly but continuously.
- The railway policy of the Government also discriminated against Indian enterprise; railway freight rates encouraged foreign import at the cost of trade in domestic products.
- British imports were given special privileges under the system of “imperial preference seven” though Indians protested vehemently.
- British economic exploitation, the decay of indigenous industries, the failure of modem industries to replace them, high taxation, the drain of wealth to Britain and a backward agrarian structure leading to the stagnation of agriculture and the exploitation of the poor peasants by the zamindars, landlords, princes, money-lenders, merchants, and the state gradually reduced the Indian people to extreme poverty and prevented them from progressing.
- William Digby, a British writer, has calculated that, in all over 2,88,25,808 people died during famines from 1854 to 1901.
- Another famine in 1943 carried away nearly three million people in Bengal.
- For example, Charles Elliott, a member of the Governor-General's Council, remarked : "I do not hesitate to say that half the agricultural population do not know from one yearns end to another what it is to have a full meal.”