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Slave Labor Policy
Britain's colonial overseers agreed on the need for the development of a rudimentary infrastructure to increase the efficiency of their rule, and looting of India. But the Empire had a problem. The proposed grid of railroads and large-scale irrigation works was too expensive, from the colonialists' point of view. So, the decision was made to force the already plundered Indian population to pay for these development projects.
This presented another serious problem. India, at that time, did not have a landless laboring class which could provide a pool of cheap labor for such projects. The caste system of India was all-encompassing. As Bhitia documents, the ritual distribution of goods at the communal level, based on caste and guild relations, made it undesirable for families and individuals to leave this system, especially to become slaves for the British railroad and irrigation projects.
The British solution to this problem was "famine relief." To build the railroads, the British set up "famine relief works." A famine would create the condition, such that, faced with certain death from lack of food, an Indian would be forced to "choose" to go to a famine relief center, much like a starving famine victim in Africa would do today. However, once having done this, the individual lost his caste relations and privileges. Then he was told that if he wanted to continue to eat, he must work, building the railroad in exchange for food.
At these projects, less than minimum subsistence was the norm, much like a Nazi forced-labor concentration camp. As yesterday's famine victims dropped dead from exhaustion and slow starvation on the railroad or irrigation project, today's famine refugees were making their way into this so-called famine relief system. This system would today be labeled euphemistically, the "recycling" of the work force.
With the advent of railways, it became easier for traders to buy up food and other goods when they were cheap, and in some cases, even when costly, and export them to England—much in the same manner as the British let the Irish starve during the potato famine, rather than allow the wheat, barley, and rye grown in Ireland for England to be used to feed the Irish.
Under these conditions, the nature of famines and scarcities began to change. Whereas in the past, famine had been a regional phenomenon, under this British policy food became scarce throughout the country, hitting the poorest in a devastating manner. It was these famine-stricken poor who then continued to supply the labor for the relief-works.
Rise of Usury
The development of the railroads also helped to develop a class of Indian money-lenders, who became the intermediaries for the British. This allowed for the British to control even areas which were not affected by crop failures.
Such areas were hit with multiple increases in prices because of the demand placed on their food from other areas of the country. Money-lenders would then sell British goods to Indians at inflated prices, and buy their grain at low prices. Then they would sell that grain at high prices, either on the international market, or back to the same people in times of famine.
Since these transactions were carried out largely on a credit basis, vast segments of the population became debt slaves to the money-lenders, if they were fortunate enough to escape having to work on famine relief projects. In addition, the British played this system of debt-slavery off against the traditional caste and guild system, which had never had to deal with such a monstrosity.
This system brought to the fore a class of money-lenders who became the power through which the British were able to offset, in part, the resistance within India to their rule coming from the communal base.
The spread of famine throughout India can be measured in the expansion of the railroad system. There were 288 miles of rail in India in 1857; 1,599 miles in 1861; and 3,373 miles in 1865. By 1881, there were 9,891 miles; there were 19,555 miles by 1895; and 34,656 miles by 1914.
With the expansion of the railroads, and "famine relief" which built the railroads, the exports of food grains rose rapidly. The export of rice grew from 12,697,983 hundred-weight in 1867-68, to 18,428,625 hundred-weight in 1877-78. Wheat exports grew 22-fold during this same period, from 299,385 hundred-weight to 6,373,168 hundred-weight. The criminal nature of this policy is clearly seen, since 1876-78 were major famine years. The export of rice reached 30.3 million hundred-weight, and wheat reached 30.3 million hundred-weight in 1891-92.
The worst famine was in 1896-97, which affected 62.4 million people. This resulted, among other things, according to Bhatia, in "civil commotion and unrest in Bombay against continuing exports of food grains from the presidency at a time when the people faced the threat of famine. The government of India, however, refused to change its food policy and steadfastly clung to the view so far held that, 'even in the worst conceivable emergency, so long as trade is free to follow its normal course, we should do far more harm than good by attempting to interfere....' "
Does this sound all too familiar? The [George H.W.] Bush Administration has proclaimed a New World Order based on "free trade" and an end to the "restrictions" imposed by national sovereignty. As food and other basic resources increasingly come under the control of Euro-Anglo-American cartels, most of the world is slated to become much like India was under the British.
Bush's New World Order is in fact nothing new, and the principal instrument of rule in this new world order is scheduled to be famine, and "famine relief" projects for the victims.
If people don't wake up, a day will come when you may lose your cherished low-paying job, and find yourself homeless and on the soup line—only you will be told there's no slop to eat, unless you join a work gang.
Slave labor, famine, and government-protected drug lords, like the British East India Company, are to be your masters in this New World Order. It has been done before!
Now maybe you will think twice when you view the British Broadcasting Corporation's films of the "glorious days of the British Raj in India" which you see on PBS. British policy in India was nothing less than deliberate genocide. We face the same policy today, this time on a global scale.