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David Hume on British character

Posted in European History, History, India, Media, politics, Religion, Uncategorized by Anuraag Sanghi on November 10, 2010
The Philosophy of death and genocide - (Cartoon title - Kant_Hume_Hobbes by Bob Row; uploaded on August 20, 2009; courtesy - toonpool.com). Click to enlarge.

The Philosophy of death and genocide - (Cartoon title - Kant_Hume_Hobbes by Bob Row; uploaded on August 20, 2009; courtesy - toonpool.com). Click to enlarge.

On British character

Indian attempts to show imperial British character as exploitative fail on one count. Apart from adjectives and inferences, there is usually little else. The terminal narrative is to a large degree propaganda – forethought and afterthought.

Been there and done that

David Hume (1711-1776), whose historiography shaped British outlook for the next 200 years, sheds some light on events during this period. Hume’s  influence provoked a latter-day philosopher to note that “Hume is our Politics, Hume is our Trade, Hume is our Philosophy, Hume is our Religion.” (statement by 19th century British idealist philosopher James Hutchison Stirling).

Hume’s argument about the ‘progress’ that British brought to the colonies lives in the colonial narrative even today. In the context of Ireland Hume wrote, “A more than equal return had been made [the slothful and barbarous Irish], by [the planters] instructing the natives in tillage, building, manufactures, and all the civilized arts of life”

Hume’s views on White superiority persist till date. Hume wrote,

I am apt to suspect the Negroes to be naturally inferior to the Whites. There scarcely ever was a civilized nation of that complexion, nor even any individual, eminent either in action or speculation. No ingenious manufactures amongst them, no arts, no sciences. On the other hand, the most rude and barbarous of the Whites, such as the ancient Germans, the present Tartars, have still something eminent about them.

Thoughts and ideas that were later echoed by Immanuel Kant and Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel.

A testimony to British ‘character’

To David Hume, an investor in slave trade, Britishers from East India Company in India ‘manifested the immense superiority of the British character’. This British ‘character’ according to Hume, of ‘the servants of this company of merchants [was] formed in a great degree by the habits and conditions of the masters’. Hume says, it was this British ‘character’ that was the reason why

a mercantile company, in less than ten years, [could] acquire by war and policy, more extensive  possessions, and a richer revenue, than those of several European monarchs.

Proudly, Hume described ‘British character’. What Hume said, Indians experienced, first hand. Hume described how Britishers of East Indian Company

David Hume was spot on regarding British (and European, too) behaviour!

David Hume was spot on regarding British (and European, too) behaviour!

considered, in every transaction of war, peace, or alliance, what money could be drawn from the inhabitants. … Before they planned aggression, they calculated the probable proceeds, the debts that they might extinguish, and the addition, on the balance of accounts, which they might make to the sum total. They considered war with the natives, merely as a commercial adventure: by so much risk encountered, a certain quantity of blood spilt, and a certain extent of territory desolated, great sums were to be gained. (read more via The history of England: from The history of England: from the invasion of Julius Cæsar, to the revolution in 1688 – Volume 12 By David Hume).

Having assured supplies of gunpowder from India, numerical superiority in navy based on Indian shipyards, Britain  started a blood-soaked 200-year military campaign in India – and the world.

Emerging India – ‘Immi-grunt’ supplier to English speaking world

Posted in Business, Current Affairs, History, India, Media, politics by Anuraag Sanghi on October 31, 2010
The Komagata Maru in Vancouver harbor, surrounded by police boats. (Picture courtesy - bhagatsinghthind.com.) Click for larger picture.

The Komagata Maru in Vancouver harbor, surrounded by police boats. (Picture courtesy - bhagatsinghthind.com.) Click for larger picture.

Brave, new world?

On May 23, 1914, a Japanese tramp steamship, S.S. Komagata Maru, steamed into Burrard Inlet, near Vancouver, Canada. Chartered to carry a few hundred Indian immigrants into Canada, it arrived with a list of some 376 immigrant-passengers – mostly Sikh. The Canadian Government decided that these Indian-immigrants were not White enough – and disallowed entry into Canada.

When asked to sail out of Canadian waters, mutinous Indian passengers relieved the Japanese captain of the command. The Canadian authorities engaged a tug-boat, Sea Lion to tow the ship back into international waters. Sent back to India, the ship departed from Canada on July 23 and landed at Kolkatta (then Calcutta) on September 27th – only to be harassed by the British Raj. 26 of the passengers who returned to India were executed by the British.

Indians in Canada and USA, from the Ghadar movement, like Barkatullah, Tarak Nath Das (of letter to Tolstoy fame), and Sohan Singh publicised the incident giving momentum to the Ghadar movement for a massive uprising in India – against the British Raj. More than 90 years later, the Canadian authorities apologized.

Photograph of the SS Komagata Maru

SS Komagata Maru - Image via Wikipedia

One of the passengers on Komagata Maru was Jagat Singh Thind. His brother was Dr. Bhagat Singh Thind – an Indian-immigrant to the USA. Bhagat Singh Thind further tested immigration laws in the West – this time in the USA. Bhagat Singh Thind’s bid for US citizenship-by-naturalization finally landed at the US Supreme Court. The US Supreme Court rejected Bhagat Sngh Thind’s claim saying,

It may be true that the blond Scandinavian and the brown Hindu have a common ancestor in the dim reaches of antiquity, but the average man knows perfectly well that there are unmistakable and profound differences between them today … Our own history has witnessed the adoption of the English tongue by millions of Negroes, whose descendants can never be classified racially with the descendants of white persons notwithstanding both may speak a common root language … What we now hold is that the words “free white persons” are words of common speech, to be interpreted in accordance with the understanding of the common man, synonymous with the word “Caucasian” only as that word is popularly understood.

whatever may be the speculations of the ethnologist, it does not include the body of people to whom the appellee [Thind] belongs. It is a matter of familiar observation and knowledge that the physical group characteristics of the Hindus render them readily distinguishable from the various groups of persons in this country commonly recognized as white. The children of English, French, German, Italian, Scandinavian, and other European parentage, quickly merge into the mass of our population and lose the distinctive hallmarks of their European origin. On the other hand, it cannot be doubted that the children born in this country of Hindu parents would retain indefinitely the clear evidence of their ancestry. It is very far from our thought to suggest the slightest question of racial superiority or inferiority. What we suggest is merely racial difference, and it is of such character and extent that the great body of our people instinctively recognize it and reject the thought of assimilation. (excerpts from judgment on United States v. Bhagat Singh Thind 261 U.S. 204 (1923); delivered by Associate Justice George Sutherland; parts excized for brevity; text within […] supplied for clarity.).

