DID BRITISH RULE DO ANY GOOD TO INDIA?
By Simran Sabharwal
Shashi Tharoor in his book, “Inglorious Empire: What the British did to India” explained the condition of India in pre-colonial as well as post-colonial India. He mentions that Pre-Colonial India was not a poor or backward society but a wealthy one.
• India benefitted a lot from British rule. Yes, we all are aware of the 200 years atrocities faced by our countryman.
• But we cannot ignore the developments which happened because of Britishers.
• Of course, we lost so much of wealth and the magnanimous title ‘The Golden Bird’. But we cannot neglect the good done by Britishers to India.
• Indirectly all the developments were for the benefit of Britishers themselves. The railways, the education system which we follow today also are given by them.
• Let’s have a look at the good things done by Britishers: -
• Indians used to study in temples, Tols, Madarasas and did not have a proper education system. Most of their teachings were based on religious texts.
• But there was a need to study subjects apart from the religious ones. Britishers introduced English as a mandatory language.
• Many Universities were also opened including University of Bombay, Kolkata, and Madras. The subjects like Maths, English, Science, Law were started in schools.
• Britishers were never really bothered about the development of education in India. They only taught Anglo Indians and European kids.
• Though in 1771, Charles Grant who is considered as the ‘Father of modern education in India’ wanted to make certain changes in the way of teaching. Though they were not accepted.
• Later on, certain colleges were set up and students were taught for civil services exams too. But the Britishers were not so kind. They did not allocate enough budget.
• So, the decision taken was that they will educate only the rich upper-class people. This miserably failed.
• Therefore, attempts were taken by Britishers to improve education in India. But all this was just to show innocent citizens of India that they were concerned for them.
• In reality, the literacy percent was a mere 16%. Also, the policies were to employ a clerk who will help in the subjugation of the nation. Later, the people came to know about the policies and revolted.
So, the question which arises – Did education policy really helped India? The polices created by Britishers were helpful and we owe our education system to Britishers. We still follow the curriculum made by them. But all the credits cannot be given to them. All their efforts were indirectly beneficial to them.
• India was filled with social activities which were negative. With the help of Britishers, India overcame it. India was suffering from sati and child marriage.
• Britishers enacted various laws for its abolition. They introduced the Widow Remarriage Act and acts against child labor.
• All these laws helped India to get rid of the malpractices. Indians were very conservative in their thoughts so changing these were extremely difficult.
• They believed that if the husband dies, the wife’s life should also end then and there. She was forced to commit Sati in the same flames as of his husband. But Britishers stopped this.
• Britishers also maintained exhaustive records of every plan and policy which they implemented. This method is now also used by the current government.
Was this helpful? Extremely. India needed to get rid of this. They banned the cruel practices and also promoted widow remarriage. As far as I believe there were no personal or hidden interests in this. But the habit of keeping records is tedious. Maybe this is the reason for the slow working of government today.
• The Britishers also carved a beautiful building and developed the nation’s infrastructure. They were the ones who introduced railways to the country.
• They established the first railways and postal services. The railways run currently follow the same plan as laid then.
• So, during their reign the communication and transport facilities were developed. Also, they constructed the very famous Rashtrapati Bhawan.
• Also, during any national calamity, some of the areas became unfunctional and were eventually of no use to Britishers. So, introducing better infrastructure was beneficial for them only.
• They also built various heritage sites which later helped them to earn revenue. Most of the places we love to visit today were built in the British era. They created every monument for a purpose.
Should we be thankful to them? I certainly not believe so. They never did all this to make the nation prosperous. All they wanted was to drain India of its wealth. Developing infrastructure was a kickstart to their purpose. They never wanted to spend money to develop a colony. We cannot completely negate their contribution but their primary purpose was not to ease Indian’s work but to complete their objectives.
• The government also contributed towards the major diseases like the plague which were an epidemic at that time. Britishers introduced various vaccines to cure the disease.
• This was certainly beneficial to the nation and Britishers could be thanked. This was a move that can still be praised.
• They took the very first Indian census in 1871. This included parameters like education, age, occupation, etc. India’s current census is inspired by that only.
• Also, they started surveying India. Currently, the same maps are used by some places which were made by Britishers.
• They used smart equipment to survey India and created maps.
• The Britishers invested a lot in infrastructure including building canals and reservoirs. They built the Ganges Canal which reached from Haridwar to Kanpur.
• We had the largest irrigation system by 1900s. Britishers developed the irrigation facilities in leaps and bounds.
The Britishers took about $45 trillion in 173 years of rule. That is a whopping amount. Even though they developed India in a way no one would ever be able to do but the scars of colonialization still remain. They took our resources and never gave us the credit. Shashi Tharoor calls it an Inglorious Empire and An Era of Darkness. There was a lot of negatives during Britishers times. We lost many lives. After having a look at the positive side, let's look at both sides of the coin. The other aspect of the answer.
• There was no aspect of decision making in India. India had no uniqueness of their own. They lost their own identity and became a slave to Britishers.
• India divided the nation with their ‘divide and rule policy’. Indians were busy in fighting with each other and Britishers got the opportunity to conquer Indian places and extend their territory.
• Britishers started the hatred of religion. They developed a hatred of communism between the Hindus and Muslims of India which later led to the partition between India and Pakistan.
• India did not develop economically during British Raj. There were no opportunities for growth during 1857-1947.
• Britishers charged very high tax rates which were nearly impossible for a craftsman to pay.
• There was no increase in India’s per-capita income from 1757-1947.
• The Indian government had no say in central government and even at a local level, their influence on policy and decision making was minimal.
• The British treated Indians like inferior humans. British building had boards saying “dogs and humans not allowed.”
• By now one may feel, that we should be thankful to Britishers for all their help. But we should not forget that whatever they did was for their own benefits.
• Though some of the moves really helped India. But I do not feel that sacrificing the lives of thousands of people and becoming someone’s slave and then gaining all this is fruitful. Whatever they did, independent India would have done by now.
• We lost a lot of wealth in acquiring these. Britishers still have our very own Kohinoor Diamond. It is believed that half of England is made from India’s wealth.
• They looked a lot of our treasure. So, even if they did a lot of good to us but that cannot compensate the 200 years wrong.
• Therefore, the question that – Did British Rule do any good to India can be answered according to one’s own will.
• If the reader feels that giving 200 years and getting railways in return is acceptable, then the Britishers were right enough in their place.
• But if you feel the other way, then you may certainly agree with my point of view.