Whenever this topic shows itself in any debate, India is always condemned for giving a warm welcome to the British. People mostly air their view that if India had never agreed to trade with the foreigners, then we would have been economically very strong till now. It’s hard to argue to that as there was no increase in India’s GDP during the British rule. We are all aware of the unemployment, famines and other atrocities inflicted upon India by the British.
But like yin and yang, there are always two viewpoints to every matter that pops up during a discussion. Though the British quite destroyed the essence of India, it also unknowingly made India attain new heights. In its 500 years of rule, the British brought in new reforms, technologies and modernization. This led to the foundation of a new and sturdy nation as we will see.
10. Abolition of Monarchy
With the advent of the British in India, around 700 years of Mughal rule was shattered. India has always been under monarchy. Before the arrival of the British there has been no noted instance of Indians rising up for independence and demanding a better government. They endured whatever was imposed on them. It was only the British that lighted the fire of freedom within each and every Indian heart. They were now ready to stand against anyone that opposed their authority. It’s not wise to say this but it feels like if it was not for the British, we would still be hailing an Emperor!
When the industrial revolution started, Britain was pretty much at its forefront. So, industrialization came galloping to India and turned India into a world workshop. Export-import started at a pace never witnessed before. Textiles from India dominated the world market. New technologies were incorporated to ease the method of production. India turned into an economic powerhouse! Though all the steps were undertaken for their own benefit, it established the basis for future trade in India. For example: In 2005, India was the 11th largest exporter of commercial services according to WHO.
8. Technological boost in the agricultural sector
The British required certain crops to be exported from India. They forced the Indian farmers to stop their regular harvest and attend to the demands of the British. Though Indian agriculture suffered to a great extent, but the farmers learnt the use and impact of new technology. Large scale and advanced techniques of irrigation were introduced in India. Indians earlier were accustomed to the contemporary irrigation methods. But with the new methods, the agricultural sectors raised a few bars. They built one of the greatest water irrigation systems in Punjab. The advent of technology gave a boost to Indian agriculture. It’s an unacknowledged fact that if the British had not opened our eyes to technology, Green Revolution would have arrived late.
7. Internal economic stability
Earlier the Indian rulers exercised power to increase the land revenue whenever they needed extra money. The economic welfare of the common people was not given much thought. Great economic hardships were faced by majority of the population. The land tax was stabilized by the British and pretty much kept at the same level, thus leading to economic stability.
6. Foundations of Indian Army
After the First War of Independence (1857), most of the foreign soldiers left India. The British had to now recruit Indians to be a part of their army. They sidetracked those who instigated the Sepoy Mutiny. The British spotted the Gorkhas, Pathans, Dogras, Rajputs, Madrasis, Sikhs and other communities who were not attached to political chivalry. These communities became the backbone of the new Indian Army in the future. This highly trained army is responsible to safeguard the borders of an independent India now. Even after the departure of the British, the Indian Army still follows the training and fighting methods of the British.
The British introduced the Macauly system of education in India. New universities and colleges were set up for higher education. They aimed at grooming Indians with western knowledge and spread the western culture. But along with western culture, the ideas of liberty and freedom spread like wildfire. People could recognize the oppression they were under and began to raise their voices. They learned about democracy and nationalism. What the British thought as a means to steady their hold over our land turned out to be a reason that shook their roots.
Now India is the second largest English speaking nation and it has been able to carve out a reputed position in the world.
4. Social reforms
The British glorified India socially. A social curse, the Sati system was abolished. Thousands of female lives were saved. Even female infanticide was decreased to a great extent. Old caste barriers were removed and social mobility increased. Many religious superstitions were removed. Education of women was encouraged. Widow remarriage and inter caste marriages were given the green signal by the British. Apart from that, the British put an end to aristocracy rule in the society. Many of the barbaric practices were stamped out by the British.
3. End to rule by despotism
During the time of the monarchs, the key to rule was despotism. This basically meant that a supreme leader would rule the entire lands and the people would follow the rules set from the perspective of a single higher power. They had no say if the rules were against the common interest of the people. But with the arrival of the British, the rule by despotism was replaced by the rule by law. By this new system, administration has to be carried out according to certain laws that clearly defined the rights and privileges of the common people and not according to the personal whim of the ruler. Also the law was applicable to each and every individual of the country and everybody was equal before the law. The end to despotism initiated the evolution of democracy in India. Today, India is one of the largest democracies in the world!
2. Infrastructure development
Being in 2013, we cannot imagine India without railways and roads. The British laid the foundations of the first railway from Mumbai to Thane in 1853. It constructed 70,000 miles of concrete road and around 40,000 miles of railroads. Transportation had never been cheaper, faster and easier. New and never seen technologies like electricity and air transport came rushing. The postal service made the days of sending letters through pigeons a history. India left behind the medieval age and jumped into a new technologically advanced nation. Now, Indian Railways offers employment to millions of people.
India before the British Raj was just a patchwork of states. In the 6th century BC, Aryans ruled the North and they were constantly at war. South was ruled by independent Dravidians. Then enter Alexander the Great who tried to unify India under one government. But all was in vain. The weakness of a country, divided into states that were constantly fighting against each other, was exposed. This paved the way for innumerable invasions and the country underwent further divisions. But after that the sub-continent sided with the British. To eliminate any challenge to their authority, the British stripped down all the leadership titles. Although the British did that based on their own selfish interest but the take away point is that it unified the ethnically diverse but culturally similar subcontinent into a nation we today know as India.
We cannot say that the colonial rule was a blessing but it did leave behind some positive impacts. What better example than cricket! We have perfected this legacy of the British to such an extent that we knocked over England in the recent Champions Trophy! Hence, we should not always concern ourselves with the negative expulsion of the British rule but sometimes try to see the positive marks that they left behind.