Escaping to the West is an option ... for some!

Escaping to the West is an option ... for some! Click for larger image

In the post-War world

After WWII, with more than 50 million dead in Europe, European immigration to the US dried up. Without much ado, USA changed its immigration policy. Simultaneously, African-American activism created a market for Welfare Reform. The expanding Welfare State in the USA, created labour shortages. Many among the poor in USA, on welfare, soon stopped full-time work altogether. Faced with acute labour shortages, the West needed to something – and fast.

Back home, in India

Coinciding with this on the opposite side of the world was JN Nehru, trying to build ‘temples of modern India‘.

IIT-Chennai and Kharagpur with German collaboration were kick-started; IIT-Mumbai with assistance from UNESCO and the Soviet Union. The Anglo-Saxon Bloc jumped onto this bandwagon. They decided to ‘help’ India by setting up more IITs and IIMs. IIT-Kanpur, with US-aid in 1960; and IIT-Delhi with UK-assistance in 1961 followed. IIM-Calcutta with collaboration from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA. More recently, to keep this flow coming into the US, American companies have tied up for virtual classrooms.

The Resident Non-Indians are a part of the problem.

The Resident Non-Indians are a part of the problem. Click for larger image.

And where do graduates from these centres go? Need I answer!

The Anglo-Saxon Bloc pushed disguised labour-recruitment programs as development aid. For instance, the Colombo Plan was pushed in the sub-continent – by the US, UK, Canada and Australia to bring English speaking populations of the Indian sub-continent up to scratch, for use by the Anglo-Saxon Bloc.

Ten years after … the Colombo Plan, … the four advanced countries who are members of the Plan, namely, the U.S., the U.K., Australia and Canada … member countries, which have good training facilities to offer, are willing to make them available to others that still lack them. Under the Colombo Plan Technical Cooperation … training is provided at the cost of the host Government. (via This day that age-The Hindu; parts excised for brevity and clarity.).

The USA overturned Thind vs US Govt judgment by the US Supreme Court. As a result of this policy tweak, Indian students suddenly were welcome to the USA. Earlier, the US Supreme Court, in Thind vs US Govt supported US Government immigration policies which barred Asian immigration.

Suddenly Indians could land at USA shores and airports as immigrants. Soon, for Indians, USA became: –

  1. A liberal, egalitarian, non-racist society – based on meritocracy. A land of opportunity.
  2. Eager, grateful, hard-working, no-questions asked, English speaking, qualified, low-cost employees became available to US industry.
  3. US gained brownie points on global platforms in a world fighting the Cold War. A leg-up to USA propaganda.
  4. On the slippery slope of post-colonial India, the IITs and IIMs gave USA diplomatic traction in India.
  5. Net result – The most apparent result. 2.5 million Indians have come to occupy 10% of high-income, high-end jobs, professions, positions, careers in the USA, making them the richest sub-group in modern USA.
  6. All this at zero cost to the US taxpayer. The entirely amount was to the account of the Indian taxpayer.
  7. The Indian taxpayer is left with a 7% fiscal deficit. And Government debt equal to 60% of GDP debt.
  8. It provided USA with a steady stream of workers. US got it work-force from India. The expat and immigrant Indian workforce has become the richest sub-group in India.
With sucess at home, NRIs are not as hot as they once were!

With success at home, NRIs are not as hot as they once were!

Immi-grunts

Many ‘desi‘ Indians who migrate, believing that they can expect ‘superior’ systems in the West. All that these ‘desi‘ ’immi-grunts’ have to then do is take ‘advantage’ of opportunities in the West – they believe! Is it surprising that these ‘desi’ Indian ‘immi-grunts’ hit ‘glass-ceilings’, encounter ‘racism’?

Nation-building is a tough job – and someone’s gotta to do it! We can’t ‘escape from backward’ India to the ‘forward’ West. Not without becoming second-class citizens. The Indian ‘immi-grunt’ has seen some level of acceptance – after India itself achieved some modicum of success.

Importance of Indian immi-grunts to the US of A

Each year, India loses more than 1,00,000 doctors, engineers, other post graduates to the US alone and another 3,00,000 to other Western countries – commonly, referred to as ‘brain drain.’

To get a real handle on this number, project this number to the 25-65 age group in the USA. India currently sends 100,000 students and professionals, every year to the USA. With lesser numbers earlier, there are nearly 2.0-3.0 million Indians – mostly highly qualified, between the ages of 25-65 – holding up the US industry.

Opportunistic use of 'immi-grunts'!

Opportunistic use of 'immi-grunts'?

To get a perspective, assume that a worker is a tax paying worker. The IRS of the USA processed under 100.5 million individual tax returns – from a US population of 300.5 million. Thus, these highly skilled Indians are 2 million of the 100 million tax-paying workers – approximately 2% of the total US working population.

If we further gate people typically, white-collar workers, high technology work force, earning more than US$ 100,000 per annum, we are at about 20-30 million Americans (24% of US taxpayers). Put that way, Indians comprise an estimated 8%-12% of the highly qualified and (highly paid) workforce in the US. What would the US have done without this skilled and qualified labour force? Is it surprising that Bill Gates lobbies for H1B visas for Indians?

