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Year-Number: 2022-135
Yayımlanma Tarihi: 2022-12-02 12:20:37.0
Language : English
Konu : Political history
Number of pages: 476-488
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Bu makalede İngiliz Doğu Hindistan Şirketi'nin 1770’lerde meydana gelen büyük kıtlık sırasında ticaretinde ve gelir politikasında yaşadığı etki tarihi kaynaklar doğrultusunda ele alınmaya çalışılmıştır. Araştırmalarımıza göre, İngiliz Doğu Hindistan Şirketi'nin beklenmedik bir şekilde güçlenmesi, kısa vadeli gelir ve ticaret politikaları, Bengal'in ekonomisine büyük zarar vermiştir. 1769'da yaşanan uzun süreli kuraklık, bu çıkmazda işleri daha da kötüleştirmiştir. Sonuç olarak 1770'de Bengal'de (Bengalce 1176) tarihte 'Siattarer Manantar' olarak bilinen Yetmiş Altı Büyük Kıtlıktan biri olarak ortaya çıkmıştır. Şirketin yaptığı hesaplamalar doğrultusunda Bengal halkının yaklaşık üçte biri bu kıtlıkta açlıktan ötürü hayatını kaybetmiştir. Bengal'in tarımı, ticareti ve endüstrisi ciddi şekilde zarar görmüştür. Ancak kıtlık sırasında, şirketin sorumsuz eylemleri ve sertliği özellikle belirgin hale gelmiştir. Kıtlık dönemlerinde bile önceki yıllarda olduğu gibi vergiler toplanmış, çoğu şirket yetkilisi ve çalışanı olan tüccarların malları stoklanması durumu çekilmez bir hale getirmiştir. Elimizdeki bilgiler çerçevesinde İngiliz Doğu Hindistan Şirketi'nin spekülatif bir ticari şirket olduğunu göstermektedir. Şirketin sorumsuz yönetimi ve dar görüşlü gelir ve ticaret politikaları, müreffeh bir bölgenin (Bangla) telafisi mümkün olmayan bir yıkımına yol açmıştır. 



The impact of the English East India Company as a trade and revenue policy during the Great Famine of the 1770s is discussed in this article. An attempt has been made to write a standardized essay by studying historical data. According to studies, the English East India Company's unanticipated acquisition of power, short-sighted revenue, and trade policies wreaked havoc on Bengal's economy. The long-term drought of 1769 made matters worse in this predicament. The outcome was a devastating famine in Bengal in 1770 (Bengali 1176) that became known as 'Siattarer Manantar', the Great Famine of Seventy-Six in history. According to the company government's calculations, about one-third of the people of Bengal died of hunger in this famine. Bengal's agriculture, trade and industry were all severely harmed. During the famine, however, the corporate government's irresponsible actions and harshness became particularly obvious. Even in times of famine, the levy of taxes was collected as in previous years, and the stockpiling of traders (most of whom were corporate officials and employees) made the situation unbearable. Analyzing the data shows that the English East India Company is a profiteering commercial organization. The company's irresponsible governance, short-sighted revenue, and trade policies led to the destruction of a prosperous region (Bangla), which never recovered.


  • The riches and prosperity of Bengal have shown up in these travellers' stories. Barbosa, anItalian traveller, commented, "I never saw a country in which provisions were so cheap (J.N.Das Gupta, 1914)." Bengal developed a large export trade due to its abundance of agriculturaland industrial items. More than thirty products were shipped from Bengal, according toPortuguese reports (M.A. Rahim, 1995). Bengal produced almost all of the standardrequirements in large quantities. Gold, silver, and a few other precious metals, on the otherhand, were imported. It would not be able to export as much food without self-sufficiency andsurplus food production. Sebastian Manrique claims that there was an abundance of foodstuffs,essentials, manufactured products, textiles, and other goods in various towns or markets, to thepoint where a single vessel could be loaded with any of these items available in a single market(M.A. Rahim, 1995). Ibn Battuta included a price list of things found in the Bengali market inthe current period in his famous book 'Rehala e Battuta' which also gives an idea of the easy availability of Bengali items (Muhammad Nasir, 1968).

