Social Scientist. v 16, no. 181-82 (June-July 1988) p. 1.

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Editorial Note

The current issue of Social Scientist contains a number of case studies, dealing with particular regions, which highlight the process of colonialisation of the Indian economy and its consequences. The main ingredients of this process of colonialisation are of course well known though, of late, much debated, viz. the substitution of a tax on produce by a tax on land, increasing the overall tax burden on the produces; the insistence upon tax-payments in cash; the introduction of unprecedented rigidity with regard to the timing of tax-payments; the institution of legally enforceable contracts and property-rights; large-scale commoditisation of the economy together with its exposure to the ravages of international commerce through which burgeoning industrial capitalism in the West destroyed a good deal of domestic craft-production; and the fostering of a whole new class of parasitic intermediaries who took advantage of the hew institutions to stake a claim of their own for a share of the surplus. The consequences of this process were: a greatly increased squeeze on the direct producers, resulting on the one hand in recurring famines, and on the other hand in recurring peasant revolts, and a general shifting of the growth of productive forces. While each article in this issue does not dwell upon all these themes, they together create a picture of the colonialisation process which is worth recapitulating all over again precisely because it is no longer modish.

That colonial oppression represented a qualitatively different and altogether new phenomenon, and was resisted initially by the united strength of the old society, is emphasised in the paper by D. Subramanyam Reddy dealing with the Northern Division of Arcot in the Madras Presidency. The ryotwari settlement, which is often portrayed by colonial spokesman as an attempt by a benevolent state to free the direct producers from the burden of having to maintain a host of intermediaries, was in fact motivated by the desire to maximise revenue by the colonial regime. In North Arcot this regime appropriated for itself a part of the claims which the poligars had on the produce in the earlier years; in addition it also jacked up the amount which the ryots had to pay. The result was to alienate both tfie poligars and the ryots, and to precipitate a revolt in which all sections of the people participated in varying degrees.

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