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‘Deindustrialization’ Revisited: The Handloom Weavers of the Central Provinces of India, c. 1800–1947

  • Peter Harnetty (a1)
Abstract

When Marx in 1853 denounced the exploitation of India under British rule and wrote of ‘The British intruder who broke up the Indian handloom’ he laid the foundation for an economic critique which has endured to the present day. In the twentieth century, the fate of the Indian handloom weaver has been at the center of the controversy over the concept of the ‘deindustrialization’ of India on which there is now a substantial body of literature. Did the handloom industry collapse in face of competition from manufactured British imports as proponents of this thesis contend? Or were the handloom weavers able to survive the competition and at least retain (and, as has recently been argued, perhaps even improve) their position, as demand for cloth rose with rising per capita income, the fall in cloth prices was offset by the cheaper price of machine-spun yarn, and the handloom weavers diversified into higher-valued products and adopted new technologies? This paper is intended as a further contribution to this debate. It examines what happened to the handloom industry in one part of India (the region that from 1861 was called the Central Provinces) over a period of roughly one hundred and fifty years. It is in four parts. The first part studies the changes that occurred in the nineteenth century as British power spread throughout the subcontinent. This is the period when deindustrialization is said to have occurred to a significant extent.

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1 Marx made this comment in an article written for the New York Daily Tribune, 25 06 1853 [reprinted in Marx K. and Engels F., The First Indian War of Independence, 1857–1859 (Moscow, n.d.), p. 17].

2 The main issues in the ‘deindustrialization’ debate are analyzed by Simmons Colin, ‘Deindustrialization, Industrialization and the Indian Economy, c. 1850–1947,’ Modern Asian Studies 19 (1985), pp. 593622; note 20 on p. 600 of this article lists the principal contributors to the debate since 1963.Simmons also discusses (note 19, p. 599) the difficulties of arriving at a rigorous definition of the term ‘deindustrialization’ and I follow him in using it in a wide and non-technical sense to refer to the controversy over the fate of the handloom industry during the period covered in this paper.

3 The argument that the handlooms, far from passively surviving, adapted to the changed conditions of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries to become a dynamic industry has been made by Roy Tirthankar, ‘Size and Structure of Handloom Weaving in the Mid-ThirtiesThe Indian Economic and Social History Review 25 (1988), pp. 124.

4 The paper therefore responds to the timely suggestion of Peter Robb, that historians of British India need to find a way to divorce interpretations from preconceptions and reach conclusions as a result of testing the evidence, so as to criticize and perhaps discard established hypotheses. See Robb Peter, ‘British Rule and Indian “Improvement”’, Economic History Review 2s, XXXIV (1981), pp. 507–23. As Robb points out, the fate of the handloom weavers is one of the central issues in the debate over what happened to the Indian economy under British rule.

5 Low M., Supplement to the Settlement Report of the Nagpur District (Nagpur, 1867), pp. 243, 266. (This Supplement was also published in revised from in Grant C. (ed.), The Gazetteer of the Central Provinces of India [hereafter Gazetteer of the Central Provinces] (Nagpur, 1867; 2nd edn, 1870). In the case of Umrer, the manufacture of cloth began around 1775 which Mudhaji Bhonsla, the regent of Nagpur at the time, built a large fort there. A key factor was the local well water which was considered superior for the fixing of dyes on silks.Ibid., pp. 318–19. Umrer was famous for its brilliant red dyes obtained from cochineal (the dried body of an insect).

6 Russell R. V. and Lal Hira, The Tribes and Castes of the Central Provinces of India (Indian reprint ed, Delhi, 4 vols, 1975), II (Balahi), III (Ganda, Julaha, Kori, Koshti) and IV (Mala, Mahar, Panka). Julahas were numerous in northern India and Bengal and were converts from Hinduism. In Nagpur district and Burhanpur they called themselves Momin which means orthodox. The Momins of Nagpur were immigrants from Mirzapur, a town on the Ganges near Varanasi.Census of India, 1921, Vol. XI, Central Provinces and Berar, Part I, p. 177. other nineteenth-century weaver migrants were the Padmasalis, a Telugu-speaking sub-caste of the Koshtis from Hyderabad state.

