Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Industries, Foreign Trade, Demography & Infrastructure Condition before Indian Independence

This article has been written by Sachin Vashishth for PADMAD.ORG

Industrial Sector before Independence

Before we go further, let’s first understand a term called ‘systematic de-industrialization’.

This term simply represent and means the condition of the industrial sector during the British rule.

It encloses two events which were the decaying of Indian handicrafts industry and the minimal growth of modern industries in India.

Both of these implications are discussed below.

1. Decay of Handicrafts- Causes

(a) Discriminatory tariff policy

When the British first came to India around the 17th century, there was an industrial revolution going on in Britain and parts of Europe.

To meet the need of raw materials, the British removed the taxes on exports of those raw materials which were sent to Britain.

Once those raw materials were turned into finished products, they were again imported to India to be sold in Indian markets.

This import was also done tax free.

While the British were transporting their raw and finished goods in and out of the country duty free, at the same time they imposed heavy taxes on Indian handicraft products.

This led a gradual demise of the handicraft industry.

(b) Disappearing of Kings and Kingdoms

Once the British started taking over India, the old houses of kings and princes started to fall like dominoes.

These kings and their houses gave huge significance to the Indian craftsmanship and took them in very high regard.

As soon as they fell, the appreciation for such products tumbled and hence, the craftsmen were forced to close shops, forever.

(c) Competition from Machines

The Indian products which were obviously handmade, took too much time and hard work and still could not match the finish and quality of the finished goods which were made by machines.

Also, the machine goods were produced on huge scales in a very short amount of time. Hence, the Indian handicraft industry crumbled beneath it.

(d) Change in Society

As the British came, they brought with them their own culture.

Some wealthy families of India, who were keen to get acquainted with them, started adopting those cultures and hence started neglecting their own traditions.

This brought about a change in the needs of the society.

The demands for products with increased precision and quality rose, hence diminishing the need for Indian made products.

(e) Birth of a railway network

The British introduced us to the trains.

They started building this network in order to access the deeper parts of the country’s markets and also to transport raw materials from around the country.

As the British made products were low in cost, and their increased range of market, the demand for those products spread.

2. Slow growth of modern Industries in India

During the entire span of British rule in India, our country only marginally witnessed a growth in modern industry.

This was so because of lack of efforts on the British government’s part.

There were some developments in textile, cement, iron and sugar industries, but not because the British wanted development for the country.

This was a result of the two world wars which created a shortage of clothes, food and metal around the world.

Some rich Indian industrialists seized this opportunity to get richer.

Foreign trade before Independence

India had become a very important part of world trade due to its geographic location in the Indian Ocean and also because of the high quality textile, cotton, iron and sugar products.

With the arrival of the British and their exploitation of the natural resources of our country for raw materials, left the country as a sole provider of raw materials.

India had become an exploited colony of the British.

For the sake of foreign trade, more than 50% of it was restricted with the British in the form of export of raw materials to the British and import of finished goods from them.

The profits and funds gained from these and the remaining trades were not even used for any kind of development in India apart from the railways.

These were used to improve the efficiency of the British rule, of which, the railway network was also a huge and integral part.

Demographic profile before independence

Infant Mortality rate- the number of deaths of children below the age of one year was very high at that time.

218 infants out of every thousand died before they reached their first birthdays.

This was a sign of very poor and backward economy as it showed poor healthcare and infrastructure.

Life expectancy- the average life span of a person at that time was 32 years while at present it is 63.5 years. This showed lack of awareness and poor social development.

Literacy rate- about 16 percent of men and 7 percent of women were able to read and write at that time. This showed the extent of lack of efforts on behalf of the British towards the economic and social development of India.

Infrastructure before independence

Infrastructure means elements related to economic change like transport, communication, banking facilities, power etc. and social change like education, health and housing facilities.

Development of these elements is the base for social and economic development of any country.

The British did introduce railway network in the country but their motive was neither social nor economic growth.

It was for their own selfish needs of improving the efficiency of their governance in the country and also to improve the transport of raw materials and products from and to the ports.

Apart form railways, the British also introduced posts and telegrams, construction of new ports and roads in the country.

But again, it was with the motive of expansion of their own rule and not the development of the country.

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