2ndlook

Understanding The 5-point Indian Compact

Posted in Business, Current Affairs, Gold Reserves, History, India, Indo Pak Relations, Media, politics by Anuraag Sanghi on November 13, 2010
The boycott of Simon Commission by Indian negotiators sounded the death knell of the British Raj in India. (Cartoonist - David Low (1891-1963) Published - Evening Standard, 11 Feb 1928). Click for larger image.

The boycott of Simon Commission by Indian negotiators sounded the death knell of the British Raj in India. (Cartoonist - David Low (1891-1963) Published - Evening Standard, 11 Feb 1928). Click for larger image.

Beginning of the end

With the rejection of Simon Commission and the death of Lala Lajpat Rai, a triumphant Congress took pole position, in the race among Indians, to throw the British back into the sea. As the British realized their futile  position, and the Indian leadership took over initiative from the British, a few things happened.

British favored the Congress

The Congress leadership (especially Gandhiji) was favored with a significant negotiating position by the British.

During these negotiations with the British Raj, the Congress adopted some unorthodox ideas, in the Indian political context of that time. These Congress proposals were momentous and path-breaking for India. Though Western opinion was uniformly derisive and dismissive, Indians suspended their judgment on these Congress proposals.

Asuric maya against the asurs

Based on the collaborative-school of ideology, promoted by Gokhale-Chiplunkar-Phule and Arya-Brahma-Samaj, Congress proposed that Indians must embrace the Western-Asuric model of the State as a pivot of their future.

August 1942 - Subhash Bose gains strength; Gandhiji and other Indian leaders call for Quit India. (British Cartoon - Cartoonist - Leslie Gilbert Illingworth, 1902-1979; Published - Daily Mail, 12 August 1942). Click for larger image.

August 1942 - Subhash Bose gains strength; Gandhiji and other Indian leaders call for Quit India. (British Cartoon - Cartoonist - Leslie Gilbert Illingworth, 1902-1979; Published - Daily Mail, 12 August 1942). Click for larger image.

Whatever elements that remained of भारत-तंत्र Bharat-tantra based on a defined, limited, narrow concept of polity related to rule as per dharmashastras, would take a back-seat, the Congress proposed.

Instead, the Congress strongly pressed its claim that the Western system of governance was what India needed to end and recover from the 100-odd years of ‘peak’ British misrule.

Congress writes its own ticket

After a few decades of debate and discussions, so be it, was the Indian decision on this Congress model. Since, the Congress seemed to be in a position to best deliver the ‘goods’, they got a carte-blanche from Indians.

The ways of the West

The Congress model was based on 5-points of significant departure from Indic model of polity.

  1. Common currency for India based on legal tender laws. Private coinage or multi-currency system would no longer be legal practice.
  2. English language and culture would be used extensively – even in independent India. Vishnu Shastri Chiplunkar (1850-1882), a Marathi essayist thought that English language and education were vaghiniche doodh or tigress’ milk.
  3. Democracy and Republicanism in. Princes and Rajas out. India is one of the few countries (less than 7) which survived the initial 50 years of Republican Democracy.
  4. Centralized powerful State rather the village level government – including the judiciary.
  5. Adoption of Western models of education – schools, colleges and universities.
India's political stability and smooth leadership changes happened against all odds - and predictions of disaster. (Cartoonist - David Low (1891-1963) Published - The Guardian, 27 Oct 1959). Click for larger image.

India's political stability and smooth leadership changes happened against all odds - and predictions of disaster. (Cartoonist - David Low (1891-1963) Published - The Guardian, 27 Oct 1959). Click for larger image.

The one success

Republican Democracy has been a signal success, in providing a platform for:-

  1. Competitive electoral politics,
  2. Co-opting or exiling violent dissent
  3. Global respectability – precluding external overt interference (e.g. Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, et al.)
  4. Most importantly continuity, without a power-vacuum

20:20 hindsight

The failure (partial success, if you must) of the State on 4 of the 5 parameters is clear and sure. Every Indian success has been hobbled by the remaining four elements of this compact.