7 The manufacture of gold and silver wire for weaving into the borders of silk and cotton cloth begain in Burhanpur in 1600 when it was annexed to the Mughal empire by Akbar. For a while it was an imperial capital and then capital of the subah of Khandesh; it was usually governed by a royal prince. It is not known where the original workers came from but they were said to be Pathans who settled there because local conditions, including the water, were favourable. Report on Gold and Silver Wire Drawing and Gold kace Manufacture in Burhanpur. Madhya Pradesh Central Record Office [MPCRO] Nagpur, Nagpur Residency and Secretariat Record, no. 53/1865(using Abdul Gunee, Superintendent of the Manufacture under Maharaja Sindhia and a member of the Municipal Committee, as informant.

8 Jenkins R., Report on the Territories of the Rajah of Nagpore (Calcutta, 1827), p. 90. Raghoji II had well-development commercial instincts. He owned whole rows of shops in the Nagpur city bazaar and when he paid his troops he obliged them to take part of it in goods from his shops. Low M., (see fn 5), p. 247. His invitation to weavers to settle in his kingdom makes an interesting comparison with the incentives offered by rulers and warriors of the south Indian kingdom of Vijayanagar (1336–1565) to induce weavers to migrated from Gujarat to Madurai. On this, see Frasca Richard A., ‘Weavers in PreModern South India,’ Economic and Political Weekly X (1975), p. 1119.

9 Evidence of Rao Bahadur Bapu Rao Dada, vice-president of Nagpur municipality, secretary of the Nagpur district council, and manager of Swadeshi Mills, to the Indian Famine Commission (Lyall Commission). Parlimentary Papers [P.P.], 1899 (vol. 33, C-9255), Appendix to the Report of the Indian Famine Commission, 1898, Minutes of Evidence, vol. IV, Central Provinces and Berar, pp. 69–72. [Hereafter cited as C-9255]. Although Bapu Rao Dada was giving evidence at the end of the nineteenth century, he said that the system he described had existed ‘from time immemorial’. Under the Raja's government, the employes paid a tax called dalal koshti in proportion to the business they transacted. Ordinary weavers paid a house tax (gher koshti). Jenkins, (see fn. 8), pp. 227–8.

10 Research and Library Branch ], Government of Madhya Pradesh, Bhopal, Preliminary Notes on Cottage Industries in the Central Provinces and Berar, compiled by C. E. Low, 1908. Because of the amount of labor required for sizing the yarn, preparing the warp, and fixing it on the loom, Koshtis often took several wives to save the cost of hired labour. [A pick is one passage of the shuttle containing the weft across the warp].

11 Jenkins (see fn. 8), pp. 8690. Hundreds of carts carried cloth into, out of, and through Nagpur city at this time and each had to pay import, export or transit duties. In the seven years 1818–1819/1824–1825, on average more than 2,000 carts were engaged in this trade and they paid an average of Rs 10,700 a year in duties.Ibid., pp. 232–4.

12 A Report on the Subah or Province of Chhattisgarh written in 1820 A.D. by Major P. Vans Agnew (Napur, 1922), p. 10.

13 Blennerhasset Arthur, Monograph on the Cotton Fabrics of the Central Provinces (Allahabad, 1898), p. 1; Report on the Trade and Resources of the Central Provinces, 1881–82, p. 6.

14 The Report on Gold and Silver Wire Drawing and Gold Lace Manufacture in Burhanpur places the beginning of the decline at A.H. 1220 (i.e.A.D. 1805); see also Report on the Land Revenue Settlement [RLRS] of Nimar, 1866–69, pp. 33, 230, 233–34.

15 Jenkins, (see fn. 8), p. 101.

16 Report on Gold and Silver Wire Drawing and Gold Lace Manufacture in Burhanpur; Report on the Administration of the Central Provinces, 1864–65, p. vi.

17 RLRS Nimar, 1866–1869, pp. 236–7.

18 Low C. E., Report on the Industrical Survey of the Central Provinces and Berar, 1908–1909 (London, 1910), pp. 20–1.

19 Watson J. Forbes, The Textile Manufactures and the Costumes of the People of India (London, printed for the India Office, 1866). This handsome book, 11.5“X13.5” contains 173 pages, and 12 colored plates. Each sample in the 18 volumes was minutely described in the text of this book with details of length, width, color, place of production, and often the price; the plates showed how the various garments, materials, quality, dimensions, and even the location (including latitude and longitude) of the places of manufacture. Originally, all 20 sets were to be distributed in Britain but it was decided to send 7 sets to India, partly to facilitate trade by allowing agents of British as close to the original as possible, but also because the collection might be of direct use to the Indian manufacturer. As Watson put it: ‘Whatever opinions may be entertained regarding the expediency of fostering the mill-system in India, there can be no doubt as to the right which the Indian manufacturer has to participate in a measure like the present, so that he may at least be placed on an equal footing with the manufacturers of this country.’ Ibid., p. 149.

