WRITTEN BY R. NANJAPPA                        

Post No. 8318

Date uploaded in London – – – 10 July 2020   

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R. Nanjappa

More than 65 years later, in 1889, Dr.Paul Voelcker, consulting chemist to the Royal Agricultural Society of England was sent to India to study matters and suggest improvements. He said:

On one point there can be no question, viz that the ideas generally entertained in England, and often given expression to even in India, that Indian agriculture is, as a whole, primitive and backward, and that little has been done to try and remedy it, are altogether erroneous…. At his best, the Indian Ryot is quite as good as, and in some respects the superior of, the average British farmer; while at his worst, …this state is brought about by an absence of facilities …which is probably unequalled in any other country, and that the Ryot will struggle on patiently and uncomplainingly in the face of difficulties in a way that no one else would.

 Nor need our British farmers be surprised at what I say, for it must be remembered that the natives of India were cultivators of wheat centuries before in England were. It is not likely therefore that their practice should be capable of much improvement…. Certain it is that I, at least, have never seen a more perfect picture of careful cultivation, combined with hard labour, perseverance, and fertility of resources, that I have seen in any of the halting places in my tour.

Thus we see that India occupied a great position in all spheres of economic activity till the British came and destroyed it. India became poor because:

– its industries were crippled and people were deprived of sources of income

– agriculture became the chief means of sustenance, but the land revenue was so high, it left little surplus

– the revenue raised in India was treated as company profits and were remitted to England

-when the Crown assumed control. enormous debt charges were imposed on India, and the company’s exploitative policies continued

– spinning and weaving had been like national industries, practised by households, almost in every village,  especially by women at leisure to supplement income. But this was destroyed.

  • Those who destroyed our economic strength later taught us through their schools and textbooks that India had been poor and backward. And even after Independence, Indian imitators have followed this line! 

    • Our achievements were splendid. We have nothing to be ashamed of or apologetic about.


1.Sri Romesh Chunder Dutt’s two volume ‘The Economic History of India’ was published  in India by the Publications Division, Govt of India, in 1960. Third  reprint was in 1976.

2. Mahatma Gandhi made hand-spinning and weaving the central part of his economic recovery program for the villagers and the poor. Most educated people ridiculed him, questioning if it could bring prosperity. ( Sorry to say this, but even Sri Aurobindo and Tagore did not agree with Gandhiji, and they were wrong.) History shows that spinning and weaving had indeed been the national industry of India before the British destroyed it.

But Gandhiji had no illusions. He said that agriculture was seasonal, so spinning could be taken up during idle hours. It could be done at home, even by women, and required little capital expense. Whatever income it brought in could supplement the meagre income that they earned from agriculture and other occupations.

  • But Gandhiji had not arrived at the idea of the spinning wheel after study and research. He was touring the country, and was intensely thinking of ways to solve the problem of poverty. At that time, he did not even know that ‘Khadi’ was different from handloom. Then in a flash, he had the vision of the ‘Charkha’. During his tour of interior Gujarat, an old woman had taken out the disused charkha from the attic in her home and shown it to Gandhiji, saying that was what they had used to spin yarn and earn money, before the mills invaded. That is how Gandhi’s intuition about the charkha was confirmed. Do we not see the hand of God in this? 

But we have dumped Gandhi and his charkha together! 

                                ****                          Concluded

tags – economic downfall-7

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