Critically examine the causes responsible for the phenomenon called ‘de-industrialization’ in India during the nineteenth century. (150 W)

Mentor’s Comment:

It is considered and even with proof that India was the hub or workshop of the world’s industrialisation during 17th and 18th centuries. But Britishers monopoly led to systemically slaughter the traditional village artisan economy of India. Introduction should explain about the British exploitation of Indian trade and industry.

Next, mention about the systematic de-industrialization of village economy and led to its bleeding and dying stage.

Also, include various reasons for de-industrialization. Disappearance of the court culture of late Mughal days and old aristocracy, the establishment of an alien rule, the competition from machine-made goods, Tariff policy, Internal Causes etc.

Bring conclusion.

Model Answers:

India is not an industrial country in the true and modern sense of the term. But by the standards of the 17th and 18th centuries, i.e., before the advent of the Europeans in India, India was the ‘industrial workshop’ of the world. But within a space of 60 years, once British started ruling the subcontinent, India witnessed the process of De-Industrialisation. This term came into prominence in India to describe the process of destruction of Indian handicraft industries by competition from the products of British manufacture during the nineteenth century.

De-Industrialisation in India:

  • India’s traditional village economy was characterised by the “blending of agriculture and handicrafts”.
  • But this internal balance of the village economy had been systematically slaughtered by the British Government. This process came to be known as de-industrialisation.
  • In the process, traditional handicraft industries slipped away, from its pre-eminence and its decline started at the turn of the 18th century and proceeded rapidly almost to the beginning of the 19th century.
  • India’s share of manufacturing output in the world was as high as 19.7 % in 1800. But in a span of 60 years, it plummeted to 8.6 % in 1860 and to 1.4% in 1913.

Reason for De-Industrialisation in India:

Disappearance of the court culture of late Mughal days and old aristocracy:

  • The main source of demand for the products of these handicrafts came from the royal courts, and the urban aristocrats. With the abolition of the royal court, one source of demand for the products of these crafts dried up.
  • However, this had been to some extent counterbalanced by the class of nobles and urban aristocrats who patronized the arts and the handicrafts in satellite states like Awadh, Bengal, Hyderabad, Punjab etc.
  • But, with the gradual extension of the British rule and the decline in royal power all over India, craftsmen gradually pulled down the shutters of their karkhanas.

The establishment of an alien rule:

  • The industry wished a new source of demand from the European officials and tourists. But the European officials favoured imported manufactures.
  • A certain amount of European demand for these handicrafts existed which slackened the rapidity of decline to a smaller degree.
  • However, this small European demand sabotaged the artistic quality of Indian handicrafts since they introduced new forms and pattern to suit their tastes which were beyond the craftsmen’s comprehension.
  • The establishment of the British rule was also indirectly responsible for the loss of power of the guilds and other bodies which regulated and supervised the trade.
  • This led to the adulteration of materials, shoddy and slovenly workmanship, resulting in a decline of the artistic and commercial value of the products.
  • Naturally, they assiduously copied these forms and the consequence of this blind imitation was disastrous to indigenous arts. The classic example was the Kashmir Shawl industry.

The competition from machine-made goods:

  • Machine- made textile goods of Britain did the great damage to this Indian industry since 1750. The invention of power-loom in Europe completed the decline of this important industry.
  • Industry that had experienced the onslaught of de-industrialisation most was the cotton textile industry. It was the largest provider of employment after agriculture. India’s cotton goods were the best in the world before 1800.
  • Consequent upon industrial revolution in cotton textile industry, there had been massive growth of British imports in India and the domination of British cloth in the Indian market did the havoc.
  • It created large scale unemployment as well as unbelievable drop in wages among the spinners and weavers.
  • Other affected industries were jute handloom weaving of Bengal, woolen manufacturers of Kashmir, silk manufacture of Bengal, hand-paper industry, glass industry, lac, bangles, etc.

Tariff policy:

  • The tariff policy pursued by the British Government as the leading cause towards the decay of industries.
  • This tariff policy came to be known as ‘one-way free trade’ policy which preached that what was good for England was considered to be good for India.
  • To put her manufacturing industries on a sound footing at home, England pursued the policy of protection through the imposition of import duties.
  • But for India, she preached the gospel of free trade.

Internal causes:

  • The weaknesses in the industrial structure itself must also be blamed for this decline of handicraft industries.
  • No efforts were made to explore markets for products. India’s foreign trade was in the hands of foreigners.
  • This meant that the Indian artisans and producers were at the mercy of foreign merchants so far as sales or demand propagation in overseas markets were concerned.
  • Secondly, guild organisation in India was definitely very weak.
  • Finally, she did not possess a class of industrial entrepreneurs unlike its western counterparts.

India mainly became an exporter of raw materials and importer of finished goods which led to De-Industrialization and overcrowding of agriculture. This also led to economic drain of India. Imperialism and colonialism became the reason for the backwardness of the Indian economy as various policies like zamindari system, forest laws were used to extract more and more revenues, hurting the interest of common people and leading to their impoverishment.