  • Shaista Khan's reign was Bengal's golden age of economic prosperity. The richness of Bengal'swealth was the subject of many legends and proverbs. "Thousands of doors are open to enter theBangla Kingdom, but there is no way out," says tourist Bernier, quoting an English and Dutchproverb (M.A. Rahim, 1996). Alexander Doe argues, "Bengal was considered a backwater or'doba' until the introduction of British rule and the East India Company's trade monopoly. Thegold and silver would have vanished without a chance of being recovered (Alexander Dow)." Through overseas trade, Bengal acquired a significant amount of gold and silver.

  • zamindars were in charge of maintaining law and order; the rent was set in accordance with theyield of the land, which was well-cultivated; initial funding was provided to the new ryots, andthe zamindar class worked to promote agriculture (Philip Francis Papers). Although WilliamHunter asserted that the Muslim rulers' rapacious sights were fixed on revenue (W.W. Hunter,1975), the history of Bengal's economic prosperity disproves this assertion. The Mughaladministration never interfered with trade, commerce, or industry. Historically, merchants and artisans were completely free to make and trade goods.

  • Under the control of the English East India Company, this affluent Bengal economy quickly fellinto disarray. The English East India Company gained control of the country through thePlassey conspiracy in 1757. Through the Diwani acquisition of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa, theyassumed formal control of Bengal in 1765. The company gained the power to collect revenuefrom Bengal, Bihar and Orissa in return for paying Rs. 26 lakhs per annum to the King of Delhiand Rs. 53,86,131 To the Nawab of Bengal (Sirajul Islam, 1984). The civil compact gave thecompany unchecked power while giving the Nawab responsibility without authority. RamsayMuir argues that gaining power without the responsibility of the East India Company becomes a curse for the Bengal (Ramsay Muir, 1923).

  • The English East India Company once made investments in this nation by bringing money fromEurope in the form of gold and silver. The company had ceased importing funds from Europesince the Battle of Plassey. The corporation started acquiring funds by amassing significantamounts of money through the political process of raising and reducing the Nawab in theMasnad (throne) of Murshidabad. The company obtained £10,731,683 from the Nawabs ofBengal between 1757 and 1765 (Brijen. K. Gupta 1966). In this situation, the company sought apermanent way to raise capital. Through the Diwani acquisitions of Bengal, Bihar, and Orissa,Robert Clive discovered that route. The Diwani acquisition was more profitable to the companythan trade. The company established a goal of making an additional three crore taka fromDiwani after paying off the king's and Nawab's obligations (Ramsay Muir, 1923). The companyrule was therefore outlawed in this nation as being unjust. The company started pressuring RezaKhan to fix more considerable revenue in order to earn more profit. When under Muslim rule,only one-third of the farmers' corps was collected as revenue, and the company's revenue ratereached half of the crop in some areas (M.A. Rahim, vol-ii, 1996). Resident Sykes boasted thatthe company had been able to earn double the amount of revenue Mirzafar used to earn (AbdulMajed Khan, 1969). Reza Khan warned the company that "revenues are extorted rather thancollected" (Abdul Majed Khan, 1969). Reza Khan also forewarned the company of the adverseeffects. However, the corporate government did not consider that advice and instead beganlooking for ways to increase revenue profits. They then established a coercive revenue- collecting program.

  • On the other hand, the private business and corruption of the company's employees acceleratedBengal's financial disaster. The company's employees received meager salaries, which made lifein this country challenging. A junior officer's starting pay at the corporation was 14 pounds or150 rupees. Even senior officials received a meagre 300 pounds or 3,000 rupees per month(Ramsay Muir, 1923). The company's employees were compelled to start their own businessesas a result. Many people from England used to take jobs in this country for the sake of privatebusinesses. William Bolts, an employee of the company, ran a private business and made ninelakh rupees in six years (Sirajul Islam, 1984). This William bolt portrays a bleak picture of theillegal business and large profits made by the staff members and janitors of the corporation(Sirajul Islam, 1984). The company's permission to trade in nominal duties from the Mughalemperor is also freely used by the company employees in private business. Unable to competewith the illegal duty-free trade of the company's employees, the business of indigenous tradersand other foreign traders almost ceased. Peasants, weavers and labourers were held captive bycompany employees, janitors and brokers and were almost reduced to serfs. Farmers andweavers were made to produce whatever the English merchants required. The products had tobe sold by the weavers to the English merchants for 15–40% less than the going rate. Ifnecessary, weavers were publicly beaten, and peons were assigned to watch over them (WilliamBolts, 1772). The company's employees had no regard for the law and ran their illegal business unhindered.

