Socio - Economic Discontentment - Ruin of local trade and industries

A deliberate ruin of the agriculture, trade and commerce for the sake of selling industrial goods of Britain at cheap prices and destroying the market for Indian goods, heavy taxation on the land produce and deliberate destruction of the agricultural lands through indiscriminate Indigo plantation, were some of the key reasons for the massive economic ruin of India under the British rule. Bengal, the bread basket of India, the golden Bengal that was once thriving in food products and surplus of agricultural produce, got a foretaste of things to come when millions perished because of a massive famine in 1776, caused by heavy and indiscriminate taxation and poor production of crops. The economic destruction of British India has been portrayed in Ramesh Chandra Datta's Economic History of India. As soon as the British East India Company got the Diwani of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa, the British bureaucracy shamelessly and blatantly discriminated against the production of goods by the native Indians, that were subjected to heavy inland duties. Monopolies by British East Indian Company were established on every article of trade and even for that matter on essentials of daily life. The net result was that Indian goods could not sell in their own domestic market, Indian craftsmen, artisans, weavers, farmers and traders lost their means of sustenance. All the so called English upper class in India like Barwell, Vansittart, gained immense wealth through illegal acquisitions. These caused enormous drain of wealth from India and England became richer and richer.

The peasants, landlords and marginal farmers were all ruined by the new agricultural policy of the Company for the administration of the land revenue. The Permanent Settlement, introduced by Lord Cornwallis, introduced the notorious sunset law, whereby zamindars and royal families were ruined overnight on account of temporary financial problems by forfeiting all their possession to the Company in the event of a temporary default. Exorbitant rent was required from the tenants and agricultural class. Often their produce was meagre in comparison. Many wealthy farmers became marginal farmers by losing their landholding which they were entitled to. Even in the South India, the revenue policies brought ruin on many landlords and tenants or ryots alike. The Ryotwari system in Madras and other provinces of the South caused immense suffering to the people by the heavy taxation in comparison with the meagre surplus, which needed to be paid even when crops failed. All private rights to which the ordinary cultivators were entitled to, were denied to them. The peasants migrated from one village to another bringing ruin on hitherto flourishing villages. The same story was repeated in Bombay province and in the North India. Collectors forcibly occupied and usurped lands on behalf of the Company and the landholders were forced to approach law courts, only to be further ruined by bureaucratic apathy. The Commission in Bombay alone, appointed by Lord Dalhousie, confiscated atleast 20,000 estates in Deccan.

Social Discontent

A gap always existed between the British, the rulers and the natives, the ruled and that gap was further widened by the contemptuous and often insulting behaviour of the British soldiers and officials alike, to their native counterparts. British treated Indians as "heathens", "idolaters" and "devil worshippers" based on the Missionary propaganda and their fundamental lack of knowledge of Hinduism and Indian culture. Warren Hastings wrote on 1784 that most Englishmen regarded Indians as barbarians. East India Company officials held scandalous and outrageous opinions about Indians like Indians had hardly any honest and conscientious man, and magnified the defects that they observed. In 1855 a most slanderous libel on Bengali character was published by Calcutta Review. Indians were assaulted and killed with impunity by Englishmen, who escaped the British justice system that was silent on the crimes against the natives when the perpetrators were Europeans. 

The Christian Missionaries, who had an unrestricted entry into India from the very beginning of the British rule, took advantage of a favourable administration to spew venom on Hinduism in particular. Forced conversion of Hindus, conversion by the lure of money, distress conversion during famines and other natural calamities, were extremely common and yet, among the common men the Missionaries found very little sympathy. In particular the tribal communities were targeted for mass conversion and this often led to frictions between the communities with the British soldiers who actively supported the Missionary efforts. The humiliation of natives at every stage in the hands of the Europeans, the third grade treatment received in public places, the blatant disregard of the modesty of Hindu women by the British soldiers and civilians alike, severe punishment inflicted on the errant people belonging to the native culture, the brutal suppression of all rebellions and killing of popular leaders, heavy taxation, all had contributed in developing a hatred among the natives. Only fear of severe reprisal, the economic plight, the surrender to fate and the belief that the white Europeans were more powerful and therefore destined to rule over the native race, had held most people back from open rebellion. 

Administrative Measures that contributed to the Discontentment

At the time when East India Company had ascended the throne, Bengal in particular was going through a tumultuous phase. Therefore people had hoped for a stability. But soon their hopes were dashed to the ground by the policies adopted by the British East India Company. From the beginning the Company made it clear that they had no intention to improve the condition of the people. They were only interested in looting the country's resources and seizing more and more land and revenue, and all their policies were directed towards that goal. Later they realized that they needed some low paying clerks to support in their activities and it was too expensive to get folks from Britain or Europe. Therefore they had grudgingly provided for education of the people. There was a more sinister design as was evident from Macauley's statement, that they wanted to wipe off the Indian culture and legacy and replace it with the Western culture, by brainwashing people on its inherent superiority. This, they thought, would ensure long term loyalty to the Imperial rule. Before British had assumed power, the kings and the rulers were accessible to the common people and grievances could be lodged even by the poor peasants. But the Government officials of East India Company were out of bounds - they were never reachable. Corruption and bribery reigned supreme as petty officials had to be satisfied first before accessing their masters. The Government was impersonal - something which was alien and unfamiliar to the Indian people as a culture. They resented the delay, the lack of personal touch and the lack of accessibility. Englishmen were extremely partial to their own countrymen at the expense of the Indians. Their laws and practices were often strange to Indians. Indians were deprived of the high position and rank which they enjoyed even under the Muslim rule. 

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