Sunday, February 17, 2013

Romesh Chunder Dutt

Arun has been beating me up for quoting Romesh Chunder Dutt. If I interpret him correctly, he implied that anything good Dutt said about the Brits was prompted by fear of prosecution for sedition - though he had a lot to say that was far from complimentary. Wikipedia has some interesting biographical details:

He entered the University of Calcutta, Presidency College in 1864, then passed the First Arts examination in 1866, second in order of merit, and won a scholarship. While still a student in the B.A. class, without his family's permission, he and two friends, Beharilal Gupta and Surendranath Banerjee, left for England in 1868.[2] Only one other Indian, Satyendra Nath Tagore, had ever before qualified for the Indian Civil Service. Romesh aimed to emulate Satyendranath Tagore's feat. For a long time, before and after 1853, the year the ICS examination was introduced in England, only British officers were appointed to covenanted posts.[3] The 1860s saw the first attempts, largely successful, on the part of the Indians, and especially members of the Bengali intelligentsia, to occupy the superior official posts in India, until then completely dominated by the British.

At University College London, Dutt continued to study British writers. He studied law at Middle Temple, London, was called to the bar, and qualified for the Indian Civil Service in the open examination in 1869,[4] taking third place. . .

Dutt entered the Indian Civil Service, or ICS, as an Assistant Magistrate of Alipur in 1871. His official career was a test and a proof of the liberal promise of equality to all her Majesty's subjects "irrespective of color and creed" in Queen Victoria's Proclamation of November 1, 1858,[6] which often contrasted with an implicit distrust of Indians, especially from those in positions of authority within the elite colonial administrative system.

A famine in Meherpur, District of Nadia in 1874 and another in Dakhin Shahbazpur (Bhola District) in 1876, followed by a disastrous cyclone, required emergency relief and economic recovery operations, which Dutt managed successfully. By December, 1882, Dutt achieved his appointment to the executive branch of the Service, the first Indian to achieve executive rank. He served as administrator for Backerganj, Mymensingh, Burdwan, Donapur, and Midnapore. He became Burdwan's District Officer in 1893, Commissioner (offtg.) of Burdwan Division in 1894, and Divisional Commissioner for Orissa in 1895. Dutt was the first Indian to attain the rank of divisional commissioner...

Dutt retired from the ICS as the Commissioner of Orissa in 1897 while only 49 years of age. Retirement freed him to enter public life and pursue writing. After retirement in 1898 he returned to England as a Lecturer in Indian History at University College, London where he completed his famous thesis on economic nationalism. He spent the next six years in London before returning once again to India as Dewan of Baroda state, a post he had been offered before he left for Britain. He was extremely popular in Baroda where the Maharaja, Maharaja Sayajirao Gaekwad III and his family members and all other staff used to call him the Babu Dewan, as a mark of personal respect. He also became a member of the Royal Commission on Indian Decentralisation in 1907.[8][9]

While still in office, he died in Baroda at the age of 61 on November 30, 1909.

There is also an important quote from his economic history:

Poverty and low wages were among the indirect products of colonial rule. Romesh Dutt traced a decline in standards of living to the nineteenth-century deindustrialization of the subcontinent and the narrowing of sources of wealth which followed:

India in the eighteenth century was a great manufacturing as well as great agricultural country, and the products of the Indian loom supplied the markets of Asia and of Europe. It is, unfortunately, true that the East Indian Company and the British Parliament ... discouraged Indian manufactures in the early years of British rule in order to encourage the rising manufactures of England . . . millions of Indian artisans lost their earnings; the population of India lost one great source of their wealth.[13]