Ruling the Countryside

Ruling the Countryside: East India Company in Bengal

Bengal was India’s most fertile and profitable land during the 18th and 19th century. The British, and the East India Company, in particular, profited greatly by trading in Bengal. The British began their political control over India with their influence in Bengal. Let us take a look.

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East India Company in Bengal

Robert Clive, later known as Clive of India was the first British governor of Bengal. In 1765 the Mughal Emperor of India under duress made the East India company the Diwan of Bengal. But the East India Company were traders not administrators and they had no idea how to rule. And so began the decades of economic and social crisis for the people of Bengal.

Ruling the Countryside: East India Company in Bengal

Revenue for the Company

East India Company had many challenges to tackle one of which was tackling the locals. They had powers to control them, purchasing and selling things which they needed, and generate revenues by being the new powers in an alien land.

East India Company started buying cotton and silk at a cheap rate by importing gold and silver from Britain and in five years the price doubled of the goods they purchased and they used that revenue to export. Hence, this resulted in the downfall of Bengal Financial state.

The Need to Improve Agriculture

Ruling the Countryside: East India Company in Bengal 

In 1793 company came up with a Permanent Settlement. In this situation, they made Rajas as Zamindars.They collected rent from the poor section and thereafter pay to Company. The amount which was collected was fixed and it was decided that the amount remain same in future.

There were hurdles to this revenue generation system of which, first was Zamindar’s who were not able to pay were removed from zamindar status. Zamindar’s also lost interest in paying more attention to land.When the crops start yielding a good amount of profit it didn’t help the company as the amount decided was fixed.

Mahalwari Settlement (North India) came into the picture in 1822 and was introduced by Holt Machenize. In this, the village headman (Mahal) was given the responsibility of collecting the revenue and the amount was not fixed. Another system was Ryotwari Settlement which was introduced by Captain Alexander and the company was directly involved in the collection and amount was not fixed.

Indigo Produce

 Ruling the Countryside: East India Company in Bengal 

Indigo produce to benefit the company as it was used by Italy, France, and Britain to dye cloth. Britain started exporting Indigo in large number. During Indigo cultivation the company started expanding in India to meet the rising demand of Europe.

Indigo was cultivated using two methods, Nij and Ryobi. As peasants used to get the almost none of the Indigo cultivation they started a riot by refusing to grow Indigo in 1859 March. After the riot, a commission was established wherein it was decided that there would be no forced Indigo Cultivation due to which the Bengal witnessed a dip in Indigo Cultivation and it was shifted to Bihar. In 1977 Champaran Movement led by Gandhiji stopped Indigo Cultivation in Bihar as well.

Solved Question for You

Question: Why were ryots reluctant to grow indigo?

Answer: The ryots were reluctant to grow indigo as the planters were paid a very low price for indigo. The ryot was not in a position to even recover any cost and earn a profit. Due to this, the planters insisted on cultivating rice for which the soil was much preferred. Apart from these, the plant of indigo had deep roots which harmed the soil fertility, further making the land unfit for cultivation of rice.

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