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Was Colonial Rule Only Loot and Plunder?

Ahana Gupta | October 15, 2020
Was Colonial Rule Only Loot and Plunder?

An American writer and artist called Elbert Hubbard appropriately said, “Freedom cannot be bestowed; it should be achieved.” India was liberated from British rule following 200 years of colonial rule. Freedom was indeed achieved, and not bestowed.

The British first arrived in India on 24 August 1608. Their initial point of entry was Surat in the present day state of Gujarat.

India has a rich history that extends to eons ago. It was supposedly marked by an abundance of wealth and glorious stories of the past are often shared, especially by the political elite. So how did the colonial powers lay siege on India? Perhaps it was because the British boasted a superior military backed by sound artillery. Maybe they were were able to strategise and ideate better.

The arrival of the colonisers

Their initial entry was in the guise of the British East India Company under a charter granted by Queen Elizabeth in the 1600s.  It was founded by John Watts and George White primarily to trade with South and Southeast Asian nations. British merchants and aristocrats held positions in the joint stock company.

They came to India as spice traders — an important commodity that saw huge demand in Europe. The East India Company also traded in silk, cotton, indigo dye, tea and opium.

Colonial era industries expanded rapidly and they gradually turned the Indian subcontinent into a British colony. They used Indian soldiers for waging wars with other countries while also discriminating against them based on their physical attributes and economic status.

Not all was ill and evil

British rule led to urbanisation, education for women and might I add, rational thinking. It also led to the abolishing of inhumane practices such as sati, child marriage and the caste system. The ‘Raj’ also introduced the English language to India, although this was initially enforced to ensure smooth administration.

In the times to come, it became advantageous because English has come to be the global language. If one is to look at the best schools of the country, there are several that trace their origins to the pre-independence period.

The colonial rulers also introduced the railways to India. The first railway line was commissioned on 16th April 1853 and the first locomotive ran between Bori Bunder (Mumbai) and Thane, covering a distance of 34 kilometres. Common perception holds that the railways were only built to transfer wealth out of India.

Sure, there is much truth in this outlook but in all fairness, it must also be understood that the Indian Railways are among the top ten employment generators worldwide. An estimated 1.5 million people are employed by the Indian railways. In the seven decades since Independence, not one other such organisation has been established that can boast a similar feat.

Would we have chai if not for the British?

In the eastern state of Assam, as also in North Bengal, the tea plantations are a British hallmark. Tea is Assam’s largest economic contributor and Darjeeling chai is a brand in itself, enjoying worldwide acclaim.

During the rapid spread of smallpox in India, the British administration was well aware of its fatal consequences. They made sure that a compulsory vaccination was administered to prevent the spread of this once fatal disease.

The British administration is also credited with starting the census system. It is conducted once every ten years to collate statistical data comprising citizens’ age, gender, religion, occupation and educational qualification, among others.

The bureaucracy or civil services, and the role of state governors–especially with their titular prefix of a ‘His or Her Excellency’–is a direct carry over from the Raj. The governor is only the de jure head, meaning this position is ‘only in name’. They also occupy palatial homes called the Raj Bhawan, which are often palaces of erstwhile maharajas. The civil services, meanwhile, are a most coveted job role, with several thousand applicants vying for limited positions each year.

In the decades since, India has grown immensely and there have been significant strides made in per capita income and living standards of its citizens. Diverse industries have built firm foundations and a robust agriculture sector has ensured food security for the most part. India’s GDP in 1947 was a mere INR2.7 lakh crore. It clocked INR 147.79 lakh crore as of 2018.

Independence was cherished but it came with a heavy price

I can only imagine what independence might have meant for the people back in 1947. They were extended the ability to lead their country on their own terms and leave a rich legacy. Our freedom fighters’ sacrifices had finally borne fruit although there were negative repercussions too such as the partitioning of India. Many lost their loved ones while large swathes of the population were displaced.

We are constantly told to take pride in our country and to respect its culture and heritage. In my opinion, taking pride in its rich heritage means to abide by its laws, and perform my duties — most notably of keeping my surroundings clean. It also means taking care of public property and of treating all citizens equally.

