Robert Clive (born 1725) was appointed as Clerk in the service of the East India Company in 1743. The Seize of Arcot (1761) during Second Carnatic War gave a major boost to his career and he became deputy governor of Fort St. David at Cuddalore in 1755. From 1758 to 1760 and then 1765 to 1767, he remained Governor of the Presidency of Fort William.

During his tenure, British East India Company won battle of Plassey, Battle of Chinsura and Battle of Buxar. These battles paved the way for British conquest of Northern India. Clive also imposed Dual system of administration in Bengal which ruined its economy.

Battle of Plassey, 1757

The last Nawab of Bengal Siraj ud-Daulah was a friend of French and was wary of the growing intervention of the British in the affairs of the province. Irked Nawab marched upon Calcutta with a large army and seized the site of Fort Williams. 146 British who surrendered were stuffed in a room of 18 square feet and 123 out of them were suffocated to death. This incident is called Black Hole of Calcutta (1756). After this event, British made a secret treaty with Mir Zafar, promising to place him on the throne of Bengal if he helps British. On 23 June 1757, a battle was fought between British and Siraj-ud-Daula’s forces supported by French as a part of Seven years war (in Europe).

The forces of Nawab were defeated and Nawab fled the scene but was pursued, captured and executed on 2 July 1757. Role of some of the traitors such as Jagat Seth (a Marwari banker), Amir Chand, Rai Durlabh, Ghaseti Beghum (aunt of Nawab) helped in defeat of the Nawab.

After this battle, Mir Jafar was placed as a titular Nawab of Bengal in 1757. The British extracted enormous sums from Mir Jafar as the price of his elevation. But he could not bear the extortionist policies of the British for long. When he realized that British expectations were limitless he tried to wriggle out of their grip. For this he took the help of the Dutch.

Battle of Chinsura, 1759

Mir Jafar opened secret negotiations with the representatives of the Dutch East India Company to bring troops against the British. The Dutch, seeing an opportunity to enhance the influence sent a force at Chinsura, but they were defeated by the British army. The battle was fought both in sea and land. The Victories British overthrew the titular Nawab Mir Jafar and his placed his son in law Mir Kasim as Nawab of Bengal. Mir Kasim soon began to show a will of his own, and to cherish dreams of independence. He eventually shifted his capital from Murshidabad to Munger in Bihar where he raised an independent army.

The major issue of Mir Kasim with British was of trade. During Farrukhsiyar reign in 1717, British East India Company had purchased duty-free trading rights in all of Bengal for a mere three thousand rupees a year. Mir Kasim opposed that the imperial Dastak was discriminatory. The British could trade without paying taxes but the other local merchants with dastaks were required to pay up to 40% of their revenue as tax.

In a response to this, Mir Kasim abolished all taxes on the local traders as well. This upset the British and hostility was renewed. In 1763, there was a skirmish between British and forces of Company. Mir Kasim was defeated and he fled to take refuge with Nawab of Awadh Shuja-ud-Daula.

When Mir Kasim took shelter from Shuja-ud-Daula, British asked him to deliver him to them. The Nawab refused to do so. On October 23, 1764, there was a decisive battle at Buxar.

Battle of Buxar October 22, 1764

On October 22-23, 1764, the decisive Battle of Buxar was fought between British on one side and combined forces of Mir Kasim, Mughal emperor Shah Aalam II and Shuja-ud-Daula at other side. However, the three separate allies could not cooperate with each other and were defeated. This war battle was won in absence of Clive who was in England at that time. The British forces were commanded by Major Hector Munro. After this battle, Shah Aalam II submitted to the British. Nawab Shuja-ud-Daula fled from the scene and took refuse to Rohilla. Mir Kasim also fled and died a few years later in extreme obscurity.

In 1765, Clive returned styled Lord Clive as Governor General of Bengal for the second time. By this time, the British had shown their military supremacy in India for, the Battle of Buxar was tough contested bout, than the Battle of Plassey, which was won by deceit.

The important outcome of the Battle of Buxar was the Treaty of Allahabad which was signed between Lord Clive and Mughal Emperor Shah Alam II, who had submitted to the British in the battle. As per this treaty:

  • Mughal Emperor granted Fiscal Rights (Diwani) or right to administer the territory and collect taxes to the East India Company at Bengal, Bihar and Orissa. Thus, the British became the masters of fate of the people of Bihar, Bengal and Orissa and now they would collect the revenue.
  • In lieu of this Right, the Company gave an annual tribute of 26 Lakh Rupees to the Mughals
  • The districts of Kora and Allahabad were returned to Mughal Emperor.
  • Awadh was returned to Shuja-ud-Daulah but Allahabad and Kora was taken from him.
  • The Nawab of Awadh paid 53 Lakhs rupees of war indemnity to the British.
  • Thus, Clive, in person settled the fate of almost half of the Northern India.
  • The fiscal administration of Bengal, Behar, and Orissa and the territorial jurisdiction of the Northern Circars is called the Dual System of Government.

Dual System of Government

Under this system, the company carried out the Diwani (Fiscal) jurisdiction so Company was Diwan. Nawabs carried out the Nizamat (territorial) jurisdiction so they were Nizam. This system of separate Diwan and Nizam is called Dual Administration. However, the real authority was East India Company in the Nizamat also.  The biggest fallout of this system was that the Indian Merchants were reduced to beggars. On the one side, British kept enjoying the duty free trade; the Indian merchants were to pay around 40% of the revenue.

The peasants were now under the British revenue collection. The British left no stone unturned to extract each penny. There was zero activity in the name of development so Peasants started turning beggars. The new confusing administrative machinery, which was not properly set up, created chaos. The Officials of the British East India Company such as Lord Clive became extremely rich due to the clandestine private trade.

This was the beginning of the Economic loot from India, which made England the wealthiest country in the world in the 19th and 20th century. The consequence of this steady drain upon the production of the country soon began to be felt.

The Corruption in East India Company and its fall outs

After winning the Battle of Plassey, the 35 year young man Clive returned to England in 1760 with a fortune of 3 Lakh Pounds and a rent of 27 thousand Pounds per year. Further, the treasure of Nawab Sirajuddaula was looted in such a way that 20% was appropriated to the Zamindars and the corrupt company officials. In 1770, there was a catastrophic famine in Bengal. This famine was so ruinous that every 1 out of 3 people in Bengal (Plus Bihar & Orissa) died and the population of 30 million was reduced to 10 million.

The immediate reason of this famine was that the rains were no good and the company, which was now Diwan of the region, increased the land tax by 10% in April 1770. One partial reason was that Opium cultivation was something the corrupt British wanted from the peasants of India, which could maximize their trade profits.  The Indians and the British were collectively responsible for this disaster.

Death of Clive

Clive left India in 1767, but the Evening of his life was not peaceful. There were numerous voices in Britain about his through corruption in India and his “conduct” was cross examined in the British Parliament. He was vindicated, but despite that, he stabbed himself to death with a pen Knife on 22 November 1774. The suicide was partially attributed to his Opium addiction.

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