20 Ibid., p. 7.

21 Forty years later, the Commerce and Industries Department of the Government of India prepared a Note on Handloom Weaving in response to a speech in the Indian Legislative Council by Sri Ram Bahadur which was very critical of the policies with respect to indigenous industries followed by the British. These policies had ‘dealt the death blow to the once flourishing industries of India.’ Legislative Council of India, Abstract of Proceedings, vol. 44 (1905–1906), pp. 325–28 (28 March 1906). As originally prepared, the Note included an historical review of the industry which referred to the Secretary of State's action in 1866 in deputing J. Forbes Watson to examine the products of the handlooms of India so as to ascertain whether any such articles could profitably be supplied by British factories. When the Government of India decided to publish the Note, it exclude the historical part at the suggestion of Denzil Ibbetson, a member of the Governor-General's Council ‘because it would provide ammunition for the native press in their attacks on British rule.’ National Archives of India [NAI], New Delhi, India, Commerce and Industries [Comm. and Ind.] (Industries) Proceedings [Procs], Nov. 1906 Part A, no. 1, ‘Keep With’ Note by Ibbetson D. C. J., 24 Sept. 1906.

22 Report on the Administration of the Central Provinces 1865–66, p. iv; Gazetteer of the Central Provinces of India (1870), p. 332. Britain was never able to compete with the dyeing and printing industry of India and exported mainly white or plain unbleached calicoes but did produce one type of dyed cloth suitable to Indian tastes in Turkey red cloth and yarn. Farnie D. A., The English Cotton Industry and the World Market, 1815–1896 (Oxford, 1979), p. 101. As already seen (note 5), Umrer was famous for its red cloth, a variety with which British manufacturers could now compete.

23 The Report on the Trade and Resources of the Central Provinces, 1877–78, p. 16 noted that ‘in some few places the handloom industry almost succumbed to the hardness of the times; in other places was forced into renewed activity even to the glutting of the markets with cheap goods.’

24 Mukharji T. N., Art Manufactures of India (Indian reprint edition, New Delhi, 1974; originally published in Calcutta, 1888), p. 316.Mukharji T. N., F.L.S., of the Indian, Museum, Calcutta, compiled this book as a guide to the art manufactures of India displayed at the Glasgow International Exhibition, 1888.

25 RLRS Nimar, 1866–69, p. 233; Mukharji, (see fn. 24), p. 325.

26 Report on the Administration of the Central Provinces, 1882–83, p. 127.

27 Nagpore Exhibition Papers (Nagpur 1866), p. 78. In Nimar in the late 1860s cotton yarn from England cost one-fourth of the yarn locally spun by Dhers and by the families of the weavers and though considered inferior both in strength and cleanness it had completely supplanted hand-spun yarn except for the finest stuffs. RLRS Nimar, 1866–69, p. 233. In the more remote district of Chanda, English yarn was only just beginning to come into use at this time and because of its inferior strength was only used in second class goods. RLRS Chanda, 1862–69, p. 112.

28 The figures for yarn imports and locally-produced yarn are shown in the following table (in maunds of 82.29 1b.):

Report on the Trade and Resources of the Central Provinces 1876–77/1882–83; Report on the Railway-Borne Traffic of the Central Provinces, 1886–87/1888–89. The import of yarn was greatly stimulated by the abolition of the import duties between 1879 and 1882. Naturally, the use of machine-made yarn resulted in a speedy decline in hand-spinning. See Report on the Administration of the Central Provinces, 1882–83, pp. 126–27. On Empress Mills, see Headrick Daniel R., The Tentacls of Progress: Technology Transfer in the Age of Imperialism, 1850–1940 (New York, 1988), p. 364.

