On The Eve Of Independence
Question 1: Name some notable economists who estimated India’s per capita income during the colonial period.
Answer: Some notable economists who estimated India’s per capita income during the colonial period are as follows:
- Dadabhai Naoroji
- William Digbi
- Findlay Shirras
- V K R V Rao
- R C Desai
Question 2: What was the focus of the economic policies pursued by the colonial government in India? What were the impacts of these policies?
Answer: The colonial rulers were more interested in pursuing their own economic goals rather than that of India. They focused on making India a net supplier of raw materials, so that the British industry could get plenty of raw materials. Moreover, they deliberately worked on destroying the local industry so that a huge market for British manufactured goods could be created in India. Some of the impacts of such policies are as follows:
- The handicraft sector came to be in a terminal decline. This resulted in large scale employment.
- British manufactured goods flooded the Indian market and people lapped them up because they were cheaper.
- The GDP of India reduced drastically during the colonial rule.
- No local industry could grow during the colonial period.
Question 3: What were the main causes of India’s agricultural stagnation during the colonial period?
Answer: Following are the main causes of India’s agricultural stagnation during the colonial period:
- Various land settlement systems which were introduced by the British from time to time were faulty. The system ensured that zamindars only focused on collecting the revenue but paid no attention to land development.
- The British rulers paid no attention to develop irrigation system and hence agriculture was highly dependent on monsoon.
- No upgradation in technology could take place during this period and as a result, farming remained at the level of subsistence farming.
Question 4: Name some modern industries which were in operation in our country at the time of independence.
Answer: Following are some of the modern industries which were in operation on our country at the time of independence:
- Textiles Industry
- Iron and Steel Industry
- Sugar Industry
- Cement Industry
Question 5: What was the two-fold motive behind the systematic deindustrialization effected by the British in pre-independent India?
Answer: The two fold motive behind the systematic deindustrialization effected by the British in pre-independence India is as follows:
- To make India are the net supplier of raw materials
- To make a huge market for British manufactured goods in India
Question 6: The traditional handicrafts industries were ruined under the British rule. Do you agree with this view? Give reasons in support of your answer.
Answer: This is a correct statement that the traditional handicrafts industries were ruined under the British rule. This is evident from the fact that by the fag end of the colonial rule in India, most of the workers in handloom and handicraft sector were unemployed. This is also evident from the fact that more and more people were preferring clothes from Manchester over the clothes made by the local weavers. Similarly, most of the goods consumed by people were made in Britain as Indian made goods could not compete with them.
Question 7: What objectives did the British intend to achieve through their policies of infrastructure development in India?
Answer: It is beyond doubt that the British developed a lot of infrastructure in India; like railways, roads and postal and telegraph services. But while doing so, their goal was never to serve the people of India. They built infrastructure to serve their own interests. Roads were developed so that the armed forces could be mobilized and raw materials could be transported to the nearest railway station. The rail network was developed so that raw materials and finished goods could be easily transported across the country. Telegraph services were developed for security purposes.
Question 8: Critically appraise some of the shortfalls of the industrial policy pursued by the British colonial administration.
Answer: The industrial policy pursued by the British colonial administration was having many shortfalls. Their policy never promoted the development of indigenous industry. This led to continuous decline of the Indian industry. Some new industries; like cotton textiles and iron and steel began to come up at the beginning of the 20th century, but it was not because of any friendly British policy. Most of the industries came up through private capital which was invested the Indian entrepreneurs. However, the jute textiles industry was mainly dominated by the British entrepreneurs. The Second World War created a good demand for Indian manufactured goods in Britain and this led to some development of industries in India. But the British rulers never tried to develop any public sector enterprise; except the railways. Nevertheless, railways helped a lot in developing various industries in India.
Question 9: What do you understand by the drain of Indian wealth during the colonial period?
Answer: Throughout the colonial rule, India became a net exporter of raw materials and a net importer of finished goods. Foreign trade from India was mainly restricted to Britain and to some other countries; like China, Ceylon and Iran. During the colonial period, India was an export surplus country, but this did not mean any foreign exchange earnings or inflow of gold or silver to India. Whatever wealth came to India; in the form of bullion was utilized by the British rulers to maintain their offices in India. Thus, in spite of surplus exports, Indian did not get any benefit from the inflow of bullion or foreign exchange. This resulted in a huge drain of Indian wealth during the colonial period.
Question 10: Which is regarded as the defining year to mark the demographic transition from its first to the second decisive stage?
Answer: The year 1921 is regarded as the defining year to mark the demographic transition from its first to the second decisive stage.
Question 11: Give a quantitative appraisal of India’s demographic profile during the colonial period.
Answer: Following is the quantitative appraisal of India’s demographic profile during the colonial period:
- Overall literacy level was less than 16% and female literacy was less than 7%.
- Infant mortality was very high at 218 per 1000 live births.
- Life expectancy was 44 years.
Question 12: Highlight the salient features of India’s pre-independence occupational structure.
Answer: The agricultural sector employed the largest portion of the workforce; at the level of 70 to 75%. The manufacturing sector employed about 10% of the workforce. The services sector employed about 15 to 20% of the workforce.
But the occupational structure was full of regional variations. For example; in Madras Presidency, Bombay and Bengal; dependence on agriculture had significantly reduced. Development of various industries in these regions can be attributed to such variations. In these regions, more and more people were joining the manufacturing and services sector.
Question 13: Underscore some of India’s most crucial economic challenges at the time of independence.
Answer: Some of the most crucial economic challenges at the time of independence were as follows:
- Development and public orientation of railways and roadways.
- Development of basic industries; like iron and steel.
- Improvement of private capital.
- Increasing employment opportunities.
- Increasing various aspects of human development index; like literacy, child mortality, life expectancy, etc.
- Technology upgradation in agriculture and land reforms.
Question 14: When was India’s first official census operation undertaken?
Answer: India’s first official census operation was undertaken in 1881.
Question 15: Indicate the volume and direction of trade at the time of independence.
Answer: At the time of independence, India was an exporter of primary products; like raw silk, cotton, wool, sugar, indigo, etc. Additionally, India was a net importer of finished goods from Britain. Britain was the main trading partner of India. However, trade also continued with China, Sri Lanka and Iran.
Question 16: Were there any positive contributions made by the British in India? Discuss.
Answer: While we discuss all the negatives associated with the British rule in India, we often tend to forget many positives which came to India due to colonial rule. The biggest contribution by the British was the construction of the railways. Railways connected almost the whole country which facilitated inland trade and cross cultural exchange. The British also introduced postal and telegraph services which helped in communication and thus supported business activities. The British also made fundamental changes in the laws of the land which further helped in enhancing the business environment in India.