As Indians, we know how much the British Rule was hated in India. We know they taxed salt, and Gandhiji opposed it in the Dandi March and the salt satyagraha. We know they taxed tea and that the Americans had a little Boston Tea Party!
But how many of us know, that the British Rulers unreasonably taxed British Citizens in Britain? Everything including tea and salt?
In the British Council Library, last week, I found a book called Smugglers’ tales by Tom Quinn.
I learned that Smuggling was a part of the British Fabric of Life for several centuries upto the middle of the 19th century and that the ordinary people viewed them as heroes – like Robin Hoods! The reason for the widespread smuggling including the parish priests, local gentry, the magistrates and sometimes even the excisemen… was the taxes.
“The government taxes on imports and exports of a great variety of goods were ill thought out, often excessive and invariably impossible to enforce. High taxes ensured that the vast bulk of the population would never be able to afford to drink wine or spirits or tea or to wear silk or smoke tobacco – at one stage even salt was taxed heavily.” – Lagaan Anyone?
This knowledge has changed the way that I view Britain of that period. Those “British Rulers” were not only “cruel” to the Indian people, but also to the American people, who were of their own race, and to their very own countrymen!! Why did the British Government need so much tax money at the cost of citizens of their country and their “colonies”?
(This next article shows how a tax that was merely difficult in Britain, led to the state of British Induced Poverty and Misery in India, the land of gold and spices : http://iref.homestead.com/Salt.html It also shows how dangerous it is put the administration of a nation in the hands of corporate governance – a mistake we may be close to repeating. This next article http://iref.homestead.com/Plunder.html talks of Plunder of India and the Industrial Revolution.)
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