This message is not lost to others. Businessweek reported how even “the French and German governments, faced with declining numbers of engineers, are trying to attract grads through exchange programs.” More recently, Australia recruited, under a migration scheme of the Australian government, nearly 450 technicians (plumbers, masons, carpenters, electricians and heavy and light-vehicle mechanics) from the Industrial Training Institute (ITI) at Pune.

Give me your tired, your poor whites, Your huddled white masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched white refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the white homeless, tempest-tossed, to me: I lift my lamp for these whites beside the golden door. - The real meaning of Emma Lazarus words.

Give me your tired, your poor whites, Your huddled white masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched white refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the white homeless, tempest-tossed, to me: I lift my lamp for these whites beside the golden door. - The real meaning of Emma Lazarus words.

Remittances

As an article pointed out, India does not gain from these high-skill workers. Unlike

“less skilled workers, highly educated professionals tend to account for little in terms of remittances. Skilled Indian professionals in the U.S. have also failed, by and large, to contribute large levels of foreign direct investment (FDI) required by India. In contrast, China, which along with India is the largest exporter of students to the U.S., has greatly benefited in this regard from its skilled emigrants. The Financial Times (January 18, 2003) noted that China “has managed to attract 10 times more FDI than India on the back of strong in-flows from the Chinese diaspora.”

Interestingly, the IITs and their web sites are coy about the number of alumni who go abroad to study and work. Despite receiving substantial budgetary allocations from the Central government, the failure to collect systematically data on the sensitive point of the brain drain suggests an attitude of non-transparency. IIT managements and alumni networks tend to avoid initiating a public debate on the destination of IIT graduates and who benefits directly from the IIT system. (From The IIT Story: Issues and Concerns By KANTA MURALI; Frontline magazine.).

India is proud of its English language heritage - while English language itself is a declining force.

India is proud of its English language heritage - while English language itself is a declining force.

Chains made of words

What is making this easy is the subsidy given to higher education in English by the Government of India (GOI). This system of English language education turns out near-perfect candidates for absorption by the West.

Will India’s new generation get the perspective?

India – The Perfect Storm Ahead

Posted in Business, Current Affairs, India, Indo Pak Relations, Pax Americana, politics by Anuraag Sanghi on October 29, 2010

Till such time that India cannot fight 10-year-war, India will remain a soft state. India – The Perfect Storm Ahead.

Increasing gap. Back to bad ole' days. Image credits & sources embedded

Increasing gap. Back to bad ole’ days. Image credits & sources embedded

Stormy weather

India’s has three strategic problems. All three are known problems. This post looks at how the three could mesh and create a ‘perfect’ storm.

Oil’s not well

One is clearly oil. India imports 70%-80% of its oil consumption. Too much of our exports are used for oil imports. This makes India prone to economic pressures.

We would do well to remember Bombay High (1973). Only after Bombay High could India detonate the atom bomb (1974), throw out IBM and Coke (1977). Bombay High also saw India’s break away from our colonial ‘heritage’ of hunger, poverty, shortages, disease, social ossification.

Where India gets its oil from?

Where India gets its oil from?

After recent discoveries at Krishna-Godavari basin, by Cairn oil, GSPC production, will possibly account for 30% of Indian demand. The 70% imports-dependence mark won’t be broken. But import-dependence is unlikely to come down much.

The answer to reliable oil imports are countries with low domestic-demand, low exploration-profile and low current-production. That means Africa, coastal  and island nations in Pacific, Atlantic and Indian oceans, countries in Central Asia. With populations of 20-50 million these countries, fit the profile. ONGC’s global expansion remains hostage to short-term actions.

For want of a nail

The second major issue remains defense prepared-ness. With aircraft, aircraft-carriers, howitzers – all imported, many from Western sources (including Israel). India will be seen seeking spares parts within 15 days of any conflict. India is not prepared for a ‘peak’ fighting situation beyond 15 days.

Increasing amount of Indian exports going towards oil imports. Image and data sources & credit embedded.

Increasing amount of Indian exports going towards oil imports. Image and data sources & credit embedded.

India’s defence purchases of US$50 billion in the last 10 years gets us toothless, stuffed tigers – which can at best intimidate a small warlord.

It’s the economy, stupid

The third issue is closely related to the first – oil. India’s current account deficit (imports-exports=current acount deficit) is currently gap-filled by FDI+FII+expat inflows. Combine the current account deficit with above two factors, and we find India in a poker-game with a bad hand of cards. Though the less-than-US$40-billion current account deficit is small beer for now, things could change. Especially in case of a prolonged war.

These structural issues became apparent within 10-12 years after Bombay High – by 1985. These three issues have remained unaddressed, by India, now for the last 25 years.

War stories

Energy concerns: An ONGC offshore platform. India is seeking to reduce dependence on imports as production from domestic fields declines. Bloomberg

Energy concerns: An ONGC offshore platform. India is seeking to reduce dependence on imports as production from domestic fields declines. Bloomberg

India’s position in the 1971 Bangladesh War was superior, as our defence and oil supplies, were in the hands of a reliable ally – Soviet Russia. This time we have no such comfort.

In WW2, Hitler could not make the final assault on Moscow, as his armies were split to capture Romanian oil fields, which finally did not happen. Stranded in the Russian winter, without oil, at the gates of Moscow, the oil shortages defeated the Germans. In Africa, Rommel’s tanks were sitting ducks without oil.

Instead of fighting the Americans in the Pacific, the Japanese Imperial Navy was busy escorting oil in sea-lanes across Pacific and Indian oceans.

The Allies, on the other hand, had Middle East oil – in addition to the huge American domestic production.