Whether it was the Anglo-Jinnah idea of Pakistan or the significant corruption in the Indian system (like in any system based on concentration of power), each are a result of this 5-point compact that Congress sold to Indians.

Nehru, Patel, Ambedkar – all saw a need for a strong centre. Inspite of Gandhiji’s push for Ram-Rajya (his description of भारत-तंत्र Bharat-tantra) and village panchayats, decentralized  governance was finally deemed as outdated, ancient and ‘inefficient.’

Where Sher Shah Suri failed

Never in India’s 5000 years of known-and-accepted history have Indians accepted fiat currency. From at least Sher Shah Suri onwards, many tried imposing a fiat currency on Indians, including the British. And failed.

The British started deifying Gandhiji. This cartoon titled "The saint and the tiger" (Cartoonist - David Low (1891-1963) Published - Evening Standard, 20 Jan 1948). Click for larger image.

The British started deifying Gandhiji. This cartoon titled "The saint and the tiger" (Cartoonist - David Low (1891-1963) Published - Evening Standard, 20 Jan 1948). Click for larger image.

But the newly independent Indian State was allowed to implement the system of fiat currency without much ado. Morarji Desai’s hare-brained gold control laws were accepted with a slight whimper.

As the existence of a pan-Indian currency is seen as an essential to the well-being of the Indian nation, enthusiasm for the Indian currency idea remains strong. Witness the steady public demand for RBI’s periodic issues of commemorative coins and notes.

Indians have enrolled with the State system of education, using English language, in stupendous numbers. Indians have hesitantly used the Indian judicial system – as a measure of faith and participation in nation building.

All these point towards a certain trust and space that Indians have vested with the Indian Government. Some may say, it is not faith, trust and hope, but a long rope given to the Indian Government.

The time has come when Indians must do two things:-

  • Plan to phase out this 5-point compact. This was not an endless, open-ended agreement by both sides.
  • Hold the GOI’s feet to fire on defence preparedness. After 63 years of British departure, this is the last thing that the State must deliver to India.
The idea of co-opting India into the Anglo-Saxon Bloc is apparent from this cartoon. India - a source of 'immi-grunts'. (Cartoonist - David Low (1891-1963) Published - Evening Standard, 10 Jan 1950). Click for larger image.

The idea of co-opting India into the Anglo-Saxon Bloc is apparent from this cartoon. India - a source of 'immi-grunts'. (Cartoonist - David Low (1891-1963) Published - Evening Standard, 10 Jan 1950). Click for larger image.

Empty shell of a giant crustacean

India and Indians must come out from the shell of this now irrelevant compact. This compact has proved three things clearly:-

  1. The ‘erstwhile’ Muslim rulers of India, who claimed they were superior to Indians and the nation of India. After more than 6 decades, they have demonstrated themselves to be the inept rulers of Pakistan.
  2. The British stand, naked and shivering in fright, at their emerging irrelevance. The British claim of superiority, based on how they had ‘built’ England to Great Britain can now be seen as false and hollow. British misrule of Britain, has presided over the downhill ride of Britain. From super-power status to a situation where British themselves question British claim as a P5 State in the UN Security Council – with gross national debt (public, individual and corporate) of 500%.
  3. Indian capability to rebuild – after salvaging whatever of value was left from the wreckage of colonialism, the Partition, the Great Bengal Famine, impoverishment, hunger, disease, social destruction on an unprecedented scale.
Cartoon courtest - timesofindia.com. Click for larger image.

Cartoon courtesy - timesofindia.com. Click for larger image.

India’s 5-point compact is in its terminal stage of irrelevance – having outlived its usefulness to India. Time to junk it – and all those who propose its continuation.

Be as it may, the turning point is still some distance away. It is early days to start work on a road-map for a smooth transition from the democratic Republican State to an India based on भारत-तंत्र Bharat-tantra.

