The sources of a nation’s wealth are agriculture, commerce, manufactures and sound financial administration. British rule gave India peace; but it could not promoted or widen those sources of national wealth in India. “The government of a people by itself” wrote J.S. Mill “has a meaning and a reality, but such a thing as government of one people by another does not and cannot exist. One people may keep another for its own use, a place to make money in, a human cattle farm for the profits of its own inhabitants”.
This policy which Great Britain pursued towards India was the same which she used towards Ireland and other colonies. Endeavors were made which were fatally successful, to repress Indian manufactures and to extend British Manufactures. The import of Indian goods to Europe was repressed by prohibitive duties; the export of British goods to India was encouraged by almost nominal duties. The production of raw material in India for British industries and the consumption of British manufactures in India, were the two sole objects of the early commercial policy of England.
The British manufacturer in the words of the historian Horace Hayman Welson “employed the arm of political injustice to keep down and ultimately strangle a competitor with whom he could not have contended on equal terms.”
The causes of Indian poverty advanced by British Indian Administrators were that it was either the result of nature or a product of the Indian people’s own social or economic failings. However, the true causes of Indian poverty were sought by Indian nationalists.
Malaviyaji believed that if manufactures were crippled, agriculture was overtaxed and a third of the revenue remitted out of the country, any nation on earth would suffer from permanent poverty and recurring famines.
Swadeshi was one of the methods which over the years came to be popularly accepted and advocated by the Indian nationalists for checking the growing poverty of the country and encouraging Indian Industries, both traditional and modern. The movement gained momentum after the British Government in India abolished import duties on cotton textiles in order to placate the Lancashire manufacturers. The campaign to substitute Indian Manufactures for the imported ones had two motives:
• to decrease the drain of wealth due to import of foreign commodities
• to provide support to domestic industries
A landmark event in the growing tide of Swadeshi was the establishment of the Deshi Tijarat Company in Allahabad in 1881 by Mahamana to promote use of indigenous manufactures. He also played an important role in the establishment of the Prayag Sugar Company.
Mahamana seconding the proposal of Rai Bahadur P. Ananda Charulu at the 22nd session of Indian National Congress at Calcutta in 1906 said “what is Swadeshi? The Swadeshi movement is a movement to promote the use and of manufactures of our own country. How does it arise and why does the movement arise? It is born of our poverty. It is born of the industrially weak and deplorable position which we are placed in. Prosperous countries, like England, will not for a moment think of starting a swadeshi movement.”
Mahamana explained in details how poverty was brought about in India:
(a) payment of Rs. 20 Cr was made to Britishers in the shape of salaries and pensions etc.
(b) much larger drain was imposed in the shape of price that was paid for manufactures. He said “The raw material of the country is exported and after being finished in other countries, it is brought back and we have to pay tremendous prices for it”
(c) cheap imports were another cause of Indian poverty. Mahamana described how Germany partially destroyed the indigo manufacture and was flooding the market with foreign sugar. The implications of this were that thousands of people were thrown out of employment and added to number of those living on insufficient food.
According to Mahamana Swadeshi was important because it would encourage the consumption of Indian made articles- which will induce the capitalists to build up more industries.
Mahamana speaking at the 22nd Session of Indian National Congress said, “When you find such terrible suffering around you, when you find the drain so great and the income of the people so small, their resources so poor, I say, it is a religious duty cast upon every man of healthy feelings to promote to the utmost extent, the production of Indian manufactures by giving them preference, wherever he can find them, over foreign commodities even at some sacrifice”.
Malaviyaji believed that the National Income was low and therefore the national prosperity was low. In his presidential speech at Lahore session of Congress in 1909 Mahamana said, “People are dying in vast numbers from plague and malaria. Famines are claiming a large toll and people are unprosperous and unhappy. That is the condition of the country. On the other hand, you find that it is a country most richly endowed with national resources. It is a country whose people are not lacking in intelligence and industry, and living most simple life, they are not addicted to crimes as some of the most advanced countries are. Can there be anything more sad and disappointing than to find that people are still in such an unfortunate condition that this country should lie so low in the scale of nations? And if that is so what is our duty to the mother land?.”
He believed that greater reform can be achieved by us than by the British Government. He gave the following as remedies for improving the condition of India:
• national education
• growth of Swadeshism
• improvement in sanitation of villages & cities by our labour
• development of indigenous industries
Dr Padmini Ravindra Nath (Banaras Hindu University), Varanasi