Page 12 - Aug 2021
P. 12

 n Debobrat Ghose
Within decades of the East In- dia Company’s first decisive battle victory at Plassey in 1757 — which eventually paved way for the definitive growth of the Brit- ish empire in India — Irish statesman, economist and philosopher Edmund Burke (1729-1797) had stated that the Company was the ‘state in the guise of the merchant’.
It was, thus, clear, right from the start that the British rule in India would be designed to serve only British inter- ests. Any ‘development’ that the colonial rulers brought about, had only British interests in mind and they employed ev- ery scientific tool within their means to exploit India to achieve their goal.
What is unfortunate, however, is that the narrative highlighting the ben- efits of colonial rule continued even after Independence.
The Battle of Plassey, 1757, is important for several reasons, the most important being the fact that a merchant organisa- tion — East India Company (EIC) — gained diwani rights in Bengal, to col- lect revenue. Soon, this body of traders controlled by a board in London was at par with the moribund offshoots of the once glorious Mughal empire.
Before 1757, Bengal had a surplus Balance of Payments and its exports ex- ceeded the imports. But after the bat- tle, in the period 1757-80, a whopping sum of 38 million pound sterling was siphoned off from Bengal to England, to fuel the Industrial Revolution and sup- port several mechanised inventions.
Given the success the British tasted through the EIC in Bengal, it was only a matter of time before it employed every means within its reach to exploit India,
and this included the latest tool of ad- vanced scientific knowledge which was simultaneously powering the Industrial Revolution in England. In fact, science became EIC’s biggest weapon in the ex- ploitation of India.
It’s no coincidence that within a decade of the Battle of Plassey, the EIC had embarked on the ambitious project of ethnographic and geographic profiling of the sub-continent through the semi- nal institute called the Survey of India, founded in 1767.
A systematic scientific effort had be- come essential for them to survey the land and navigation routes to increase revenue and implement administrative and military measures to fulfil their expansion plans. Maj James Rannell was appointed as the Surveyor General of Bengal, after the company received Diwani rights over Bengal, Bihar and Orissa in 1767.
The name of the first British insti-
An artist’s impression of the Battle of Plassey, 1757, that introduced the British as a new, powerful factor in India’s political equation
tute in the sub-continent — the Survey of India — had all the pomposity of a governing power, which was a misnomer as EIC was not a government but a trad- ing body. But, it was definitely a hint of things to come. It clearly established the
 as a Tool
of British
of India
The colonial rulers brought scientific developments to India, not out of philanthropy but as an aid to their loot of the subcontinent’s vast natural resources to fuel Industrial Revolution back home

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