 

2ndlook at British Empire

  1. Rise of the British Empire – A 2ndlook
  2. Indian Ships – British Navy
  3. British Empire & The Anglo Saxon Bloc
  4. Indian Gunpowder – the Force Behind Empires
  5. How Britain ‘lost’ America. Really!
  6. Indian Railways – The British Legacy
  7. 1945 Britain – Imperial ambitions of a starving nation
  8. Looking back at India’s Partition
  9. Where would India be without the British Raj
  10. American aid came at a price; recalcitrant nations had a 'regime' change'; India became closer to Soviet Russia. (Cartoonist - David Low (1891-1963) Published - The Manchester Guardian, 20 Aug 1957). Click for larger image.

    American aid came at a price; recalcitrant nations had a 'regime' change'; India became closer to Soviet Russia. (Cartoonist - David Low (1891-1963) Published - The Manchester Guardian, 20 Aug 1957). Click for larger image.

  11. David Hume on British character
  12. How 1857 changed world history …
  13. 1857 – Some History … Some Propaganda
  14. The Debt That India Owes Britain
  15. Quick … When Did India Become Free
  16. Asuras and Slavery – The Indic Disconnect

Indian Railways – The British Legacy

Posted in British Raj, History, India, politics by Anuraag Sanghi on August 26, 2010

 

Romancing the Raj

Modern Indians carry this rather ignorant impression that Indians railways was a departing gift by the British to independent India. This is especially true of post-Independence, 2nd and 3rd generation Indians, who never travelled or saw the colonial railway system trains.

This impression is aided and abetted by Western media too. Recently, Robert Kaplan writing in The Atlantic gushed how the “British, by contrast, brought tangible development, ports and railways, that created the basis for a modern state” of India.

As though, India could not have ‘bought’ or developed railway technology on its own – from or without the British. After all India has developed a significant air-transport system. Or the comprehensive road network – which is getting further expanded and upgraded.

A further examination of facts exposes a completely different picture about the British claims about Indian Railways also.

Indian Railways

After the boycott of the Simon Commission, from 1927, and the death of Lala Lajpat Rai (Nov 17, 1928), it was clear (especially to the British) that their days were numbered. Britain enacted The Government of India Act, first in 1919 and then in 1935. Facing problems at home and abroad, the significant British interest in India was extraction of remaining wealth in Indian hands.

Elephants were widely used instead of engines - due to engine shortage and easier maneuverability of elephants.

Elephants were widely used instead of engines – due to engine shortage and easier maneuverability of elephants.Click on image for larger picture.

Indian Railway system too suffered  from this approach.  Especially after WWI, the Great Depression  and the currency crisis, starved of investments and renewal, Indian railways suffered.

During WW2, nearly 40% rolling stock from India was diverted to the Middle East. More than 50% of the track system was the outdated metre gauge and narrow gauge. Track systems were nearly a century old. 40% of the railway system went to Pakistan. 32 of the forty-two separate railway systems operating in India, were owned by the former Indian princely states. More than 8000 outdated steam engines were used as motive power – and less than 20 diesel locomotives were in use. Apart from elephants and people – called as ‘hand-shunting’ in Indian Railways lingo.

So much for the British gift of railways to India.

Rampant extraction

The railways run by the Indian princely states became party to the collusive price fixing systems. Like this extract (linked to the right) shows, all the business went to the British engineering yards. To this add the guaranteed returns systems, and what was achieved was something else.

“The guarantee system did not encourage cost control, and, at an average cost of BP18,000 per mile, the Indian railways were some of the costliest in the world. (from Another reason: science and the imagination of modern India By Gyan Prakash, page 165).

Indians took to railway travel – quickly, easily and in large numbers.

Indians enthusiastically took to train travel from the start. This confounded the arguments made by some who suggested that considerations of caste and religion would lead many South Asians to shun train travel because they would not agree to the close personal proximity sitting or standing in the coaches required. Women for reasons of modesty or demands of seclusion were expected to be particularly resistant to rail travel. Others argued that poverty would make travel by train impossible for all but the well-to-do. In the event many of all castes, classes and gender traveled by train. (from Engines of change: the railroads that made India By Ian J. Kerr.).

