By Promod Puri

Yes, the Kohinoor, tons of gold and jewellery got plundered by the Empire.

Besides, according to one estimate, by Columbia University economist Utsa Patnaik, the British robbed India of $45 trillion from 1765 to 1938 thru taxes. The East India Company first introduced the levies after getting the collection rights; later, the Raj extended them across the sub-continent.

The Empire used the tax revenue to buy Indian goods like spices, textiles, iron, timber, etc. Essentially, it meant the free purchasing of items exported and sold in Britain or other countries at 100 percent profit.

The author termed it as neat loot by the British.

Lately, in the last few years, the plunderage by the colonial regime has aroused quite an interest, shock and even outrage in India that has been an easy sell to advance nationalistic sentiments.

While we notice and can accept the booty revelation on one side of the coin and then flip to the other, we witness a notable and even monumental contribution of the British colonization of India towards its development and modernization.

Education and the introduction of English, for example, stand out in developing and bringing the country to its present-day status. In this regard, India would not have produced great leaders like Ambedkar, Gandhi, and Nehru. They became influential world luminaries from their learnings achieved through the British education system.

Schools, colleges and several universities teaching humanities and sciences the Britishers started all across the country. Moreover, establishments relating to research in various fields, like the Forest Research Institute in Dehra Doon, got international recognition for their pioneer studies and explorations. The statistical survey of India, the Archeological Survey, and the Census board are the other institutions created during the Raj. Bombay, Madras, Calcutta, Aligarh and Allahabad universities got their foundations with the help of British bureaucrats and administrators.

In addition, the infrastructure in roads, rails and magnificent rail stations like the one in Mumbai, administrative buildings from the Parliament to Rashtrapati Bhavan, and many more throughout India are their major contributing factors.

The Raj’s introduction of bureaucracy laid the foundation to govern the country’s affairs.

Apart from the educational initiatives, structural monuments and bureaucratic setup, one significant benefaction was treating the Dalits and low caste people on par with high caste communities. Life for the caste-based outcasts was most miserable for centuries. The Britishers provided them education and equal-opportunity employment hitherto denied to them.

Let us, for a moment, look at how the British indiscriminate job policy changed or influenced the change in the country’s social landscape as far as the Dalits communities were concerned.

Ambedkar’s father served as a junior officer in the British-Indian army. Still, he earned enough salary for his children’s education, who could otherwise go illiterate under the discriminatory social norms deep down in the country. As a result, the young Ambedkar got his primary and college education with a B.A. and double M.A.s, then earned PhDs and Barrister of Law and several more distinguished degrees from Osmania University, London and New York.

India was not a ‘Sone Ki Chiddiya”, a ‘golden bird’ when Britishers started their rule over its disintegrated and independent despotic dynasties from Mughals to small states’ maharajas, rajas and Nawabs.

It does not matter much in the dictatorial or fascist rundown if India faced white colonialism or brown autocratic regimes. An example is the free Kashmir movement from the Dogra Raj that took place simultaneously in India against British rule.

But during the British occupation of India, it earned both unworthy and worthy reception during its two-century reign. It was brutal and occasionally vicious, like the Jalianwala Bagh massacre, and benevolent towards the nation building as a modern society.

The $45-trillion loot, as calculated by the academician, only determines the British rule’s economic haul. But Raj’s contribution to India’s overall development in its infrastructures, education and social reforms, like the legal abolition of the Sati system, reflects monetary values and worthy social changes towards evolution and advancement in the contemporary world.

On another deserving note, the Britishers helped develop tea cultivation, making it the nation’s national drink. And the introduction of cricket now occupies the status of a most popular India’s national sport, an industry worth millions of dollars.

As they say, every cloud has a silver lining; the 200 years of the British cloud over the 30 to 40 small and big fiefdoms resulted in the outpouring that united the nation for integrated struggles towards Independence from the Empire. The  Independence movement led by the Indian National Congress Party was founded by Allan Octavian Hume, an anti-colonial British activist, in 1885.

Agreeing, the Britishers looted India economically, but in this loot, they left their legacy of footprints that India followed and walked on to a free republic nation after its Independence in 1947.

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