HOW BRITAIN PROMOTED OPIUM IN INDIA

July 18, 2012

Gen. Krish Seth, a close friend, and former Governor of Chhattisgarh has written to me a brief note commenting on my blog of last Sunday, July 15, based on Will Durant’s book A Case for India.

 

Seth writes:

           

The blog is an eye-opener. I am confident our present generation is totally unaware of these facts. At best they know that once upon a time India was SONEY KI CHIDIYA and nothing else. Even our text books in schools have never brought out these facts.

Great effort to put it so simply.

-Gen. Seth

 

will-durantMy blog gives only a glimpse of the painstaking work done by the great historian. The book is replete with facts which convincingly prove Durant’s verdict that the treatment meted out to India by the British imperialists is the “greatest crime in all history.” While I strongly commend the entire book to those who read this blog of mine I would like to share with my regular readers yet another glimpse of this wonderful book.

 

Today, it is universally acknowledged that the two basic touchstones to judge a country’s conditions are its performance in the field of education and healthcare. Judged by these two criteria the world had always criticised governments who neglected these two spheres. But Will Durant shows how the British rulers in India deliberately and systematically, destroyed whatever wholesome existed. A Case for India has a chapter titled, Social Destruction.  In this, Will Durant writes:

 

When the British came there was throughout India, a system of communal schools managed by the village communities. The agents of the East India Company destroyed these village communities….

 

There are now (100 years later) in India 730,000 villages and only 162,015 primary schools. Only 7% of the boys and 1½ % of the girls receive schooling i.e. 4% of the whole.

 

“In 1911 a Hindu representative, Gokhale, introduced a bill for universal compulsory education in India. It was defeated by the British and Government appointed members. In 1916, Patel introduced a similar bill, which was defeated by the British and Government appointed members.”

 

What follows is even more shocking.  Durant says:

 

“Instead of encouraging education, the Government encouraged drink. When the British came, India was a sober nation. ‘The temperance of the people,’ said Warren Hastings, ‘is demonstrated in the simplicity of their food and their total abstinence from spirituous liquors and other substances of intoxication.’

 

“With the first trading posts established by the British, saloons were opened for the sale of rum, and the East India Company made handsome profits from the trade. When the Crown took over India it depended on the saloons for a large parts of its revenue; the license system was so arranged as to stimulate drinking and sales.

 

“The Government revenue from such licenses has increased seven-fold in the last forty years; in 1922 it stood at $60,000,000 annually-three times the appropriation for schools and universities.’

 

Referring to Katherine Mayo’s malicious book against India, Mother India, Will Durant writes:

 

Miss Mayo tells us that Hindu mothers feed opium to their children; and she concludes that India is not fit for Home Rule. 

 

What she says is true; what she does not say makes what she says worse than a straight-forward lie. 

 

She does not tell us (though she must have known) that women drug their children because the mothers must abandon them every day to go to work in the factories. 

 

She does not tell us that the opium is grown only by the Government, and is sold exclusively by the Government; that its sale, like the sale of drink through saloons, is carried on despite the protest of the Nationalist Congress, the Industrial and Social Conferences, the Provincial Conferences, the Brahmo-Somaj, the Arya-Somaj, the Mohammedans and the Christians, that there are seven thousand opium shops in India, operated by the British Government, in the most conspicuous places in every town; that the Central Legislature in 1921 passed a bill prohibiting the growth or sale of opium in India, and that the Government refused to act upon it; that from two to four hundred thousand acres of India’s soil, sorely needed for the raising of food, are given over to the growing of opium; and that the sale of the drug brings to the Government one-ninth of its total revenue every year.

 

macaulayThe concluding paragraph of this chapter quotes an excerpt of Lord Macaulay’s speech in the House of Commons, delivered on July 10, 1833. (this means nearly one hundred years before this book was written).

 

Durant quotes Lord Macaulay saying:

 

It was…the practice of the miserable tyrants whom we found in India, that when they dreaded the capacity and spirit of some distinguished subjects, and yet could not venture to murder him, to administer to him daily dose of the pousta, a preparation of opium, the effect of which was in a few months to destroy all the bodily and mental powers of the wretch who was drugged with it, and turn him into a helpless idiot. That detestable artifice, more horrible than assassination itself, was worthy of those who employed it. It is no model for the English nation. We shall never consent to administer the pousta to a whole community, to stupefy and paralyze a great people.

 

 

L.K. Advani

New Delhi

18 July, 2012

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