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The political context of Industrial Development at Madras Presidency

Updated on August 9, 2011

The political context of Industrial Development at Madras Presidency, 1880

. British South India in the late 19 th and 20th centuries consisted of five major and distant political entities – Madras Presidency, and the princely State of Hyderabad, Mysore, Travancore and Cochin.Conveniently, only Madras Presidency would be treated as a part of “British India”.

The British Government in India was not, of course, based solely on the authority of the Secretary of State, or even of Parliament as a whole in Britain.The overall political structure depended precisely on the network of collaborating princes and the landed sections allied to them in the princely states: and to the more substantial sections of the agriculturists, largely dependent on rent incomes, in the presidencies and provinces directly under the Government of India.

Although, this was the general pattern through our British India, in each of the princely political entities of which South India was comprised, the relationship between the leading groups in the local power structure and the Government of India was distinct.This relationship and the degree of internal decision making autonomy it implied, was determined largely by the history of the relationship of the princely sate to the Government of India. In those cases where loyalty had been demonstrably shown, the autonomy could be expected to be correspondingly grater.

There was a further factor as far as economic policies; industrial development policies in particular, were concerned. This lay in the speed of development and in the growth of consciousness and articulateness of a business community, initially perhaps content with a purely trading role but increasingly assertive of its right to enter the field of industry proper.

The evolution of the political representation of this business community arose out of two relatively distinct processes, largely initiated by the Government of India in response to the continuing imperative of India’s colonial situation.

The first was the encouragement given to the cultivation of cash crops for export and also the increased share of food crops which were marketed of even exported.The compulsion here was the foreign exchange which would help meet Britain’s growing deficit with countries outside the empire. The immediate relevance of these policies was the growth of trading capital and its concentration over time in the hands of relatively few big agriculturists or traders proper.

The second, and in many ways the politically more significant development, was the growth for a body ofeducated public men-educated in the structure of higher education introduced originally so as to provide the personnel for the increasingly large administrative system.It was these individuals who demanded measures of the Government of India, and of the various subordinate governments that effective steps should be taken either to promote state owned enterprises.Of course, it was true that most of these individuals were not interested in a narrow sense in industrialization parse; and in fact many of their demands for democratic reforms would not have had the whole hearted approval of the business community.However, there is abundant evidence for the fact that leaders of nationalist opinion in the British Provinces, and of the democratic movement in the princely states, helped to create the conditions which improved the prospects for the growth of industry.

The economic and social changes which were mentioned above the growth of agricultural commodity production, centralization of money capital in the hands of the large agriculturists and traders6, and the growth of a self-consciously nationalism intelligentsia had led to political change in South India exemplified by a change in the relationship between the administration of the princely states and the Government of India in some cases, and the development of partly elected district boards and municipalities in Madras Presidency.7There were also structural changes in the political units themselves as a result of these economic developments.

It is also important to note that the comparative analysis of the political regimes in South India helps to show that advanced policies of industrial development were current at very early stage, and that the lack of purposeful strategy in other parts of the country cannot be ascribed to the lack of knowledge in any objective sense.In general, the Government is necessarily involved in any successful phase of economic development industrial development.

In this paper, industrialization has been viewed as the process by which the business community accumulates, as reflected mainly by its control over a greater range of enterprises, though also by technological change within enterprise.Central to this process in a colonial economy such as India’s is a consideration of the developments within cottage or household industries.While historically, hand production on a small scale has usually been superseded by large scale machine production; there are also exceptions, due to the specific of he raw material used or the nature of the finished article.

In colonial South India, there were four major industries of the household kind that need to be considered. These were the cotton handloom weaving industry (mainly in Madras and Hyderabad), the sericulture industry (in Mysore) and the cashew and coir industries in Travancore and Cochin.While the cotton handloom and sericulture industries represent “traditional” industries in that hand weaving and silk spinning have been undertaken in India for a very long time, the other two are of recent origin and are due to the initiative ofcolonial firms.Coir weaving originated in 1859, while significant cashew production started as late as 1925.

This paper concludes that recent research has identified is that developments in these industries in terms of the ways inch which production was organized depended not only on the nature of the market and the technology in use.Decisions on whether production was to be organized in the homes of producers, or in centralized workshops, and on the different modes of payment in these arrangements had also to take account of the demands raised by a militant trade union movement. This was particularly the case in Travancore, and in both the cashew and the coir industry, there are examples of a phased retreat from more organized forms of production in workshops to that of household based production. On the other hand, in the handloom industry there was a certain growth of production in centralized organizations, even though aggregate employment in the industry fellIn other words, the processes of industrial development are not only made more examples by the presence of the household industries, hut within such industries the processes were often quits distinct.


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