29 Note by Burrows L. B., Dept. of Commerce and Industries, 1 Nov. 1905. NAI, India, Comm. and Ind. (Industries) Procs., Nov.11 1906, Part A, no. 1; Review of Work Done as Commercial Agent to the Director of Industries by Udaikaran Puglia, 11 March 1915. Ibid., Apr. 1916, Part A, no. 21.

30 Gazetteer of the Central Provinces (1870), p. clii. 1863–1864 was the first year in which trade statistics were published and this provides the starting point for the table. The figures for imports are gross and do not take account of re-exports; the figures for exports do not show local consumption and in the quinquennium 1883–1884/1887–1888 include factory-produced cloth. Hence the statistics should be used to deduce trends only. Even so, they indicate the loss of market share by the handloom industry.

31 At the end of the nineteenth century there were four mills operating in the Central Provinces, two of them in Nagpur, one in Hinganghat, and one in Jubbulpore. Together they employed 6,041 hands working 95,105 spindles and 1,952 looms. They produced 15,452,208 lb of yarn and 4,591,555 lb of cloth. Blennerhasset, (see fn. 13), pp. 9–10.

32 Subodh Sindhu (Marathi weekly, Khandwa), 24 May 1911. NAI, Report on Native Newspapers Published in the Central Provinces and Berar, 23/1911. Khandwa was the capital of Nimar district, in which Burhanpur was situated and where the competition of artificial silk would be particularly noticed. By 1911 there were frequent references in the Central Provinces’ press to the success of the Japanese in penetrating foreign markets and to the support Japanese merchants got from their government. These observations were accompanied by demands that the Government of India should promote swadeshi (home produced) goods.

33 Census of the Central Provinces, 1872, pp. 37, 43, 47.

34 Report on the Administration of the Central Provinces, 1874–75, p. 71.

35 Ibid., 1880–81, p. 96.

36 Census of the Central Provinces, 1881, Vol. II, Report with Appendices, p. 115. But the deputy-commissioner of Bhandara noted the continued emigration of handloom weavers to Berar. Ibid., p. 18.

37 Report on the Trade and Resources of the Central Provinces, 1881–82, p. 6.Fuller J. B. entered the Indian Civil Service in 1873 and was posted to the North-Western Provinces. While serving at Cawnpore he wrote a report on the weaving industry of that city. This secured him an appointment as Assistant Director of Agriculture and Commerce for the North-Western Provinces. He was transferred to the Central Provinces in 1882. Fuller put his finger on the reason for the discrepancy between the evidence of district officials and that of the census takers. For the latter, occupation was synonymous with caste name, so if the numbers of a given caste showed an increase, their occupation must be increasing. To take an example from the weaving castes, the census of 1881 showed 129,559 Koshtis compared with 102,735 in 1872. It was on this kind of evidence that the census commissioner argued that the weavers were holding their own.

38 India Office Library and Records [IOLR], London, Secretary of State to Government of India [GOI], Despatches no. 322 and 419 (Financial), 22 Aug. and 10 Oct. 1872.

39 Cheif Commissioner [Ch. Commr.], Central Provinces [CP]., to GOI, no. 3804/21, 22 Oct. 1875. MPCRO, CP, General Dept. Compilations, 282/1875. The Government of India turned down the scheme as ‘wholly impracticable’.

40 Report on the Trade and Resources of the Central Provinces, 1877–78, p. 11.Chief Commissioner Morris J. H. held that office from 1868 to 1883, a fifteen-year term that was a record in the history of British rule in India. He never rose to a higher post. Of him, Fuller (who ended his career as Lieutenant-Governor of Eastern Bengal and Assam, 1905–1906) wrote that he was a person who troubled himself very little over details. ‘My drafts came back so speedily that I doubted whether he read them before signing; and was assured on that point by finding that two pages that had stuck together came back to me undetached.’; Fuller B., Some Personal Reminiscences (London, 1930), p. 38.Fraser A. H. L., who served as Chief Commissioner from 1899 to 1902 (and ended up as Lieutenant-Governor of Bengal, 1903–1908) confirms Morris's work habits but denies they were perfunctory.Fraser A. H. L., Among Indian Rajahs and Ryots (Allahabad, Indian reprint edition, 1975), pp. 3940.

41 Report of the Secound Indian National Congress (Calcutta, 1886), pp. 41, 60–9. One of the speakers in the debate on the resolution, Lala Hukm Chand, complained that the occupation of the weavers had been ruined by foreign competition.

