30th August 2012
The Hindu agriculturist was far superior to his British counterpart
As part of my search for relevant material for the study of Hindu capitalism I chanced upon: Decolonizing History: Technology and Culture in India, China and the West 1492 to the Present Day by Claude Alvares (1980).
It is increasingly clear that anyone who imagines that Hiduism was (or is) other-worldly is delusional. I have known Hindus all my life – family and friends, and have never come across a SINGLE Hindu who is just other-worldly. Yes, they are religious, but their feet are FULLY planted on this earth.
Every Hindu responds as any other human being would do, to incentives.
This is not a minor point. It must necessarily inform the analysis of compatibility of Hinduism with capitalism.
From being proud leaders of the world in virtually EVERY field till about 1750, Indians become extremely susceptible to deluded interpretations from British and German "thinkers", and became socialists.
The time has come to write an accurate economic history of India. I wish I had the time to do this task properly. My book, HC, will only be able to sketch the possibilities. I do hope some young doctoral students will pick up this challenge to document the institutions of Hindu/Indian capitalism in their entirety, and give Hindus/Indians the confidence to embrace LIBERTY and capitalism once again.
For now, let me just quote a few highlights re: agriculture from Alvares.
The idea of India's other-worldliness was systematically emphasized by Max Muller, though he was not the first.The hypothesis that Hindu philosophy (wrongly identified wholly with the idealistic school) proved disastrous for India's technical capacity or economic activity should be relegated to the garbage heap; so too, the fashionable cliche that India spent too much of its energy in the pursuit of metaphysical speculations. Those who still want to hold on to the older myths are advised to read carefully what follows.
Dr. Wallick, a Superintendent of the East India Company's Botanical Garden at Calcutta, was heard by the English Commons' Committee on this issue, on the 13th of August, 1832:
The husbandry of Bengal has in a great measure been misunderstood by the Europeans out of India The Bengali husbandry, although in many respects extremely simple and primeval in its mode-and form, yet is not quite so low as people generally suppose it to be.
Twelve years earlier (1820), Colonel Alexander Walker had prepared a more comprehensive report on the agriculture of Malabar and Gujarat. [He wrote:]
The Indian peasant is commonly well enough informed as to his interest, and he is generally intelligent and reflecting. He is attached to his own modes, because they are easy and useful; but furnish him with instruction and means, and he will adopt them, provided they be for his profit. He will not be led away by speculation and theory, which he cannot afford to follow; but he will not refuse any more economical, and less laborious mode of cultivation. …. We ought … to remember that India has very little occasion for the introduction of new plants for food. There are more kinds of grain cultivated perhaps than in any other part of the world …. I am at a loss to know what essential present we can make to India. She has all the grains that we have and many kinds more of her own.
“It would require a volume to pursue all the details of Hindoo Husbandry.” The fencing and enclosure of fields; the broad grassy margins for pasture. The whole world, he exclaims, “does not produce finer and more beautifully cultivated fields than those in Gujarat”.
Dr. Voelcker, a Consulting Chemist with the Royal Agricultural Society of England in 1889 … was deputed to make inquiries and suggest improvements to Indian agriculture:
On one point there can be no question, viz. that the ideas generally entertained in England, and often given expression to even in India, that Indian agriculture is, as a whole, primitive and backward, and that little has been done to try and remedy it, are altogether erroneous . . .. At his best the Indian Ryot, or cultivator is quite as good as, and in some respects the superior of, the average British farmer. … Nor need our British farmers be surprised at what I say, for it must be remembered that the natives of India were cultivators of wheat centuries before those in England were. It is not likely, therefore, that their practice should be capable of much improvement. What does, however, prevent them from growing larger crops is the limited facilities to which they have access, such as the supply of water and manure. … It is wonderful, too, how much is known of rotation, the system of mixed crops and of fallowing.
[Re: irrigation] Alexander Walker commented:
the practice of watering and irrigation is not peculiar to the husbandry of India, but it has probably been carried there to a greater extent and more laborious ingenuity displayed in it than in any other country.
Hear Alvares speak: