Examine how the decline of traditional artisanal industry in colonial India crippled the rural economy.

Pre-colonial India had favorable foreign trade due to excellence in indigenous production. Indian artisans were famous all over the world for their skills.  There was large scale production on cotton and silk, jute, dyestuffs, mineral and metallic products like arms, metal wares and oil. India, towards the end of the 18th century was, undoubtedly one of the main centers of world trade and industry. This status of India was completely destroyed under colonial times.

There were various reasons which weakened the rural economy of India such as:

  1. Industrial revolution in England resulted in the flooding of machine-made goods in Indian markets from England. These machine-made goods were cheaper and gradually replaced the indigenous manufacturers. The number of weavers also declined.
  2. In the course of the traditional artisanal industry also lost most of its patrons like rulers and zamindars etc.
  3. India became a supplier of cheap raw material and provided a huge market for the finished goods coming from London.
  4. The British pursued a biased policy which provided them duty free access to Indian markets. On the contrary Indian goods were subjected to high tariffs in the European markets.
  5. Decline of traditional occupations led to moving of artisans towards agriculture for livelihood which tremendously increased both dependency and pressure on land.
  6. Introduction of railways also helped in further exploitation as it fastened penetration into Indian hinterland for economic and commercial exploitation.

As a result, in the course of around two hundred years (1757-1947) Indian artisans, craftsmen and important trading centers collapsed and whatever manufacturing activity existed was destroyed under the impact of increased imports which led destabilization and crippling of Indian economy.

Question for UPSC Mains:
Examine how the decline of traditional artisanal industry in colonial India crippled the rural economy. (250 words)

Published: October 30, 2017 | Modified:April 5, 2020