Dassault Rafale

Dassault Rafale

This time it is war

Any conflict will see an immediate withdrawal of FII, triggering  GOI caps and restrictions, leading to stoppage of FDI/FII inflows. Rupee devaluation of 40%, meaning Rs.70 to US$ is the probable outcome. Export production will be affected due to oil shortages, further widening current account deficit.

Blowing in the wind

Till such time that India cannot fight a war for 10 years, India will remain a ‘soft state’.

Even a simple increase in indigenous oil production may be of very little help. A few missile attacks on Bombay High and Jamnagar will see India in the Stone Age – our meaningless treaties notwithstanding.

This also is a powerful argument against the Ultra-Mega-Power-Project (UMPP) strategy of the GOI. Instead of  the UMPPs, what India needs is small, micro oil-wells, refineries and power plants – combined with indigenous oil production from small, distributed oil wells, refineries and power plants. Thousands of them. A smart indigenization program of defence industry will do the rest.

Sabsa bada rupaiya

This will attract the usual argument of cost.

Having made no efforts in this direction, also means that we will have no cost-estimates, solutions or technology. Having opted and continued with the practice of importing ‘mega’ technologies from the West, a la Middle-East oil potentates, cannot be the answer. Not after 60 years of the Indian Republic. For proof, witness the pride behind Jamnagar complex. Concerted actions on these three parameters will mean some real security.

For the aam aadmi !


Bharat-tantra – Prequel To Modern History!

Posted in Business, Current Affairs, European History, History, India, politics by Anuraag Sanghi on September 6, 2010
Communism - Another Western Political Construct. Same Difference. Image Courtesy - Wikipedia

Communism - Another Western Political Construct. Same Difference. Image Courtesy - Wikipedia

The one-eyed king

In the last 250 years, just 5 countries succeeded with Republican democracy without a significant breakdown in their first 50 years. Of the five, Switzerland (pop. 80 lakhs), Israel (pop. 75 lakhs) and Singapore (pop. 50 lakhs) are tiny countries to generate any valuable data, models, norms or precedents. In any other day, age and society, the Republican-Democracy model would have been laughed off – and not studied by millions.

Global media in the last 12 months used Tiger Woods as a punching bag for his sex ‘crimes’. Hank Paulson, in the last days of the Bush regime, ensured the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers and the subsequent acquisition by Goldman Sachs.

Across South West India to the North-East, deep in the jungles of Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, Bihar to Bengal, a swath of red terror is making life difficult for the Indian state.

Strange as it may seem, all these ‘events’ are related.

Indian transformation – from Saraswati-Indus to the Indo-Gangetic plains

Nearly 5000 years ago, the Saraswati River started drying up. In fits and bursts, over the next 1000 years, it completely dried up – coinciding with a global drought. Many cultures declined and some perished altogether. How could Indians sustain their culture over a period of 1000 years, while the Saraswati was drying up? And the Ganga’s riverine system was yet to develop!

Even mostly objective historians, find it difficult to understand how the Saraswati-Indus Basin cities could have been related to the later Indo-Gangetic cities. To allow that new sites, for so many settlements could be set up, without war or conflict! To Indians, this is something possible – at the most difficult. Western historians find it difficult to believe that in such trying times, spread over 1,000 years, India was able to sustain and grow its culture. This inability to comprehend is possibly why (some) Western historians deny the linkage between the Saraswati and the Indo-Gangetic cultures.

Behind this ability to transcend a 1000 year natural calamity, is the secret of Indian socio-political system – which I have termed as भारत-तंत्र Bharat-tantra.

Factors of production

भारत-तंत्र Bharat-tantra, the Indic socio-political system, addresses three basic human aspirations. If humans are deprived of these basic ‘wants’, these aspirations, it is cause for war – as per India’s wisdom narrative. These aspirations are ज़र zar (meaning gold), जन jan (meaning people) and ज़मीन jameen (meaning land).

This makes the basis भारत-तंत्र Bharat-tantra different from Western politico-economic systems, that are based on four factors of production (land, labour, capital and enterprise). भारत-तंत्र Bharat-tantra treats these three elements as ‘aspirational’ while Western theory sees these four factors as ‘exploitative’.

Abandoned port city of Lothal - A big port in the ancient world. (Photo coutesy - travelguru.com)

Abandoned port city of Lothal - A big port in the ancient world. (Photo courtesy - travelguru.com)

Modern Western economies revolve around Veblen’s models – owner of capital (capitalists) own businesses that buy and sell businesses; businesses compete with widget makers (enterprise) who use land, labour and capital; or commandeer of labour, capital and enterprise (communists) who will annihilate both the capitalist and the entrepreneur. In all the four Western systems (viz. feudalism, capitalism, socialism, communism) the concentration of political, economic, social, intellectual power remains!

No difference, at all.

भारत-तंत्र Bharat-tantra system works to deliver these three elements to all its members. For centuries भारत-तंत्र Bharat-tantra was known as dharma. Modern etymology has completely derailed the meaning of dharma – which has now been reduced to mean religion. Religion was something India never had – and has now made it an integral part of itself.

Neil Young can see it

One sunny afternoon, in a Delhi winter, I landed Neil Young’s album containing, Crime in the City. For the next few months, this album remained high on my play list. One part of the lyrics stuck in my memory – the part about the producer wanting a hungry and single artist.

The artist looked at the producer, The producer sat back

He said, What we have got here, Is a perfect track

But we don’t have a vocal, And we don’t have a song

If we could get these things accomplished, Nothin’ else could go wrong.

So he balanced the ashtray, As he picked up the phone

And said, Send me a songwriter, Who’s drifted far from home

And make sure that he’s hungry, Make sure he’s alone

Send me a cheeseburger, And a new Rolling Stone.