India is a diverse country and we are indeed united in this diversity. A single word, a sentence or even an entire book will never suffice in fully expressing the multitudes of this magnificent country. Meanwhile, in a rather interesting turn of events, The East India Company is now owned by an Indian. The irony, I am sure, is not lost on you!


Ahana Gupta

Ahana is a 13-year-old ICSE student who has bigger dreams than the size of Asia! She aspires to become a mental health therapist and an author and is keen to try her hand at song writing. Her hobbies include reading, writing, photography and watching movies. She looks up to her mother, Ravneet Gupta and her aunt, Inderbir Kaur who are her role models. She is aware that life involves a lot of toil and is more than ready to face her share of struggles with grace and courage.

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Sarita
Sarita
3 years ago

Good ahana ! Keep it up .. may all your dreams come true ..

Ahana
Ahana
Reply to  Sarita
3 years ago

Thank you:)

Harsheen Bindra
Harsheen Bindra
3 years ago

Very nice article

Ahana
Ahana
Reply to  Harsheen Bindra
3 years ago

Thank you harsheen:)

Keshar
Keshar
3 years ago

Jst fab yaar

Ahana
Ahana
Reply to  Keshar
3 years ago

Thank you:)

Kritika sah
Kritika sah
3 years ago

Really nice yaar !!!!!!

Ahana
Ahana
Reply to  Kritika sah
3 years ago

Thank you:)

Kritika sah
Kritika sah
3 years ago

Really nice yaar 😊😊☺️☺️

Ahana
Ahana
Reply to  Kritika sah
3 years ago

Thank you:)

Prabisikha
Prabisikha
3 years ago

Amazing👍👍👍

Ahana
Ahana
Reply to  Prabisikha
3 years ago

Thank you:)

Jinita Bindra Kode
Jinita Bindra Kode
3 years ago

Excellent Ahana !

Ahana
Ahana
Reply to  Jinita Bindra Kode
3 years ago

Thank you 🙂

Upasana Bansal
Upasana Bansal
3 years ago

Nicely written ahana and I do agree with you that the British rule has done India some good.
Well that’s all history now but it’s always good to look at brighter side of the picture
Keep writing 😀

Ahana
Ahana
Reply to  Upasana Bansal
3 years ago

Thank you:)

Priyakee
Priyakee
3 years ago

First they built walls (divide and rule) and then they built bridges (Their not so ill and evil side ) …..
this little authoress and poet of ours (Ahana) does with words , what a painter can do with colours….
An exceptionally well articulated article on the “other side” of British rule. I agree with her completely 👍👍 keep it up .. do keep writing ♥️♥️

Ahana
Ahana
Reply to  Priyakee
3 years ago

Thank you:)

Sona Singh
Sona Singh
3 years ago

Brilliant work ahana more power to you !!! Waiting for the next !!!

Ahana
Ahana
Reply to  Sona Singh
3 years ago

Thank you:)

Ravneet
Ravneet
3 years ago

I do agree that the British rule in India had both negative and positive effects on India… loved the way you have elaborated on this concept.. very well written..keep it up..love you.

Ahana
Ahana
Reply to  Ravneet
3 years ago

Thank you:)

Vanya Jain
Vanya Jain
3 years ago

Such a different perspective. Good work. 👍

Ahana
Ahana
Reply to  Vanya Jain
3 years ago

Thank you:)

Anushka
Anushka
3 years ago

This is so amazing,Ahana😄

Ahana
Ahana
Reply to  Anushka
3 years ago

Thank you:)

Srijana sharma
Srijana sharma
3 years ago

Loved the optimistic approach Ahana. I too personally believe that the Indians have learnt quite a lot from the British. Keep it up dear. God bless you

Ahana
Ahana
Reply to  Srijana sharma
3 years ago

Thank you miss:)

Tanushree
Tanushree
3 years ago

Ahana so well researched and very nicely written. I am so proud of you. Keep it up.

Ahana
Ahana
Reply to  Tanushree
3 years ago

Thank you:)

K. A. V
K. A. V
3 years ago

Keep Going Ahana..💖

Manpreet Kohli
Manpreet Kohli
3 years ago

A well laid out and an informative article. A good starting point for someone wanting to understand how the British Raj shaped the present day India.

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