  • The famine resulted from a significant food shortage caused by the lack of crop productivity in1770 (Bangla 1176). A sad chapter in Bengal's history was born due to this tragic catastrophe.William Hunter described it as an "appalling spectre on the threshold of British rule in Bengal"(W.W. Hunter, 1868). Such a catastrophic famine has never existed in Bengal's history.According to Hastings, the average death toll in Bengal during the famine was one-third, half ofthe total population (N.K. Sinha 1962). During the famine, about 50% of residents in the Purnia,Bishnupur, and Rajshahi districts perished from starvation. Nani Gopal Chowdhury alsosampled the death records in some areas and calculated that the number of deaths in affectedareas was half the total population (Nani Gopal Choudhuri, 1970). According to J. C. Sinha, thefamine killed off around 35% of the population and 50% of the peasantry (J.C. Sinha, 1927).Famine incidence was, however, somewhat lower in East Bengal. This massive death tollbrought on by the famine created a great wound in the history of Bengal. However, thecompany's deputies and janitors made things miserable by hoarding for unfair profits andengaging in black marketing. Seeing the hoarding policy of the company and its employees, richpeople, traders, speculators, and hoarders all started hoarding rice (Sirajul Islam, 1984). Theyear before the famine (1769), the price of rice increased, but four to six maunds (1 maund = 40kg) of rice were available for a rupee. The selling price in Murshidabad brought in a profit of Rs 67,593 for the company itself (N.K. Sinha 1962).

  • Furthermore, in June 1770, the price of rice was 6 to 7 shers (kg) to the rupee. In July, there wasno rice available in stores. Only the influential could procure the rice, which was available inthe black market at the rate of 3kg per rupee (N.K. Sinha 1962). Fires were associated withhunger pangs. Due to the drought, the riverbed dried up. Everything, even reed homes andbamboo woods, turned into gunpowder. Houses and shops were reduced to ashes in the fire. Theremaining grain was destroyed and burned. Lives and resources continued to be destroyedindiscriminately. The number of dead increased due to starvation. Reza Khan claimed in May,"Hithero each day furnished accounts of the death of thousands, but now lakhs of people ofdying daily (Abdul Majed Khan, 1969)." Where rotting corpses lay, there poisoned theenvironment and epidemics of smallpox, cholera, and malaria occurred. According to ResidentBecher, "It is useless to estimate the number of deaths in the countryside since nobody careswho is alive or dead; there are 500 fatalities each day in Murshidabad (Sirajul Islam, 1984)."People during the famine ate human flesh out of desperation. People are now assaulting anddevouring one another after consuming everything, Bechar wrote (Sirajul Islam, 1984).Government documents also revealed a terrible picture-"living were feeding on the dead (SirajulIslam, 1984)." The famine caused a decline in law and order and a breakdown in the social order.

  • However, the disgraceful role played by the company government during the crisis will godown in history for ages. Government anchorages were opened in certain circumstances duringthe Muslim era. During his stay, Ibn Battuta describes a famine in Delhi (Muhammad Nasir,1968). At that time, the price of wheat increased to six dinars per maund. Then, the Sultan ofDelhi (perhaps Muhammad bin Tughlaq) allocated six months of ration from the governmenttreasury to the inhabitants of Delhi. There was no way to confirm this assertion. However, fromthe incident, an idea about the custom of dealing with disaster situations during the Muslim eracould be found. During this desperate time, Reza Khan was pleading with the administration toopen the langar khana under Muslim custom. He opened six langar khana on his initiative todefend the city of Murshidabad because he could not immediately receive a response from theadministration (N.K. Sinha 1962). Reza Khan made numerous demands, so the governmentgave in and provided a modest sum that was insignificant in the face of the problem.Additionally, the government obtains this designated funding from numerous affluent families.The company had its allotment for the starving folks as follows (N.K. Sinha 1962):Murshidabad – Rs. 40,000/-, Purnia, Bhagalpur and Birbhum – Rs. 30,000 /-, Bengal and Bihar - Rs. 90,000/-.