Why this producer’s preference for someone alone – akin to single? Was this an aberration? Or a trend! Looking inside out, from India, which has a strong bias towards getting married, this was a revelation. It raised a number of questions in my mind, when strangelythere are very few accessible cross-national studies that have data on both marital status and well-being at the individual level for the general.

The ideal of universal marriage

Measuring simple marital status of the broad population may give a crude confirmation of this social bias. At any point, 35%-45% of the adult population in the US and UK, for whom data is available, are unmarried. That is 1000% more than India’s unmarried population. How will it affect women and children when projections show that “the population of unmarried women will soon surpass the number of married women”.

Man is a social animal, said Aristotle. If that is true, why this anti-social bias then in the ‘Desert Bloc’? As Neil Young grimly points out. As we will see below, भारत-तंत्र Bharat-tantra worked out a system of ‘negotiated’ marriages, which achieved near universal marriage for the population.

Given a choice between a slave and a wife, who would want a wife? In slave societies, daughters and sisters of only the rich and powerful could marry. To make marriage attractive, for the rich and powerful people, handsome dowries were given and taken. For instance, the site for current Mumbai was bought by the Portuguese king from Gujarati king, Sultan Muhamed Begada in 1534. Subsequently, it was given in dowry to the British Queen, Catherine of Braganza, sister of the Portuguese king, as dowry when she married King Charles II in 1661.

On the other hand, in India, even the poorest share the cost of stabilizing the start of a new family, formed after marriage.

Behind universal marriage is gold

Indian marriages are solidly anchored in gold. Every marriage has a significant amount of exchange of gold.

Rather an anomaly, since India has never in been, in its 5000 year history, a significant gold producer. Yet Indian citizenry has the largest private reserves of gold in the world – 500% of US private reserves of gold. Indian ‘despots’ could not control large gold reserves due to भारत-तंत्र Bharat-tantra.

Unlike the rest of the world, Indian rulers had less than 20% of the gross Indian gold reserves – instead of 80% in the rest of the world. Without vast reserves of gold, the concentration of wealth and power did not happen. As a result, Indian rulers could not create vast marauding, pillaging armies.

Yet, with huge domestic private-sector experts, made of armoured elephant corps, expert cavalry troops (inventors of the stirrup), largest producers of gunpowder, producers of the most-sought after Wootz steel, Indian rulers kept India free of foreign invaders – for most of history.

Iqtadari and Jagirdari System (from Our Story So Far 7 By Vipul Singh, Gita Shanmugavel, Jasmine Dhillon; page 44).

Iqtadari and Jagirdari System (from Our Story So Far 7 By Vipul Singh, Gita Shanmugavel, Jasmine Dhillon; page 44).

Junkers, Kulaks, Lords and Plantation owners

Europe started with land reforms between 1800 to 1900. German junkers, Russian Kulaks, English lords  resisted, many successfully, from giving up their lands. Spain was an early mover with land sales in 1798-1808. The rest of Europe followed.

With vanishing of slaves, serfs and tenants, in 19th century, mechanization of farming was introduced with State support in Germany. German Junkers could maintain their hold and power right upto the Weimar Republic. Britain dragged its feet on land reform till the end of 19th century – especially in Ireland.

Land rights in India

In India, centralization of power increased from Qutubuddin Aibak (1206) onwards and introduction of iqtadari system – when a king’s pleasure amounted to land title. The 200 years foreign, Islāmic rule in India, by Turko-Persian offshoots, changed Indian property holding patterns. The Mughals modified this system into the jagirdari system.

The British in India went a step further. They dispossessed crores of Indians and created a uniquely oppressive system – the zamindari system. The British introduced another strain of this virus – public purpose. Peasants and tribals could be dispossessed of their land for a vague ‘public’ purpose – a policy that the modern Indian government continues.

In India, till the 12th century, vested property rights with the producer, upto the advent of the Islamic iqtadari system. Manusmriti states that ‘land is the property of him who cut away the wood or who tilled or cleared it’. To prevent concentration of landholdings in the hands of the few, sale, resale and purchase of property was not legal. Combined with the absence of slavery, it set up a unique situation – a virtuous circle.

With abundant food supply, since slaves were not available, and as land was not for sale, what would drive greed? What would make people want more gold?

Modern political theory

Indian thinkers responded with unique mechanisms to systematize the achievement of these three aspirations – ज़र, zar (gold), जन jan (people) and ज़मीन jameen (land). Desert Bloc administrators and usurpers of Indian polity inverted many of these systems and vilified these mechanisms, opposite of original design.

One important mechanism to achieve these aims was the चातर वर्णाश्रम chatar-varnashram (which the English misrepresented as the caste system). The other mechanism was the Indian marriage system. As Indian society started seeing greater flux, family and community started arranging marriages. The father commits the bride with dahej, community commits the husband to the future of the family. An interesting third element is how Indians were empowered to buy gold by the establishment of lakhs of dharamkantas. Dharamkantas, set up by by gold smiths, fully subsidized the cost of assaying gold.

Even the swastika, is tie-in with भारत-तंत्र Bharat-tantra. A mnemonic (reminder) against collusion and collaboration by (any of the) three parts of the society (intellectuals, polity, finance and labour) against a fourth. Or how trade and logistics, was separated into two parts, to prevent collusion and exploitation. Trade was handled by the vaishya community and logistics handled by the Banjara community – of whom the Roma Gypsies are an off shoot.

It was Parag Tope, (a regular reader of 2ndlook; co-writer of Operation Red Lotus) who first pointed out to me the possible linkage between Swastika and भारत-तंत्र Bharat-tantra. According to Parag Tope,

The Swastika represented a four way split in how functions in an organized society were separated to maintain a balance of power.  This balance was maintained by preventing collusion or “collaboration” by any of the two or more parts of the society.  The four functions were 1. production, 2. retail, 3. defence and implementation of polity, 4. knowledge of polity. Agrarian output belonged to the production value chain and landownership was therefore associated with production. Retail was separated from trade and transportation, to prevent collusion and exploitation. The knowledge of polity was separated from the implementation to maintain the balance of power.

