Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Corrupt East India company officials and the new Nawob of Bengal

East India company,corrupt officials. blogs.warwick.ac.uk
 India's rampant corruption has its roots in the colonial rule under the East India company who believed illegal gratification was a way to serve the natives and to fill their coffers to the brim. What started out as a trickle in the British period, after independence became a ravaging river, reaching nook and corner of the country. Prior to the arrival of Europeans on the Indian soil, there was no such a thing called corruption.

Mir Qasim, the new Nawob of Bengal, was at last at loggerheads with the East India company officials for two solid reasons. Large-scale abuse by the company officials of the trade privileges granted by Mogul emperor Farruksiyar's ''firman'' of 1717. The British were openly without any inhibition doing illegal trade without taxes, thus had a monopoly over the Indian traders who had to cough up heavy tariff. There was a big disparity between these two groups of traders with respect to profits. Indian traders were losing out against the British on account of non compliance of trade laws by them. This became so serious a matter, Qasim protested against the British for their breach of trade treaty and misuse of ''dasak''. He asked the English Governor of Calcutta to immediately put an end the scandalous affairs. But the members of the council were inclined to the illegal gains .The Nawob's patience had started wearing out.

Corruption in British East India co. jantoo.com
When their illegal trade activities continued unabated, Qasim abolished the duties altogether, but the British clamored against this and insisted upon giving them preferential treatment as against other traders by virtue of their special relationship with the Nawob. When the Nawob refused to oblige the English vehemently protested against Nawob's refusal. At Patna English factory's chief one Ellis asserted what he considered to be the legitimate rights and privileges of the British and he went to the extent of seizing the town of Patna.

East India co coat of arms. faculty.history.wise.edu

The other reason was company officials, now armed with more power and the imminent prospects of wealth and in pursuit of riches, had begun to ill treat and oppress not only the prominent officials in the employ of Nawob, but also the poor people of Bengal. With the newfound pelf and power after the victory at Plassey, they forced the Indian artisans and peasants to sell their products at rock-bottom price so that they could make enormous profits - their mark-up would be around 4 to 5 time times.

In order to become rich overnight, without shame the company officials forced the Nawob's senior officials and the well-to-do Zamindars to give them expensive gifts in the form of gold and jewelry, etc. They, with out character and integrity demanded bribes to get a favor sanctioned. Illegal gratification became a hall- mark of British East India company's Indian operations. Literally the British were going around the places, carrying a big panhandle and demanding alms from the rich Zamindars and Amirs in the form of sacs of gold, precious stones and silver - by threats! The only difference is ordinary, emancipated beggars won't demand alms by threats, whereas the fat British  sahibs did it with their daggers drawn against the givers' skull! .

In his famous speech before the parliament in late 1600s on British East India company, Edmund Burke, one of the greatest English parliamentarians and personalities said, ''The English youth in India drink the intoxicating draught of authority and dominion before their heads are able to bear it and as they are full grown in fortune long before they are ripe in principle, neither nature nor reason have any opportunity to exert themselves for the excesses of their premature power. The consequence of their conduct which in good minds (and many of theirs are probably such) might produce penitence or amendment are unable to pursue the rigidity of their flight. Their prey is lodged in England: and the cries of India are given to the seas and winds to be blown about in every breaking up of the monsoon over a remote and unhearing ocean.''

The moot question is whether a land can be ruled by two masters. Mir Qasim, being assertive wanted to be an independent ruler; no trespassing on his privacy or authority. At Patna the factory chief Ellis forcefully occupied Patna and led the movement against Qasim. The Nawob ultimately arrested him and and sent him to jail. This led to a war between the British and the Nawob who was defeated later. Qasim ordered his men to put the English prisoners in Patna to death and fled to Awadh to seek Shuja-ud-daulah's aid and council.