  • Condemning the company's small allocation for 30 million people of Bengal and Bihar, N. K.Sinha said, "The relief measures were inhumanely inadequate (N.K. Sinha 1962)". Hunter citedthe well-known Bengali saying, "Cut the root of the tree and sprinkle water on it, (W.W. Hunter,1868)" in the context of providing this meagre amount of aid (when the death rate is 6 out of 18 persons) while generating enormous amounts of revenue from this area.

  • However, the company accumulated 60,000 maunds of grain for the troops at the start of thefamine (N.K. Sinha, 1962). Additionally, food was given to Fort William in Calcutta. Duringthe famine, more aid came from private initiatives than government aid. Reza Khan himselfcontributed 70,000 rupees, and Nawab Mubarak ud Daula contributed 50,000 rupees (N.K.Sinha, 1962). Gopi Mandal, a businessman from Dinajpur, donated 50,000 rupees, Roy Durlav6,000 and Jagat Seth 5,000 rupees (Abdul Majed Khan, 1969). Giants like Haji MohammadMuhsin and Munshi Sharafat Mohammad Khan also came to help the needy people of the time.Sitab Roy, Deputy Naib of Bihar, has made every effort to combat the famine. Information canbe found at Siar-ul Mutakhkherin (N.K. Sinha, 1962). People from all across Bihar used tocome and swarm his barn, and he also utilized his personal boats to fetch grains. Some Englishand French citizens directly offered assistance after being moved by the goodwill of the locals following the crisis (N.K. Sinha, 1962).

  • However, the crueller and more devilish thing that the corporate government did was to collectthe same amount of tax as in the other years, even in this calamity-stricken period. How did thishappen? However, in this case of emergency, half of the tax used to be collected during theMuslim administration. Alternatively, in some instances, the tax was exempt. Despite RezaKhan's repeated warnings, the company continued to press for tax collection as per thesettlement. N. K. Sinha alleged that the revenue collectors were turning a blind eye to thesituation (N.K. Sinha, 1962). Reza Khan wrote on the eve of the famine in 1769, "The ryots ofBengal and Bihar had grown so debilitated by hunger that they are obliged to sell their sons anddaughters for money. If plows, cows, sons, and daughters are sold and made to pay revenue,revenue may be collected this year; nevertheless, a well-thought-out plan should be establishedto maintain the ryots operational the following year" (Sirajul Islam, 1984). Nevertheless, thecompany government ignored this and forced Reza Khan to collect the revenue. Government tax collections from the year prior to the famine to the following year are as follows:

  • Year Amount of Revenue1768-69 Rs. 15,873,453.1769-70 Rs.14,341,168.1770-71 Rs. 14,006,030.Fig. 1. Revenue collection in Bengal (N.K. Sinha, 1962). Purnia Revenue Collection

  • 1767-68 Rs. 12,97,601769-70 Rs.11,60,2791770-71 Rs. 11,38,712Fig. 2. Purnia Revenue Collection (N.K. Sinha, 1962).

  • Purnia was the region that was the worst hit. In contrast to the four lakh rupees that MurshidQuli Khan got from this Purnia during his reign, the company set its revenue goal for thispandemic at twenty-five lakh rupees (Abdul Majed Khan, 1969). Even under this unusualcircumstance, it was still possible to collect nearly the same tax as in other years byreintroducing a practice known as "Najai Palataka." The term "Najai palataka" refers to acustom levied on a fugitive (najai) farmer who could not pay taxes from his non-fugitiveneighbour. This fee was imposed not only on the fleeing farmer but also on the deceasedfarmer's neighbours. Government agents collected this tax by applying force. According to N.K. Sinha, "The najai, a cess whose incidence was not felt in normal years, became in 1770-71 the greatest instrument of extortion" (N.K. Sinha, 1962).

  • Reza Khan is responsible for the company's failure to collect 5–10% of the revenue, even duringthe famine. Additionally, the company's devoted employee was detained for this offence. Hismistake was wanting to adopt the pragmatism of the Mughal model; wanting to criminalize theillegal trade of company employees; wanting to demonstrate some flexibility in collecting taxesfrom the populace; and wanting to safeguard the company's interests by preserving Bengal'sagro-industry, trade and commerce. Not only was he imprisoned, but Warren Hastings refusedto meet with him to hear about his stance. Even when Cartier wished to bid Reza Khan farewell, Hastings dissuaded him based on law and justice (Abdul Majed Khan, 1969).