42 GOI to Ch. Commr., CP, no. 44F (Confidential), 17 Aug. 1887. MPCRO, Rev. Dept. Comp., 212/1887–1888. At first, reports were not required until 1 May 1888 but on 21 March 1888 the Government of India asked for the reports to be submitted punctually because the viceroy, Lord Dufferin, wanted to deal with the matter personally and he was going to leave India earlier than anticipated. (Dufferin took office in Decemeber 1884 and would normally have served five years but he left India at the end of 1888 to become ambassador in Rome).

43 Commr. of Settlmts. and Agric. to Divisional Commrs., no.1617A, 10 Sept. 1887, Ibid.

44 Ch. Commr., CP, to GOI, no. 915S, 25 July 1888, paras. 5–10, Ibid. If the rural population was as extravagant and improvident as it was said to be because of spending more on marriages and festivals, then this products. Yet the evidence showed that the weavers were worse off.

45 Ibid., paras 11–12.

46 Commr. Jubbulpore to Commr., Settlmts. and Agric., no. 2442, 1 May 1888, Ibid., A than was a piece of cloth of fixed length.

47 Div. Commr., Nagpur to Commr., Settlmts, and Agric., no.. 756, 17 Apr. 1888, Ibid.

48 Fuller J. B., Review of the Progress of the Central Provinces During the Past 30 Years and of the Present and Past Condition of the People (Nagpur, 1892), pp. 19, 55.

49 For the industrial survey of 1889 and the lack of action, see Ch. Commr., C.P. to GOI, no. 1387, 2 Nov. 1910. NAI, India, Comm. & Ind. (Industries) Procs., Jan. 1911, Pt 8, nos 1–3. The Chief Commissioner at the time was Alexander Mackenzie who had spent most of his previous (and would spend much of his subsequent) career in Bengal. This probably explains why he did not see the importance of the matter to the Central Provinces.

50 P.P. 1898 (vol. 62, C–8823), Further Papers (No. VII) Regarding the Famine and Relief Operations in India during the Years 1897–98, p. 666. [Hereafter cited as C–8823].

51 P.P. 1898 (vol. 62, C-8660), Further Papers (No. IV) Regarding the Famine and Relief Operations in India during the years 1896–97, p. 60; Evidence of Dada Rao Bahadur Bapu Rao, Vice-President of Nagpur Municipality, Secretary of the Nagpur District Council, and Manager of Swadeshi Mills, C–9255, pp. 69–79.

52 Evidence of Dada R. B. Bapu Rao (see fn. 51), p. 76. The cost in grain was estimated at 22 ounces per adult, which was less than the Famine Code provided for those on gratuitos relief.P.P. 1899 (Vol. 31, C-1978), Report of the Indian Famine Commission, 1848, pp. 779 and 799 [hereafter cited as C-1978].

53 C-1978, p. 864.

54 Census of India, 1901, Vol. 13, Central Provinces, Part I, p. 225. The low weaving castes were among the worst hit during the famines showing a decrease in numbers of 8.5 per cent for cent for Mahars, 13 per cent for Gandas, 15 per cent for Pankas, and 20 per cent for Koris. This compares with a decrease of 8.3 per cent for the general population. The Koshtis declined by only 3.7 per cent, Ibid., p. 139.

55 Farnie (see fn. 22), pp. 96–7.

56 India became the prime market for British cloth exports in volume in 1839 and in value in 1843, Ibid., p. 101.

57 Sandberg Lars G., Lancashire in Decline: A Study in Entrepreneurship, Technology and International Trade (Columbus, 1974), p. 140, Table 21 and pp. 259–62, Table 43. In the period 1885–1894, average annual British cloth exports to all parts of the world were 4,904,342,000 yards of which India took on average 2,085,758,000 yards, worth on average £18,320,000 annually. In fact, British cloth exports to India increased both in volume and value up to 1913 but India's share of total British exports declined slightly after 1894 from 43 to 41 per cent.

58 C-9178, p. 860.

59 Dutt Romesh, The Economic History of India under Early British Rule (first published in 1902, American reprint edition, New York, 1970), and The Economic History of India in the Victorian Age (first published in 1904, American reprint edition, New York, 1970). This work reached its fifth edition in 1920. After independence it became an official publication of the Government of India (1960). Dutt served for 26 years in the Indian Civil Service, from which he resigned in 1896. He presided over the fifteenth session of the Indian National Congress in 1899.