Even though the poor Indian passenger was more than 80% of the traffic, he was always short-changed.

Third-class passengers quickly became and remained the most numerous passengers and the railroads’ largest source of revenue from passenger traffic. High volumes-87 percent of passengers carried in 1902 traveled in third-class-more than compensated for low fares. (from Engines of change: the railroads that made India By Ian J. Kerr.).

Safety last

Starved of investments and maintenance, the railways infrastructure at the time of British departure was crumbling. Colonial British (subsequently, the Indian also) response was to affix the blame onto the employee at the lowest rung and move onto the next one accident.

Elephant shunting a train on the Bengal-Nagpur railway. Picture quality makes it probably from WWII period.

Elephant shunting a train on the Bengal-Nagpur railway. Picture quality makes it probably from WWII period.

Post-independence India continued with this practice – till LB Shastri called a halt to this. In 1956, the Madras-Tuticorin express plunged into a river when a bridge at Ariyalur (Tamil Nadu) was washed away in floods. 144 (some records suggest 156) passengers died. Shastri resigned from the Union Cabinet – claiming moral responsibility for the railway accident.

This resignation saw LB Shastri become a political legend. This (resignation) also changed the mindset of the Indian Railways. After fresh elections of 1957, one year later, he was re-inducted into the Union Cabinet.

Steadily, over 30 years, Indian railways infrastructure was upgraded. And accidents decreased.

But the problems did not end there. The Great Gift of the British to India, railways was not only a vast scrap heap of metal, but a den of corruption – as documented in the Railway Corruption Enquiry Committee (J. B. Kriplani), 1955. Corruption and safety took another 50 years – by the 1990′s, by when the the entire railway system was modernized and computerized.

What we see today

In 1952, it was decided that IIIrd class passengers deserved fans and light. It took another 7 years to implement this decision. Elephants used for shunting wagons, box-cars, finally got a respite after WDS-4B shunters were introduced by Chittaranjan Locomotive Works in 1969. Safety bars in windows were introduced on night trains in a phased manner over the 1970s. Till then, most trains had open windows leading to passenger-safety issues. Earlier, it meant “getting into a third-class general compartment — through the window, literally pushed in by someone on the platform. Well, now all the windows have a grill provided for the safety of the passengers”.

Extract from A history of modern India, 1480-1950 By Claude Markovits, page 433. Click on picture for larger text.

Extract from A history of modern India, 1480-1950 By Claude Markovits, page 433. Click on picture for larger text.

It took a non-Congress Government in 1977 to change the face of Indian Railways. Prof.Madhu Dandavate, the Railway Minister in the 1977 Janata Government started the railway renaissance in India. 3rd class railway travel was abolished. Wooden-slat seats were abolished. Cushioned 2nd class seating system was made minimum and standard. Train time tables were re-configured. Reservation systems improved. Railways started getting profitable.

The de-colonization of Indian Railways began effectively in 1977 – 30 years after British departure. Symbolically, that was also the year that the Rail Museum was set up. The progress after that has been remarkable. Without going into the merits of safety and comfort, today Indians can travel at significantly lower cost. For a US$5, an Indian can travel for 1000 km – compared to nearly US$100 for 1000 km (gold-adjusted dollars).

All this when only 25% of Indians travel by rail at least once a year.

The benign British

Should we complain so much, if we inherited a decrepit, run down, accident prone, investment starved railway system with outdated technology from the British – though financed by loot from India?

OLD FAITHFUL: An 80-year-old elephant shunting a Railway boxcar in 1945 , Picture courtesy - The Times of India, Dated 27th February, 2010

OLD FAITHFUL: An 80-year-old elephant shunting a Railway boxcar in 1945 , Picture courtesy – The Times of India, Dated 27th February, 2010

Even though it took India 40 years, to modernize the colonial railway system, we should be thankful. Remember, they could have uprooted the rails, and taken away the wagons and engines. After all, Indian Railways was the biggest scrap iron collection in the world at that time.

