Page 26 - Science India August 2022
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Swatantrata ka Amrut Mahotsava
   Historical indigo dye collection at the Technical University of Dresden, Germany
Bengal at that time. Soon after, the
in Bengal was not much before coloni- company brought into India, British
sation, the East India Company saw its businessmen, planters from West In-
potential. In a letter of 1786, from the dies, and traders, and took important
Court of Directors to Governor Gen- steps to revive its trade. Very soon, the
eral of Bengal, they observed, “When company attained its peak of prosper-
we reflect upon the cheapness of labor ity and the planters reaped huge wealth
in Bengal, and the favorable climate it from their large farm estates and settled
enjoys, we cannot harbor a doubt of down in India to live a luxurious life.
the possibility of making indigo a most The chaotic rule of the company led to
valuable article of importations; neither the deindustrialisation of local Bengal
can we too strongly inculcate the neces- industries to promote the ones owned
sity of your paying the most strict atten- by the company’s servants.
tion to it. We are confident that it might become one of the very best means of re- The English East India Company
mittance to this country, and one of the took complete monopoly of India’s in-
digo trade with the world. Initially, the
least prejudicial exports from Bengal.” Huge enterprises like India Indigo growth was slow and there were losses
Corporation were established by Euro- but then the company took a smart step
pean settlers who kept on persuading in 1789, by declaring free trade of In-
the local Bengali farming communities dian indigo to the entire world (obvi-
to keep one portion of their land for ously, through them!). Soon, the for-
indigo cultivation citing profits in this tunes turned and trade increased. The
business. Indian indigo literally closed East India Company started using the
the worldwide businesses of the Span- resources of Bengal to feed the require-
ish colony of Santo Domingo and the ments of England. In 1793, Bengal was
supplying only one-tenth of the total in-
digo requirements of England but within
From 1815 onwards,
the next ten years, the exports doubled.
the state of Bengal was
From 1815 onwards, the state of Bengal
supplying the complete
was supplying the complete requirement
of indigo for almost the complete world.
requirement of indigo for Although the cultivation of indigo
almost the entire world
American (USA) states of Georgia and Carolina.
The lucrative indigo trade brought riches to the British (1786-1804) but gradually pushed Indian farmers into poverty as they were forced to cultivate indigo on their farmland instead of food crops. With the introduction of the Ryotwari system of cultivation of indigo, the farm- ers, now known as ryots, were offered advance loans known as dadon at high- interest rates. The condition was that they would produce a prescribed quality of indigo in at least 25 percent of his land and sell the produce to the factory at fixed rates, the selling price would make up for the adjustments against advances given.
The easy access to advance money attracted the ryots quickly but this sys- tem gradually led to gross abuses and tyranny. The farmers began to be forced to accept these advance loans and non- payment kept on multiplying the debt for the rest of their lives, which was eventually passed on to their heirs. Cul- tivating indigo was not at all profitable to the farmers, as they were given only 2.5 percent of the market price. Most of the time, the poor farmer was not able
Image Courtesy: Shisha-Tom /Wikimedia Commons

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