Monday, December 20, 2004

The Salt Tax

For more than a hundred years in India, the British levied a tax on salt. No some small tax, but so much that it would take about one-sixth of a laborer's income to obtain enough salt to live. You can find easily enough the effects of chronic salt deprivation, including susceptibility to diseases, of which epidemics raged in India. Remember, India is a tropical country, and the body needs more salt. Of course, with high taxes came smuggling and attempts to evade the tax; and the British built the Great Hedge.

Gandhi's Salt Satyagraha in 1931 was much after the punitive taxes were abolished. Westernized, Anglicized India had forgotten, apparently, but India's villages seemingly still remembered.

When you read the link above, remember that the native Oriental despot typically would not collect land revenue in famine years, unlike the East India Company or, later, the British Government.

This is just one tiny way in which the British compete with the Nazis. Did people rise up against the British for such deprivation? Yes, they did! What happened to them?

More later.

In the meantime, read about the European locusts in India. Seek and ye will find!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Interesting articles.

But in judging the past, one must be careful in comparing it with the situation at that time, put it in context. After all, England was no paradise for the English (as Dickens so vividly showed). And a reaction to that was were Marx and Engels.

And even in India, the brutality of the caste system probably killed a lot of people as well.

The Nazis were a lot worse, IMHO. It is unthinkable, for instance, to see Gandhian methods for independence successful against the Nazis. The British had their share of wiser leaders (not Churchill, whose hero worship in Anglo world is revoulting). The Congress Party leaders rightly decided that an "enemy's enemy is not a friend" and supported the British over the Nazis during WWII

It is definitely true that colonialism retarded progress in India (and also ultimately empires cost more than they are worth (except for the tiny elite)).