Till Lal Bahadur Shastri’s resignation – the poor Indian railway-man was routinely blamed for railway accidents – by his British, and later the Indian bosses also.

 

Quick … When Did India Become Free

Posted in British Raj, History, India, politics, Propaganda by Anuraag Sanghi on November 30, 2007

When did the British really lose India. Much before August 15th, 1947. That is for sure.

Indian Independence became a reality some 125 years after Tipu's last effort and fall of Seringapatnam. Contemporary British engraving.  |  Click for image.

Indian Independence became a reality some 125 years after Tipu’s last effort and fall of Seringapatnam. Contemporary British engraving. | Click for image.

Quick easy question …

When did India become a free country.

Candidates

August 15th 1947. Wrong! The British walked away from a bankrupt colony on this day.

January 26th 1950. Wrong again! A unique nation in the history of the world was born.

The Top Contender is 8th August, 1942, when Gandhiji told the British to ‘Quit India”.

An all time front runner is January 26th 1943, when Subhash Chandra Bose declared Independence in Germany and selected Jana Gana Mana as India’s national anthem.

Choose 25 December, 1941! You cant go wrong.

On 25th December, 1941, the first 15 recruits joined the Azad Hind Fauj (or the Indian National Army). Raised by Subhash Chandra Bose from Indian POWs captured by Germans, they left the next day for Frankenburg, for the first training camp of the Azad Hind Fauj. After a warm send off from Indian residents at Berlin office of Free India Center.

February 27th 1931, the legend of Chandrasekhar Azad was born and Chandrasekhar Tiwari died – killing himself with his last bullet rather than be taken prisoner by the colonial British Administration.

1929 – April 8th, was the day when Bhagat Singh threw leaflets (with an fireworks device) in Delhi Central Assembly, protesting against an ordinance permitting repressive measures by the colonial administration.

The boycott of Simon Commission by Indian negotiators sounded the death knell of the British Raj in India  |  Cartoonist - David Low (1891-1963) Published - Evening Standard, 11 Feb 1928  |  Click for larger image.

The boycott of Simon Commission by Indian negotiators sounded the death knell of the British Raj in India | Cartoonist – David Low (1891-1963) Published – Evening Standard, 11 Feb 1928 | Click for larger image.

Can we consider December 1, 1927, when Indian polity refused to negotiate with Simon Commission.

After the boycott of the Simon Commission, from 1927, and the death of Lala Lajpat Rai (Nov 17, 1928), it was clear (especially to the British) that their days were numbered.

Britain enacted The Government of India Act, first in 1919 and then in 1935.

April 8th 1944, could be another candidate where a small INA contingent with the Japanese captured (briefly) Kohima.

Before the answer, some other historic examples.

American War Of Independence against the British carried on for 1775-1783. The agreed date is 4th July, 1776, when the Declaration of Independence was made.

14 July 1789 – A crowd of Parisians, stormed the Bastille prison – which held only 7 prisoners. This sparked off the French Revolution. The French emperor, Louis XVI’s execution happened more than 3 years later on January 21, 1793. Only in 1804, 5 years later was Napoleon I, crowned as Emperor of the French.

Or is it that India is still not a free country.

There are lakhs of under trial prisoners languishing in Indian jails. Hundreds are killed in “encounters’ by police. More than 10,000 laws (most of them, oppressive, colonial laws) on every conceivable subjects (and some imaginative also) chain Indians, make them habitual law breakers and engender corruption on a horrific scale.

By any global scale these are small numbers. But by Indian historical precedents, these are big injustices.

Or is that we have become a free country

We want free roads, free electricity, free train rides, free bus journeys, free service.

The funny part is that the word free (meaning “no cost”) does not exist in Sanskritic languages. मुफ्त is a “free” import.

Freedom does comes at a price. Jefferson says it is eternal vigilance.


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