  • The corporate administration, however, has not made any such efforts to uncover the truthbehind this obscene and destructive collaboration of the Bengal presidency. The corporategovernment should have moved more forcefully to solve the problem. Attempts were made tocover up the situation by identifying natural disasters as the cause of famine and providing smallagricultural loans. Out of the 11 districts affected by the famine, the six worst-hit receivedloans. The loan amount allocated was insignificant. Birbhum – Rs 20,000, Rajshahi - Rs.50,000, Nadia - Rs. 30,000, Dinajpur - Rs. 45,000, Purnia – Rs. 69,048, Rangpur - Rs. 35,000(Nani Gopal Choudhuri, 1970). However, only a tiny part of the allocated loans had been disbursed to the farmers. The revenue leaseholders had stolen the majority of this money.

  • Large areas of farmland were converted to forests. Even with incentives, farmers wereunavailable in the famine years after. As farmers died and the labour force was reduced, muchland was left uncultivated, and land values fell. Even after thirty years of famine, according toJohn F. Riddick, nearly one-third of Bengal's land remained uncultivated (Jhon F. Riddic,2006). Kolkata ryot (permanent ryot) suffered because they had to pay rent at a certain rate. ButPaykasta ryot (temporary ryot) benefited from the chance to cultivate the fallow land for amodest rent. As a result, many permanent ryots abandoned their right hoping for temporary gainand became temporary ryots without rights (N.K. Sinha, 1962). Thus, Bengal's social structureunderwent new alterations as a result of the famine. The famine not only changed the lives ofthe ryots but also profoundly affected the Bengal's Zamindars. The zamindars could not collectthe required rent because of dire conditions. However, despite the loss of zamindars, the government did not diminish its revenue.

  • Famine was the leading cause of death in the silk and weaving sectors. The famine destroyednot only Bengal's agriculture but also its industry and trade. About half of the artisans andworkers in Rajshahi's silk industry perished. It became difficult for those who survived tosustain the industry. Production of guti poka (silkworm) and silk weaving was cut in half. Theproduction of silk and handlooms also fell by almost half (Nani Gopal Choudhuri, 1970).According to Sirajul Islam, not only had the quantity decreased, but the quality of the silkindustry had also lost its former excellence (Sirajul Islam, 1984). As the production and qualityof manufactured goods decreased, Bengal's trade collapsed. In this situation, the emergence ofthe industrial revolution in Europe put the final nail in the coffin of the export trade of Bengal.

  • Famine also had a significant impact on Bengal's politics and government. In 1772, thecompany took over the revenue administration entirely in their own hands, placing all the blamefor the famine on the shoulders of the joint administration (Anglo-Mughal). By taking therevenue administration under its control, the executive power also came under the control of thecompany government. N.K. Sinha said, "The Famine hastened the decision to 'stand forth asDiwan' in the same way as the Mutiny hastened the transfer of the government of India from thecompany to the Crown eighty-eight years after" (N.K. Sinha, 1962). The company reformed therevenue administration by removing the prior land management. Murshidabad's tax offices wereall relocated to Calcutta. Calcutta also became the new home of Bengal's capital. Exempting the Nawab from executive power, his annual allowance was reduced to 16 lakh rupees.

  • Finally, the 100-year rule of the English East India Company as a profit-making institution wasnot a blessing for Bengal. Some minor famines due to natural calamities have occurred before.Nevertheless, famine became daily, with the English East India Company taking over thecountry. During the entire 90 years from 1765-1858, there were about twelve famines, and foursignificant scarcity, in India under company rule (V.D. Mahajan, 2005). The famine of 1770,known as 'Siattarer Manantara', is a deep wound in history. The company's lucrative fiscalpolicy, careless leadership, absence of tenant welfare programs and policies, lucrative monopolytrade and, most importantly, the transferring of wealth into England were the leading causes ofthe famine. If the company had adopted the policy of public welfare and regional developmentalong with profit-making, then such a dire situation would not have arisen. However, thecompany continued to transport a sizable amount of resources (about Rs. 1.5 crores annually)from Bengal's monopoly trade and land earnings to England without doing so (Dadavai Naoroji,1901). The company government had not taken any initiative to improve the quality of life or infrastructural development of the people of this country.

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