One has to bear in mind the impact of British imperialism on Indian agriculture and the traditional handicraft industry.
- As for agriculture, the land settlements (Permanent, Raiyatwari and Mahalwari) created certain new elements like a market economy and did away with some customary rights like forest and pasturage rights. Theagrarian policies coupled with other developments encouraged moneylending particularly in the context of cash paymenis of land revenue. In the context of sharpening social differentiation, moneylending got associated with a complete control of the rural economy and society by a few moneylenders. And, if it was a tribal tract, this interaction also implied the process of peasantisation i.e. conversion of tribals into peasants.
- Secondly, social differentiation was not a new feature but colonialism accentuated the differences and created a sharper polarisation between those who owned lands; had acquired wealth, and through their new ownership rights, had access to the courts to defend themselves and their property, and those whose customary rights got undermined. This differentiation had certain implications. Besides strengthening and polarising, these differences centred around class (rich-poor), differences around caste and religion also got strained for example if in a particular area the landowner belonged to a particular caste or religion and the peasants were of another caste or religion then the caste/religious differences got strained on account of class differentiation we have noted above. Tribal areas saw the emergence of ‘outsiders’ who were moneylenders and landlords, and who ruthlessly exploited the population.
- Another major aspect of colonial policy was to forcibly commercialise agriculture, with the obvious idea of providing raw material for British industries. This proved hazardous for the peasants who were forced to grow commercial crops (like indigo and cotton) instead of food grains, even in years of scarcity.
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