- Indian economy was the second largest economy in the world until the British came. During British rule (1857 to 1947) Indian economy grew at zero percent. That India did not grow for 90 years (when Industrial revolution was rewarding Europe and the US) is a tragic outcome of colonial rule’s lack of interest and incompetence. Credit goes to laissez faire capitalism pursued by India after 1992 and American capital market’s confidence and investments in India for India’s emergence as the second fastest growing economy in the world today.
- India suffered too many famines during British rule mostly attributable to mismanagement. In the last famine (during WW II) the British Governor General wrote in frustration about his PM saying “Winston’s understanding of India is worse than George’s understanding of American colonies!”. Credit goes to Indira Gandhi for ‘green revolution’ that feeds 1.2 billion people using the same land without having periodic famines.
- The way British ended their rule of India (read Shameful Flight by Stanley Wolpert, or my review of that book in my blog) was an epitome of irresponsibility that involved displacement or death of a few millions.
- Britain accentuated the already stratified Indian society to sustain its rule. Credit goes to Jawaharlal Nehru for instituting social reforms (Hindu religion underwent more reform under legal pressure in 17 years of Nehru rule than during 1700 years preceding Nehru’s rule) and land reform.
We should shatter some myths:
- Britain did not create “India” in its current shape. They left an India that looked like a moth eaten rag. Credit goes to Sardar Vallabhai Patel who integrated the various pieces of the jigsaw puzzle into modern India with contiguous geography.
- The constitutional framework and rule of law that prevails in India is not a British legacy. (Look at Britain’s legacy in other countries they left behind). Credit goes to a visionary Jawaharlal Nehru and a wise Ambedkar who created the Indian constitution and set in place the largest experiment in democracy in the world (among people who had wisdom but not education).
- Britain, during its colonial rule, did not “invest” into India. Throughout British rule, there was cash transfer from India to Britain. To create a steel company or a shipping company Jamshed Tata and VOC Pillai had to “fight”. Britain was against any local investment unless it served British interests.
I am not trying to blame Britian. Britain did what was right in her interests; using its naval power to rule an alien land for its benefit. It was India’s responsibility to protect herself and remain free. India failed in that and was lucky enough to find the right leadership and tools to acquire freedom from British rule.
Was British rule beneficial to India? Not at all. If anyone thinks an alien rule can be beneficial, Britain would be happy to rule them for 100 years starting today!