60 Commr. of Settlmts. and Agric., to Ch. Commr., CP, no. C–2, 7 Jan. 1902, in Report on Industrial Education (Calcutta, 1902), Part III, Proceedings of the Industrial Education Conference, Nagpur, 16 Jan. 1902, p. 84. In his review of conditions in the Central Provinces over a ten–year period, Sly drew special attention to the decay of cottage industries, particularly the handloom industry. Sly F. G., Memorandum on the Condition of the People of the Central Provinces during the Years 1892–1902 (Nagpur, 1902), pp. 1718.

61 SirWatt George , Indian Art at Delhi (Calcutta, 1903), p. 273. (This book was the official catalog of the Delhi Durbar Exhibition, 1902–1903). Watt thought that to ‘bolster up the effete methods and appliances of bygone times would of necessity involve the suppression of national progression’ and he said that it was only because the exhibition was designed to demonstrate Indian Art that powerloom manufactures were excluded. Ibid., p. 272.

62 It showed an average profit of 20 per cent during its first eighteen years (1877–1895) and employed 2,700 men by the end of the century. Headrick (see fn. 28), p. 364.

63 NAI, India, Comm. and Ind. (Industries) Procs, Nov. 1906, Part A, no. 1.

64 Ch. Commr., CP, to GOI, no. 1387, 2 Nov. 1910. Ibid., Jan. 1911, Part B, nos 1–3. The Victoria Technical Institute was established with funds subscribed in the Central Provinces to the Queen Victoria Memorial Fund. In 1905 it changed its name to the Society of Agriculture and Industries in the Central Provinces.

65 The Chief Commissioner at the time was Craddock R. H., who in the 1890s had been settlement officer of Nagpur. He was sympathetic to the Koshtis, whom he saw as victims of changing times, unable to maintain their traditional social standards or to adjust their lifestyles to altered economic conditions.RLRS Nagpur, 1890–95, pp. 28–9. Low was the Director of Agriculture. He saw the handloom industry as the most important in the Central Provinces and he did not assume that it would disappear. His task was to gather facts about cottage industries, such as the costs involved in the various stages of production and the comparative cost and quality of the articles produced by competing powerlooms, domestic and foreign, and also to investigate relations between artisans and wholesale traders. With such knowledge, Low thought it would then be possible to devise schemes for improving the mechanical efficiency of handlooms and also for improving the methods by which cottage industries were financed. Note by Low C. E., encl. in Director of Agriculture, CP, to Ch. Commr., CP, no.558, 5 Feb. 1908. NAI India, Comm. and Ind. (Industries) Procs., Apr. 1908, Part A, nos 1–2. In connection with this survey, Low was also required to organize an It was held in Nagpur at the end of 1908.

66 Low C. E., (see fn. 18). While he was doing it, another famine struck the Central Provinces in 1907–1908 and nearly half the expenditure incurred in combatting it was devoted to the relief of weavers (Rs 571,821 out of Rs 1,147,859), mostly in Nagpur district and Burhanpur. Final Report on the Famine and Scarcity in the Central Provinces and Berar during the Year 1907–08, pp. 1221. NAI, India, Rev. and Agric. (Famine) Procs., July 1909, Part A, nos7–11.

67 In January 1905, the Conference of the Indian and Ceylon Chambers of Commerce passed a resolution calling for the repeal of the import and excise duties; the latter was attacked because of the unfair advantage it gave to handlooms. S. M. Johnson, in proposing the resolution, even raised the specter that if experiments to improve the handloom succeeded, the powerloom would not be able to compete at all. The Englishman, 7 Jan. 1905; The Statesman, 25 Jan. 1905.

68 In 1918, the Indian Industrial Commission gave the following examples of manufacturing costs (i.e., the cost of labor per lb. of yarn): fine turbans: Rs 4–3–8 per lb of yarn; intermediate quality cloth for dhotis: Rs 1–2–4 per lb of yarn; coarse cloth: 7 annas per lb [1 rupee = 16 annas]. Report of the Indian Industrial Commission (Calcutta, 1918), Appendix 1, p. 394. [Also published in P.P. 1919 (vol. 17 Appendix 1, Cmd., 51)].

