Rediscovering India by Dharampal

Decay Indian Society       

Friends this chapter tells you about the socio economic impact of British policies.

Enforced Decay of Indian Society - The wars waged by the British, French, and earlier by the Portuguese in different parts of India led to frequent widespread plunder and chaos. During 1750-1800 many of India’s rulers saved their people and territories by offering such amounts of money to the British and the French which the invaders claimed they would have had from the plunder of the particular territory. Others who became subordinated to the conquerors, but not yet formally dispossessed of their territories, were made to pay for the conqueror’s armed forces, and further were expected to keep the commanders, other officers and influential British and French persons in good humor. As and when such rulers had no cash resources left they were made to borrow cash from the British military commanders and other men who had amassed large wealth or wielder political power for defraying such imposed expenses. The borrowed sum was repaid with interest of around 50 per cent per annum. For repayment of these sums such subordinated rulers had either to greatly enhance the rates of taxes, especially the tax on land, in their territory, or had to surrender particular areas to the respective lenders, so that the latter could extract the maximum from the area towards the recovery of the amount which he claimed was owed to him.

Overwhelmed by the organizational skills of Europe, and helped by the breakdown of the morale and institutions of the conquered, the society of India collapsed in most parts of the country. Most of the sources which had maintained the institutional structures of India through manyams, large allocations from the gross agricultural produce and so on were in time taken over by the conquerors. The principle was that much must be left with the producer which would allow mere subsistence and that the complex Indian infrastructure must get disbanded. It was decided that not more than 5 per cent of the cultivated land should be treated as manyam, and no more than 5 per cent of the gross produce should be left with communities to be disposed of as allocations to institutions and persons.

As institutions appeared to be a greater threat to British dominance, these were treated far more harshly and attempts were made either to dismantle them through neglect and coercion, or to convert them into personal estates. Such a message from the highest British authority in India was conveyed even to the new Maharaja of Mysore, soon after the restoration of the ancient Mysore kingship in 1799. Such an approach was further accompanied with the enhancement in the rates of tax on land, and taxes on trades, occupations, and commodities. During the initial hundred years of British rule in most parts of India, the tax on land was enhanced to 50 per cent of the gross agricultural produce. Till then those who had received the tax from manyam lands (or chakran and bazee zamin) had been receiving no more than 12 to 16 per cent of the gross produce as their share. Matters, however, did not stop at the fixing of 50 per cent as tax on the gross agricultural produce. The decay of the political economy produced a long depression and the tax on some of the most fertile lands in time was much more than the value of their agricultural produce.

Similar changes happened in industry and trade. In the meanwhile, as the resources for maintenance were terminated or greatly reduced public works, temples, mathams, chatrams, wells, tanks, in fact, the whole irrigation system of India, collapsed by about 1840. Only when such a collapse began to substantially affect the receipts of the land tax, some repairs were started; largely through forced local labour, and some new irrigation works also began to be constructed. At this stage, it was decided to reduce the land tax from the theoretical 50 per cent to 33 per cent of the total gross produce. Such a step began to be implemented only sometime after 1860.
Hey Ishwar thank & bless Ajay for diligently typing these 40 odd word pages. Three Cheers to Dharampalji & SIDH for a super book.

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