India Uncut

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Saturday, July 16, 2005

The great British con trick

TCA Srinivasa-Raghavan writes in Business Standard:
[I]t is testimony to the British conquest of Indian minds, a theme explored marvellously well by Ashis Nandy, that they have left us thinking that they did us a favour. As con tricks go, this one is impossible to beat. In any case, it is hard to comprehend how a system of governance designed to plunder and pillage could be called good in any normal sense. Why, as the Prime Minister himself pointed out, “India’s share of world income collapsed from 22.6 per cent in 1700, almost equal to Europe’s share of 23.3 per cent at that time, to as low as 3.8 per cent in 1952. Indeed, at the beginning of the 20th century, the brightest jewel in the British Crown was the poorest country in the world in terms of per capita income.”

Nor was the plundering for just a short while, as is usually the case when one country rules another. It lasted, if you must have end-points, from the Battle of Plassey in 1757 to Independence in 1947. That is 190 years. From the Roman Empire down, no other empire, except perhaps the Spanish one in South America, visited as much misery and brought such ruin to its subjects.
Read the full piece, in which Srinivasa-Raghavan says that Manmohan Singh showed bad judgement in praising imperial rule in India recently, not because he should not have praised Britain, but because he got the facts wrong.

Also, here's an old post by Ravikiran Rao that examines both sides of the argument about whether British rule was good for India or not.
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