The Thieves that Looted $45 Trillion from India

by Mohak Sisodia

The Thieves that Looted $45 Trillion from India

June 4, 2021

Indians are often told that they should be grateful for the democracy, law and trains that the British Empire brought to their country. However, the reality is far from it. Research by the renowned economist Utsa Patnaik – just published by Columbia University Press – deals a crushing blow to this false ideal. After comparing and compiling nearly two centuries of detailed data on tax and trade, Patnaik calculated that Britain drained a total of nearly $45 trillion from India during the period 1765 to 1938. Read on to know how!

Cricket, tea, trains, and the English language; are what the British left us with when they finally left for good in 1947. And it is because of these “gifts” many believe that the colonial rule in India was a generous act by the British Raj. The truth could not have been any farther than this. It was almost the opposite of this. India helped Britain become a powerhouse without having the slightest idea of her involvement.

Gifts from the Raj?

Many consider Railways to be one of the most significant “gifts” of colonial rule to us, but they did not intend it to be one. The Raj established railway networks to maintain a network for the goods and not a luxury. Tea cultivation in India was also the result of the British desire to end their dependency on China. They sent most of the produce to Britain and exported to other colonies with little left for Indians. The English language also served a similar purpose, forming a separate class of people to mediate between the colonial rule and the ruled.

british railway

The Plundering

Throughout 1765 to 1938, the East India Company and then the British Raj plundered approximately $45 trillion from the Indian subcontinent, according to a 2018 paper by renowned economist Utsa Patnaik. The colonizers could rake in all that money by manipulating the trading system set up in India. Shortly after the establishment of the East India Company in the subcontinent in 1765, they started collecting taxes in India.

They used a fragment of this tax to buy goods in India for their own use. So instead of spending money from their own pockets, they pickpocketed Indians and then used that money instead. They never paid Indians for the producers’ work, only returning part of the sum handed over to the East India Company as tax by Indians. Some of this product “bought” from India would send it back to Britain while exporting the rest. This strategy helped them establish trade systems in Europe. The materials they imported to Britain helped pave the way for the Industrial Revolution. They even sold those products purchased (stolen) from India to other countries, making a profit of 100 percent on the original value and then the markup.

east india trading company

In 1858, after the Sepoy Mutiny. The British Raj took over, and they had intentions of mirroring those of the EIC. They expanded on the already corrupt tax system. They allowed Indian producers to export goods directly to other countries but introduced Council Bills – a unique paper currency issued by the British crown. Any country interested in buying the goods from India had to use these bills issued in exchange for gold and silver. While the British Raj bathed in this gold, they paid the Indian producers from the tax collected from them, much like how EIC had done in the past.

Result of the Robbery

All this meant Britain was getting richer by the day while India faced huge deficits even though they had a healthy trade system. This because the money from those trades never made it to the deserving labourers in India. Because of this, India faced many famines leading to the deaths of millions of people, enormous amounts of debts, and a population below the poverty line. The British continued to expand their territories and used India and its citizens as a deadweight for their objectives.

Baseless Arguments

Many still consider Britain’s colonization of India an act of benevolence. They believe that there would not have been a union called India had there been no colonial rule. They do not consider that there were unions in India long before British rule. Even in Ramayana, it described India as a single cultural unity. Many believe that the Britishers provided Indians with the fundamentals of politics when in reality, they never considered Indians a significant part of the system.

Another argument is that democracy in India results from colonial rule. This argument falls flat when we examine the fact that there wasn’t a free press and fair law under their control. Democracy rests on the shoulders of these two and cannot function without them, and they were missing.

“What had once been one of the richest and most industrialized economies in the world, which together with China accounted for almost 75 percent of the world’s industrial output in 1750, had been reduced by the depredations of imperial rule to one of the poorest, most backward, illiterate and diseased societies on Earth by the time of Independence in 1947.”

- Shashi Tharoor, a former undersecretary-general of United Nations, at a debate in the Oxford Union

Surely they gave us Cricket, right? 


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