Friday, May 19, 2017

How much wealth was looted from India by Britain?

How much wealth did Britain loot from India during the colonial period?
Were there specific palaces or treasuries that were lost?

Is there a comprehensive list of specific treasures, such as the Koh-i-Noor diamond that is part of the British Crown Jewels?

Answered collected from various authors are given under : 

Credit : Aravind Chandrasekaran :
In short they looted an Indian's self image, self-reliance and  mutual trust and respect which continues to this day and can be considered the biggest intangible yet costliest loot.

Now coming to the point of how much was "Looted". The estimates vary from as low as around 100,000 pounds every annum during Mughal times to 35 Million pounds or so by Dadabhai Nauroji. Till the battle of Plassey, India of course had a big trade surplus with the World who had nothing to offer except gold in exchange for textiles, silk and spices. But once the British won the battle of Plassey, the great loot of Bengal started and they had a monopoly on trade and basically funded everything from their industrial revolution to high taxes for British goods in America to the World wars Britain fought successfully. Basically in 200 years of British rule India was transformed from one of the World's wealthiest nation (along with China controlled World's 70-80% GDP for past 20 or so centuries) to one of the poorest.

The sad part is the system of governance and the babus created by the British still loot India though being Indians themselves. The wealth as looted by one scam these days really touches a century of loot by the British during the Raj!

Credit :  Vishal Kale
 Covered in :
Colonial Damage in Numbers by Vishal Kale on Blast from India's Past

3.9 Million Pounds paid by Mir Jafar to East India Company 1757
230000 pounds per annum from Mir Jafar's Successor
Annual takling 1932900 pounds from Bengal Bihar and Orissa
Annual revenue from Bihar alone: 680000 pounds
Famine 1770 : 10 million dead, directly due to British policies
Annual revenue from Bengal from 1793: 2.68 million pounds
Famines in 1783, 1792, 1807, 1813, 1823, 1834 and 1854
Famines in 1877, 1878, 1889, 1892, 1897, 1900 : 15 million dead. Note how the incidence of famine has increased with the passage of colonial rule...
Revenue from Allahabad: Pounds 1682306 per annum circa 1800s
Land Tax: 50% of produce
Maratha area: annual revenue 1,500,000 pounds per annum  circa 1800s
Indian Debt: pounds 51,000,000 in 1857
Indian Debt: pounds 97,000,000 in 1862
Indian Debt pounds 200,000,000 in 1901
44 Million sterling annual outflow from India to Britain. Multiply this figure alone by around 150 - that is approximate 6600 Million - 6.6 Billion. Now compound by 8%... the number comes to 37 Trillion pounds - or nearly 73 Trillion Dollars. India's external debt as on March 2011 was 345.8 Billion Dollars.  . (This last bit - the compounding and the extrapolation of annual revenues over 150 years is my guesstimate; to equal it out I have used a factor 112 years)
Just one years revenue earnings to the British amount to 243 Billion Sterling- nearly 480 Billion Dollars even when I compound it by just 8%..... more than our total external debt . Just one years takings...

Now just compound the 1.5 Million taking in 1757 for 245 years at 8% - and you get a jaw-dropping number of 232 Trillion Sterling - or 475 Trillion Dollars.

 Credit :  Sridhar GanesanSoftware Developer: 

Summary the nature of loot.
War Indemnity
In the first phase of the rule of the British, war indemnity was the primary source of loot. Whenever the opponent loses war, the Britisher's would plunder their territory as war indemnity, and administer them including collection of taxes.

Subsidiary Alliance and Doctrine of Lapse
This was a very clever policy in which the princely states would provide money(precious stones, territory, etc..) to the Britishers in return for the protection of their territories. This helped Britishers grow a large army at the cost of the princely states. The treaty was also such that if they were not able to pay money, the state has to cede a part of the territory and many states did cede their territory(to protect the territory :P). In Doctrine of Lapse, if the current king doesn't have a hier to run the administration, that territory would be annexed by the British.

Heavy taxation of Indian Goods in Britain
Indian handmade cotton was very popular in British and other parts of the world, realizing this, the British raised import duty as high as 400% to some goods which resulted in making the Indian goods very costly and eventually forcing the traders and the artists to quit and look for other jobs.

Industrial Revolution
British Industries needed raw materials which were abundant in India. Britishers reduced the Indian's from manufacturers to just producer of raw materials due to the tax policies. When the final goods were made, they needed a market which India was. So, they sucked in the raw materials at a fraction of cost and supplied the mill-made goods back. The hand-made goods from India were not able to compete with the mill made goods from England and eventually everyone were wiped out. Indian Industries were also not promoted as they have to cross the bureaucratic hurdles to setup their industries.
At that stage the employment opportunities were also minimal and if one has to join in government service, one has to study in England which was too costly. At most times, even the highest payed Indian could not go higher than the lowest payed Englishmen such was the discrimination against Indians.

Land Revenue System
After  the Battle of Buxar, East India Company got rights to collect taxes,  and if the first two policies were a direct attack on the  princes/kingdoms, this one was a direct attack on common people. They  established three systems - Permanent Settlement, Ryotwari System and  Mahalwari System whereever these systems were found suitable. Indian  population was predominantly agricultural depending on lands for their  income. In the permanent settlement system zamindars who were given the  responsibility to collect taxes and give a fixed tax to the company. So  if the zamindars collected more tax it could benefit them as they have  to pay only a fixed amount to the British, and they started collecting  more taxes. In Ryotwari system, the land was made saleable and if the  farmers fails to pay taxes, their land were ceased. In Mahalwari system,  where the cultivators have to provide a % of their yield which was very  high.

All the taxes collected were not contributed to the development of India, they were used for
* Home charges - Expenditure incurred in England on behalf of India,
* To fund Military and civil service. Indian Civil Service was the highest paid service and the most sought after at that point.
* To pay Dividend to the shareholders of East India Company.

And even before 1857, most of the wealth was drained away - Princes had to live on pensions from the company, farmers had to give away their lands if they failed to pay taxes, traders were suppressed due to heavy taxes, industrialists had to live with discriminative laws and there were no alternate employement opportunities. So, what remained for people? Nothing.

One the Englishman had told - The system acts like a sponge - sucking water from Ganges and draining it in Thames.

Hope this would have given us substantial knowledge how were looted by british by many innovative ways.   

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