The rights of man

Indian thought saw access to ज़र zar (gold), जन jan (people) and ज़मीन jameen (land) as pre-conditions, means if you will, for social equity. After ensuring access to these three essentials, भारत-तंत्र Bharat-tantra also defined four freedoms through these means.

These four freedoms are काम kaam (desire, including sexual) अर्थ arth (wealth), मोक्ष moksh (liberty) and धर्मं dharma (justice). Agnipurana mentions धर्मार्थकाममोक्षाश्च पुरुषार्था उदाहृताः Agni P.; H. Pr.35.-3 something which when done results in the satisfaction of the performer.

The power to tax was limited. Some of the common terms and methods were (from Vaman Apte’s Sanskrit Dictionary; search by Parag Tope) were: –

  1. बलिषड्भाग – the sixth part as a tribute;
  2. चतुर्थभाज् a. receiving a fourth part of every source of income from the subjects, as a king; (this is allowed only in times of financial embarrassments, the usual share being a sixth;
  3. षष्ठअंशः 1 a sixth part in general. -2 particularly, the sixth part of the produce of fields &c., which the king takes from his subjects as land-tax;
  4. प्रतिभागः – A share, portion (given to a king as a tax) of one’s income, generally a sixth part:
  5. उद्धारः – The sixth part of booty taken in war which belongs to the king; राज्ञश्च दद्युरुद्धारमित्येषा वैदिकी श्रुतिः Ms.7.97.

Modern Western polity promise different ‘freedoms’ that mean little. These ‘modern’ systems have made it either impossible (now) or unacceptable (earlier) to make money. Earlier, Christian ethics did not allow any economic activity. Except and unless it benefitted God, King and Country. Result, Jews captured vast sections of Christian economies. Now we have the capture of the economy by 0.5% of the population which makes all of us into employees.

Instead of real rights, काम kaam (desire, including sexual) अर्थ arth (wealth), मोक्ष moksh (liberty)and धर्मं dharma (justice), people were fobbed off with ‘free’ speech (in your drawing room, to yourself), ‘free’ press, (mortgaged to banks and advertisers), religious freedom,(subject to population planning), etc.

Say what you want! Does it matter? Mass media has always been under some kind of State control and direction. How free can any press be, anyway, if Big Advertisers control the business.

Witness, The Hounding of Tiger Woods. His crime? Sex with willing women.

What made Buddhism so attractive?

An early interpreter of this system was Gautama Buddha. In the Sutta Pitaka, Majjhima Nikaya, Book:2 (thanks for the link Parag Tope), Gautama explains to the novice, Asslaayana, the risk of dual-mode, slave-master societies, like Yavana-Khamboja (Greece-Cambodiya) compared to a चातर वर्णाश्रम chatar-varnashram society like India.

Taṃ kiṃ maññasi assalāyana, sutaṃ te: ‘yonakambojesu4 aññesu ca paccantimesu janapadesu dveva vaṇṇā, ayyo ceva dāso ca. Ayyo hutvā dāso hoti, dāso hutvā ayyo hotī’ti.

Assalàyana, have you heard of Greece, Cambodiya, and certain other bordering states. They have only two castes, masters and slaves. One becomes a master and then a slave, and a slave becomes a master?

Evaṃ bho sutaṃ me yonakambojesu aññesu ca paccantimesu janapadesu dveva vaṇṇā ayyo ceva dāso ca. Ayyo hutvā dāso hoti, dāso hutvā ayyo hoti’ti.

Good one, I have heard of Greece, Cambodiya, and certain other bordering states. They have only two castes, masters and slaves. One becomes a master and then a slave, and a slave becomes a master.

Till भारत-तंत्र Bharat-tantra became popular, the axis of Confucian-Platonic authoritarian, ‘wise’ rulers, who were not accountable, was (and again) the overwhelming model for the world. Property rights remained with less than 0.1% of the people.

Buddhism changed that.

Buddhism gained not because Buddha’s statues were prettier than the statues of previous deities. Or because Buddhist chants sounded better. If that, anyway, was the reason, the statues of previous divinities could have been prettified.

Resettling India – and law

In the post-Saraswati India, after thousands of cities were abandoned, and millions of people were resettled over a period of 1000 years, the principles of Indian polity were probably weakened. Buddha in India was one in the long line of many teachers, who continued the development of भारत-तंत्र Bharat-tantra – then known as dharma. Buddhism recognizes more than a 100 Boddhisatvas and Jainism recognizes some 24 tirthankaras. Chandragupta Maurya after his reign long reign, took vaanprastha and retired to a monastery in Karnataka as per Jain historiography.

Contextually, dharma itself was sub-divided deśadharma, dharma for different regions, jātidharma, dharma based on professional and social groups, and kuladharma, for different families and lineages. Many political and legal treatises were written. There are hundreds of original works, digests, compendiums, commentaries, expansions, developments dharmasutras, dharmashstras and nitishastra treatises in India. Major ideas of Āpastamba, Baudhāyana, Gautama (not Buddha), Manu, Shukra, Vasiṣṭha and Yagnavalkya were  developed and expounded. Shantiparva in Mahabharata, Chanakya’s Arthashastra, are well-known among the lay public.  Kautilya’s Arthshastra is hardly the most or even important.

Yājñavalkyasmṛti, the Dharmasutras of Āpastamba and Baudhayana (a part of the Kalpasūtra) are an important part of the dharmic laws. Various smritis were later hardened into written form – some of them being Manu-smṛti, Yājñavalkya-smṛti, Nārada-smṛti, Viṣṇu-smṛti, Bṛhaspati-smṛti, Kātyāyana-smṛti et al. Various bhashyas and nibandhas, tikas were written and used.

