Economy during the Pre-British and British Period


Ajit Kumar AJIT KUMARWISDOM IAS, New Delhi.



Economy during the Pre-British and British Period
ब्रिटिश-पूर्व एवं ब्रिटिश काल में अर्थव्यवस्था


(A) Condition of Indian Economy During Pre-British Period:

During the pre-British period, the village community was composed of different groups based on simple division of labour (सामान्य श्रम विभाजन).

There were farmers (काश्तकार / किसान) who cultivated land and tended cattle.
Other groups of people (कारोबारी/ दस्तकार ) were weavers ( बुनकर), goldsmith (सोनार), potters (कुम्हार), washermen (धोबी), carpenters (बढ़ई), cobblers(चर्मकार), oil pressers (तेली), barber (नाई), surgeons (शल्य चिकित्सक), etc.

All the above mentioned occupations (पेशा) were hereditary.

These Indian villages were functioning independently (ग्राम स्वतंत्र आर्थिक इकाई थे) as most of food articles and raw materials (कच्चा माल) produced within the villages were either consumed or purchased (खपत या खरीद) by the village communities (ग्राम समुदाय) itself.
Agricultural and handicraft (हस्तशिल्प/  दस्तकारी) industry were interdependent (अन्योन्याश्रित) and thus the village republics (ग्राम गणतंत्र) were able to function independently.

Indian villages were almost self-sufficient (आत्मनिर्भर) in respect of daily necessities excepting commodities like salt, spices, fine cloth, luxury ( विलासिता) and semi-luxury goods.




Industries and Urban Handicrafts during the Pre-British Period in India:


Although agriculture had dominated ( वर्चस्व ) the Indian economy during the pre-British period yet some Indian industries, producing certain special products, enjoyed worldwide reputation (शोहरत). During those days, many of the handicrafts produced in the urban areas of India were quite famous. Among all those various famous urban handicrafts, textile handicrafts (हस्तशिल्प) earned a special status (विशेष महत्व) and were also spread over the whole country.

During those days, the muslin (मलमल) of Dacca, silk sarees of Benaras, shawls and carpets of Kashmir and Amritsar, the calicos (सूती कपड़ा) of Bengal, dhoti and dopattas of Ahmedabad, silk and bordered cloth of Nagpur and Murshidabad etc. were very famous and received much recognition (पहचान) in international markets.

              
(B) Economic Impact of British Rule in India

British rule in India caused a transformation of India’s economy into a colonial economy (ओपनिवेशिक अर्थव्यवस्था), i.e., the structure and operation (संरचना एवं प्रचालन) of Indian economy were determined by the interests (हितों) of the British economy.

(i) Deindustrialization (विउधोगीकरण)
—Ruin of Artisans (दस्तकार ) / Handicraftsmen (शिल्पकार):


Cheap and machine-made (मशीन-निर्मित) imports flooded the Indian market after the Charter Act of 1813 allowing one-way free trade ( मुक्त व्यापार) for the British citizens. On the other hand, Indian products found it more and more difficult to penetrate the European markets.

After 1820, European markets were virtually closed to Indian exports. The newly introduced rail network helped the European products to reach the remotest corners of the country.

The loss of traditional livelihood (आजीविका ) was not accompanied by a process of industrialisation in India, as had happened in other rapidly industrialising countries of the time. This resulted in deindustrialisation of India at a time when Europe was witnessing a re-intensified Industrial Revolution.

Another feature of deindustrialisation was the decline of many cities (नगरों का पतन) and a process of ruralisation of India (ग्रामीणीकरण की प्रक्रिया).
This resulted in increased pressure on land (भूमि पर दबाब). An overburdened (अत्यधिक बोझ से दबा हुआ) agriculture sector was a major cause of poverty during British rule and this upset the village economic set-up.
From being a net exporter (शुद्ध निर्यातक), India became a net importer.



(ii) Impoverishment of Peasantry (कृषक वर्ग का निर्धनता ):


The Government, only interested in maximisation of rents and in securing its share of revenue, had enforced the Permanent Settlement system in large parts. Transferability of land was one feature of the new settlement which caused great insecurity to the tenants who lost all their traditional rights in land.

There was little spending by Government on improvement of land productivity
The overburdened peasants had to approach the money-lenders to be able to pay their dues to the Zamindars.