69 Low, (see fn. 18), pp. 34–8. These wages, in a period of comparative prosperity, are comparable with those paid to field laborers and workers in manganese mines and less than workers in cotton gin factories who earned 5 to 6 annas a day.Low C. E., Memorandum on the Condition of the People of the Central Provinces during the Period 1902–1912 (Nagpur, 1912), p. 3.

70 ‘Keep With’ note by P.F.M., 23 Sept. 1915. NAI, India, Finance (Accounts) Procs., Nov. 1915, Part A, nos 639–40; Ch. Commr., CP, to GOI, no. 1437–A/XV, 17 Nov. 1918. NAI, Comm. and Ind. (Industries), Procs., Jan. 1919, Part B, no. 1; Note on Industrical Development in the Central Provinces, by Corbett G. L., Director of Indistries, 17 Jan. 1919. MPCRO, CP, Comm. and Ind. Case Files, 34–13/1919.

71 Report of the Fact-Finding Committee (Handlooms and Mills) [hereafter Report of the Fact-Finding Committee] (Calcutta, 1942), pp. 87101. This committee was established in January 1941 to survey the extent of the handloom industry, report on marketing, and inverstigate how far a prohibition on the use of low count yarn by the mills would help in the handloom industry. Its chairman was Dr P. J. Thomas, Professor of Economics, University of Madras; R. B. Hrishikesh Mookerjee, of the Custom House, Calcutta, was the secound member; and B. P. Adarkar, Reader in Economics, University of Allahabad, was secretary. The report is a mine of information about all aspects of the mill and handloom industries in the twentieth century.

72 Low, (see fn. 18), p. 43.

73 Chapman Sidney J., The Lancashire Cotton Industry: A Study in Economic Development (American reprint edition, Clifton, N.J., 1974; first published in Manchester, 1904). ch. II (‘Development in Weaving’).

74 Memorandum of the recommendations of a Conference convened on 27 Aug. 1910 to consider measures for the development of Industries in the Central Provinces and Berar. NAI, India, Comm. and Ind. (Industries) Procs., Sept. 1911, Part B, nos 13–14.

75 Chatterton A., Industrial Evolution in India (Madras, 1912), pp. 252–3. For his parallel between India and English weavers. Chatterton drew on Chapman (see fn. 73), ch.III (‘The Hand-Loom Weavers’).

76 Chatterton, (see fn. 75), pp. 230–1.

77 In the Telugu-speaking districts in the Andhra region of Madras, Muslim overlordship had been firmest. Caste restrictions, therefore, may well have been weaker in Andhra than in the Tamil Districts. Kumar Dharma, Land and Caste in South India: Agricultural Labour in Madras Presidency in the Nineteenth Century (Cambridge, 1965), pp. 45–7. One may perhaps infer from this that the people there would be more receptive to outside ideas. On the other hand, the three principal weaving castes of the Tamil country had developed a high degree of dependence on middlemen during the Vijayanagar period and this could have affected their ability to respond to technical innovation. See Frasca, (see fn. 8), p. 1122.

78 Chatterton related his experiences in Madras to an audience at the Industrial Conference held in Surat in 1907 and attended by Low as representative of the Central Provinces. Chatterton also wrote a note on the various experiments he was carrying out at Salem to test the merits of different patterns of looms. He found that neither the Hattersley loom nor that of Raphael Bros. was satisfactory because the weavers were not strong enough to drive them. Supplemental Note on Hand-loom Weaving in India, 1907, by Chatterton Alfred, Director of Industrial and Technical Inquiries, Madras, NAI, India, Comm. and Ind. (Industries) Procs., May 1907, Part B, no. 1.

79 Chief Commr., CP, to GOI, no. 1387/VIII-21–10, June 1910. MPCRO, CP, Comm. and Ind. Case Files, 21–16/1911 (1910).

80 Confidential Note on the Origin and Spread of Indian Discontent, by Craddock R. H., 12 Nov. 1909. RLB, CP, Political and Military Confidential Case Files, 8/1910.

81 Resolution no. 323/VIII-34–3, in the Commerce and Industries Dept., 6 April 1914. MPCRO, CP, Comm, and Ind. Case Files, 34–3/1915. Such a view was common among European officials in overseas possessions. See Headrick (see fn. 28), p. 380.