On Manusmriti by like Bhāruchi (of Bharuch, Gujarat, probably 7th century), Medhātithi, Manvartha-muktavali by Kullūka, Govindarāja, Nārāyaṇa, Raghavananda, Nandana.  Bālakrīḍā by Viśvarupa, Mitākṣarā by Vijñāneśvara, Aparārka, Dīpakalikā by Śūlapāṇi, Vīramitrodaya by Mitramiśra on Yājñavalkya Smṛti. Two related works on Naradasmriti are by Asahāya, whose commentary was further expanded by Kalyāṇbhaṭṭa. On Vishnusmriti, Nandapaṇḍita wrote the Vaijayantī.

There are extensive compendiums like Krtyakalpatara by Lakṣmīdhara, Smṛticandrikā by Devaṇṇa-bhaṭṭan, Dāyabhāga by Jīmūtavāhana, Caturvagacintāmani by Hemādri, by Caṇḍeśvara. Raja Todar Mal, one of Akbar’s navratna wrote the Ṭoḍarāndanda.

The offering of Sujata - Location: Fo Guang Shan 佛光山 Temple, Jenjarom, Malaysia (Photo courtesy - http://myloismylife.blogspot.com).

The offering of Sujata - Location: Fo Guang Shan 佛光山 Temple, Jenjarom, Malaysia (Photo courtesy - http://myloismylife.blogspot.com).

In the more recent history, from the Mithila school, we have Chandeshwara (also Caṇḍeśvara , Chandes(h)vara, Chandes(h)wara; early 14th century) who is most known for Rāja-nīti-ratnākara and Vivāda-ratnākara. From the same Mithila school, we also have Vachaspati Mishra  (also Vacaspati Misra) who wrote the chintamani series, Vivāda-cintāmani on 18 litigation-types. and a procedural text called the VyavaharaChintamani.

Two Deccani scholars, from Paithan, settled in Benares, rivals and cousins, one of whom was Kamalākara-bhatta (from 22 books), wrote Vivāda-tāṇḍava and Nirnaya-sindhu and his cousin Nīlakaṇṭha’s treatises (early and middle 17th century) Vyavahāra-mayūkha and Bhagavanta-bhāskara are the most known. Dattaka-mīmāmsā by Nanda-paṇḍita (late 16th – early 17th century) was used by colonial British authorities as Hindu law topic of judicial procedure.

Pratāparudra-deva, Gajapati dynasty king from Orissa, commissioned a group of brahmins and pandits to make a comprehensive digest of Indic Law, which came to be known as the Saraswati-vilasa (also Saraswati-vilasa). Vīrasiṃha, the king of Orccha (1605-1627) appointed Mitra-miśra (Early 17th century) leading to a comprehensive legal digest, the Vīramitrodaya.

Lessons in भारत-तंत्र Bharat-tantra are delivered through the twenty-five Vikram and Vetal case-studies; many Buddhist Jatakas; Panchatantra and the Hitopdesa.

The real battle

In contrast to भारत-तंत्र Bharat-tantra, under the cuius regio, eius religio, principle (meaning whose land, his religion; CRER) even the most personal religious beliefs of the individual were subject to State approval, as per law.

Population Density - Major Countries (7 of 10 countries are influenced by Indian culture).

Population Density - Major Countries (7 of 10 countries are influenced by Indian culture).

Why is the Chinese Communist Government afraid of Buddhist monks. Why does Lee Kuan Yew promote Confucianism. Or the Japanese are trying to revive Shintoism? Faced with a reality of ‘warm-bodies-shortage’ in the 19th century, the West invented  ‘liberalism’, secular’ Governments, Marxism, Socialism et al. It is these principles which accounts for the low levels of diversity in the West – and which also accounts for the shrillness with which the West proclaims its ‘liberalism’ – facts being otherwise.

Sterile asuric systems always looked to India for their illegitimate needs of ज़र, zar, (gold), जन jan (people) and ज़मीन jameen (land). When the African continent could no longer accept further population reductions, combined with slave revolts, the British turned to India for जन jan – people as indentured labour. When the British needed money to repay America for WWI debt, it is India which bailed out USA – and Britain.

The fruits of democracy

In ‘modern’ India, European thought dominates academic and intellectual discourse. One such example is democracy – which lulls us into a stupor of inaction, while it gives us an illusion of being powerful. Instead of being involved in our societies, localities and communities on a daily basis, it wakes us up once in five years at election time. After five years of stupor and laziness, this political device makes us talk loudly, rudely.

And we go to sleep again.

The device of democracy also corrupts our mind. Instead of focusing on the behavior of rulers and politicians, it diverts our minds to believe that the solution is to replace one bad ruler with another. It creates a collusive polity where bad rulers conspire with each other, against us.

This fruit of democracy is a strange poison.

Understanding भारत-तंत्र Bharat-tantra

The principles of भारत-तंत्र Bharat-tantra remain a part of mixed and corrupted, oral history. Over the last two years, many 2ndlook posts have identified the principles – but भारत-तंत्र Bharat-tantra has been never presented as a complete body of polity system.

That is now being done in the table below. Given below is a comparison table detailing how asuric polity from the Desert Bloc is different from भारत-तंत्र Bharat-tantra. Each point is linked to a post that further elaborates on the subject. Clicking on that link will open the post in a new window /tab.