The peasant turned out to be the ultimate sufferer under the triple burden of the Government, zamindar and money­lender. His hardship increased at the time of famine and scarcity. 
 
(iii) Emergence of New Land Relations (नए भू -संबंधों का उदय) :


By 1815, half the total land in Bengal had passed into new hands. The new Zamindars, with increased powers but with little or no avenues for new investments, resorted to land grabbing and sub-infeudation.
Increase in number of intermediaries to be paid gave rise to absentee landlordism and increased the burden on the peasant.



(iv) Stagnation and Deterioration of Agriculture (कृषि का विकासहीनता एवं पतन):


The cultivator had neither the means nor any incentive to invest in agriculture. The zamindar had no roots in the villages, while the Government spent little on agricultural, technical or mass education. All this, together with fragmentation of land due to sub-infeudation, made it difficult to introduce modern technology which caused a perpetually low level of productivity.


(v) Commercialisation of Indian Agriculture (भारतीय कृषि का  वाणिज्यीकरण):


 
Till latter half of the nineteenth century, agriculture had been a way of life rather than a business enterprise.

Now agriculture began to be influenced by commercial considerations. Certain specialised crops began to be grown not for consumption in the village but for sale in the national and even international markets.

Commercial crops like cotton, jute, groundnut, oilseeds, sugarcane, tobacco, etc were more remunerative than food grains. Again, the cultivation of crops like condiments, spices, fruits and vegetables could cater to a wider market.

Perhaps, the commercialisation trend reached the highest level of development in the plantation sector, i.e., in tea, coffee, rubber, indigo, etc., which was mostly owned by Europeans and the produce was for sale in a wider market.

The new market trend of commercialisation and specialisation was encouraged by many factors—spread of money economy, replacement of custom and tradition by competition and contract, emergence of a unified national market, growth of internal trade, improvement in communications through rail and roads and boost to international trade given by entry of British finance capital, etc.
For the Indian peasant, commercialisation seemed a forced process. There was hardly any surplus for him to invest in commercial crops, given the subsistence level at which he lived, while commercialisation linked Indian agriculture with international market trends and their fluctuations.




(vi) Development of Modern Industry (आघुनिक उधोगों का विकास):


It was only in the second half of the nineteenth century that modern machine-based industries started coming up in India. The first cotton textile mill was set up in 1853 in Bombay by Cowasjee Nanabhoy and the first jute mill came up in 1855 in Rishra (Bengal). But most of the modern industries were foreign-owned and controlled by British managing agencies.

There was a rush of foreign capital in India at this time due to prospects of high profits, availability of cheap labour, cheap and readily available raw material, ready market in India and the neighbours, diminishing avenues for investments at home, willingness of the administration to provide all help, and ready markets abroad for some Indian exports such as tea, jute and manganese.

Indian-owned industries came up in cotton textiles and jute in the nineteenth century and in sugar, cement, etc in the twentieth century. Indian-owned industries suffered from many handicaps—credit problems, no tariff protection by Government, unequal competition from foreign companies, and stiff opposition from British capitalist interests who were backed by sound financial and technical infrastructure at home.

(vii) Rise of Indian Bourgeoisie ( मध्यवर्ग):
 
Indian traders, moneylenders and bankers had amassed some wealth as junior partners of English merchant capitalists in India. Their role fitted in the British scheme of colonial exploitation. The Indian moneylender provided loans to hard-pressed agriculturists and thus facilitated the state collection of revenue.


(viii) Economic Drain (आर्थिक दोहन):

 
The drain theory was put forward by Dadabhai Naoroji in his book Poverty and Un British Rule in India. The major components of this drain were salaries and pensions of civil and military officials, interests on loans taken by the Indian Government from abroad, profits on foreign investment in India, stores purchased in Britain for civil and military departments, payments to be made for shipping, banking and insurance services which stunted the growth of Indian enterprise in these services.
The drain of wealth checked and retarded capital formation in India while the same portion of wealth acce­lerated the growth of British economy.




(ix) Famine and Poverty (अकाल एवं गरीबी):


Regular recurrence of famines became a common feature of daily existence in India. These famines were not just food grain scarcity-based phenomena, but were a direct result of poverty unleashed by colonial forces in India. Between 1850 and 1900, about 2.8 crore people died in famines.


Wednesday, 02nd Aug 2017, 07:23:09 PM

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