——-

Law and jurisprudence

Description दुरातंत्र (duratantra) सुरातंत्र (suratantra) Remarks
Ideology Western political systems: –

  1. Feudalism
  2. Capitalism
  3. Socialism
  4. Communism
Indic political system

  1. Bharat-tantra
Judicial systems
  1. Distant courts
  1. Local justice
  • Accessible justice
Litigation Cost
  1. Expensive
  2. Time consuming
  1. Low costQuick
Last court of appeal
  1. ‘Fair king’ illusion used to create faith in justice
  1. No centralized judicial authority
  • No centralized manipulation
Case load Large volume of

  1. Crime
  2. Laws
  3. Practitioners
  4. Case bodies
  5. Precedents
  1. Minimal localized law
  2. Principle based
  • Low dispute society
Legal punishment
  1. Death
  2. Imprisonment
  3. Fines
  4. Police State
  1. No prisons
  2. Fines
  3. Exile
  4. Member Behaviour – Family & Community responsibility
Indians low on crime

————–

Economic arrangements

Description दुरातंत्र (duratantra) सुरातंत्र (suratantra) Remarks
Wealth Distribution
  1. Wealth and power concentrated with 0.5%-5% of population
  1. Wealth and property distributed in the population
Integration of Business Activity
  1. Vertical and horizontal integration encouraged
  1. Business linkage between independent producers allowed
Economic Domination
  1. Monopolistic tendencies
  1. Monopolization undercut by economic silos
Economic opportunities People given choice

  1. Slavery
  2. Employment
  1. Self employment
  2. Slavery absent
  • Steady growth economy
Currency and coinage
  1. State controls gold supply
  2. Fiat currency
  3. Legal tender
  1. Private coinage
  2. Gold stocks dispersed in the population
Property rights
  1. Land belongs to the State
  2. Property barons and Government collude to corner ‘prized’ lands
  1. Property belongs to the user.
  2. Non-use of property is an offence
  • High social equity
Entrepreneurial Structure
  1. State encouragement
  2. Corporate structure
  1. Private initiative
  2. No role for State
  • Quick rebound of economic activity
Trade and logistics
  1. Unified
  2. Monolithic
Split between (for insance)

  1. Vaishyas
  2. Banjaras
Ecological footprint Social design based on

  1. Eating meat
  2. Using leather
  3. State supervision
  4. Green movement
  5. Environmental activism
Built in ‘green’ agenda using

  1. Vegetarian food
  2. Natural fibre
  3. Community activism
To study and build on how Indians corporations: –

—————-

Social arrangements

Description दुरातंत्र (duratantra) सुरातंत्र (suratantra) Remarks
Population growth
  1. Weak family structure
  2. Single status is common
  1. Marriage is the norm
  2. Stable marriage and family structure
  • Fertile populations (see population density table above).
Ethnic Diversity
  1. Anti-diversity
  1. High diversity
Linguistic plurality
  1. Assimilation required
  2. Integrated essential
  1. Low cultural compliance
  • USA – Meyer vs Nebraska
  • France killed regional languages
Loyalty
  1. Central authority gets mercenary loyalty
Focus on

  1. Values
  2. Family
  3. Community
Marital possibility
  1. Marriage possible only for a small minority
  1. Marriage is a norm – not a possibility.
Marital economics
  1. Marriage based on ‘bride-price’ (meher; alimony, etc.).
  1. Marriage built on co-investment by both families in the new family unit.
Marital mechanics
  1. Family-‘arranged’ marriages seen as anti-‘freedom’
  2. Lawyer-managed marriages and divorce in West.
  3. Unstable marriages due to ‘compatibility idyll’.
  1. Mostly arranged.
  2. Swayamvars and self-selection as by Savitri also possible
  3. Compatibility expected to grow.
Marital systems
  1. Marriage difficult due to ‘compatibility’ idyll.
Commitment to marital stability

  1. In early stages by bride through dowry
  2. In late stages by husband with family pacts and transfer of wealth to the grih-lakshmi
Social identity Derived from The One

  1. Geography
  2. Language
  3. Administration
  4. Book (Bible, Koran, Torah).
  5. Race
  6. Currency,
  7. Law,
  8. God
Bharat-ah, Aryavart, were about shared values –

  1. Freedom
  2. Liberty
  3. Equity
  4. Anti-slavery
Food
  1. Standardized Food
  1. Non-competitive food behaviour
Social Interface
  1. Single-handed greeting norms
  1. Greetings with both hands
Sports
  1. Modern sport as propaganda
  1. Indian board games as learning and strategy
Sexual freedom
  1. Limitations on personal freedom
  2. Sexual behaviour criminalized – adultery, homosexuality, polygamy.
  1. Land of kamasutra
  2. Yudhisthira and Raghu Ramachandra were monogamous
  3. Polygamy allowed
  4. Polyandry too allowed
  • Wide latitude for individual choice.

******************

Educations, arts, science and technology

Description दुरातंत्र (duratantra) सुरातंत्र (suratantra) Remarks
Education
  1. State sponsored
  2. State directed
  1. Private sector
  2. Check on the political propaganda
Arts State commissioned projects Private patronage of arts
Technology
  1. Wealthy patrons fund R&D
  1. Private enterprise drives R&D
Technology & Innovation
  1. Restrictions on knowledge
  2. Patents & copyright
  1. Open-source system
  2. Non-copyright and non-patent system.
City and Town Planning
  1. Centralized
  2. Statutory town planning
  1. Decentralized
  2. Vaastu shastra in S-IVC
Healthcare
  1. State sector
  2. Subsidized
  1. Private sector
  2. Non-subsidized
History and Historiography Focuses on: –

  1. Day Date Time
  2. Place Temperature Climate Conditions
  3. Agenda is ‘narrative of superiority’.
Focuses on: –

  1. Learnings and lessons
  2. Characters and personalities
  3. Timelessness

******************

Military and defense systems and technology

Description दुरातंत्र (duratantra) सुरातंत्र (suratantra) Remarks
Military Preference for standing armies Volunteer armies
Armies Primogeniture funnels officers into armies Military markets
Government size Maximum government Minimum government
Head of State
  1. Conqueror /Emperor /King model
  1. Mahajanapada model
  2. Rajasuya yagna

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.

 

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