82 Secretary of State to Viceroy, Telegram, 29 Aug. 1912. CP, Comm. and Ind. Case Files, 21–16/1911 (1910).

83 NAI, India, Education Procs., Feb. 1919, Part A, nos 13–21. Wight was 42 years of age when he arrived in India.

84 ‘Keep-With’ Notes by SirHolland T. H. , member of the Council of the Governor-General, and Corbett G. L., deputy-secretary to the GOI, Commerce and Industries Dept. NAI, Comm. and Ind. (Industries) Procs., July 1919, Part A, nos 3–5.

85 Indian Industrial Commission, Minutes of Evidence, II, p. 499, written evidence by Wight W. [also published in P.P. 1919 (vol. 18, Cmd. 235)]. Local manufacture of the shuttle proved unsatisfactory and they had to be imported from England. Pearse Arno S., The Cotton Industry of India (Manchester, 1930), p. 27.

86 Ibid., p. 587, oral evidence by Leftwich C. G., Director of Agriculture and Industries, Central Provinces, 21 Dec. 1916; [First] Report on the Working of the Department of Industries, Central Provinces and Berar, for the year ending 30 Sept. 1919, p. 3.

87 Indian Industrial Commission, Minutes of Evidence, II, p. 500, oral evidence by Wight W., 16 Dec. 1916; Report on the Working of the Department of Industries, Central Provinces and Berar, 1918–19.

88 Note by the Director of Industries, 11 Nov. 1920. RLB, CP, Comm. and Ind. Case Files, 34–25/1921.

89 ‘Keep With’ Note by Low C. E., secretary to the GOI in the Comm. and Ind. Dept., 24 Sept. 1915. NAI, India, Finance (Accounts) Procs., Nov. 1915, Part A, nos 639–40.

90 Deputy-commissioner, Nagpur to Commr., Nagpur, no. 2899, 5 Nov. 1918. MPCRO, CP, Revenue and Scarcity Collections, 16–4/1918. The area under cotton cultivation in the Central Provinces fluctuated considerably between 1915 and 1921.

91 ‘Keep With’ Note by Burdon E., under-secretary to the GOI, Finance Dept., 11 Sept. 1915, NAI, India, Finance (Accounts) Procs., Nov. 1915, Part A, nos 639–40.

92 ‘Keep With’ Note by Low C. E., secretary to the GOI, Comm. and Ind. Dept., 24 Sept. 1915, Ibid. Kershaw was secretary to the GOI, Revenue and Agriculture Dept. This department dealt with famine relief.

93 Indian Industrial Commission, Minutes of Evidence, II, p. 572, written evidence by Leftwich C. G., Director of Agriculture and Industries, CP.

94 GOI to Ch. Commr., CP, no. 919-A, 29 Oct. 1915. India, Finance (Accounts) Procs., Nov. 1915, Part A, nos639–40. Report of the Fact-Finding Committee, p. 9.

95 In the period 1911–12/1915–16, Indian mills consumed 1,297 million lb of yarn and handlooms 1,248 million lb; in the five years from 1916–1917/1920–1921, the figures were 1,644 million lb and 1,097 million lb respectively.

96 Report on the Working of the Indian Factories Act in the Central Provinces and Berar, 1917 (Nagpur, 1918), paras 1–9; Chief Commr., CP, to Secretary, Central Employment and Labour Board, no. 696A, 19 June 1918. MPCRO, CP, Comm. and Ind. Case Files, 34–22/1918; Director of Industries, CP, to Ch. Commr., no. 833,3 May 1919. Ibid., 31–10/1919. The only mill where employment did not increase was the Raja Gokuldass Spinning and Weaving Mill in Jubbulpore which ran into difficulties and changed hands in 1917. Wage rates in these mills in 1919 were the same as in 1917; the owners eventually paid a grain compensation allowance to their workers which meant an addition of 10–15 per cent to their pay but only after strikes one of which, in Burhanpur, lasted a week.

97 Deputy-commissioner, Nagpur, to Commr., Nagpur, no. 2899, 5 Nov. 1918. MPCRO, CO, Rev. and Scarcity Collections, 16–4/1918.

98 Report on the Famine and Scarcity in the Central Provinces and Berar, 1918–19 (Nagpur, 2 vols, 1920), I, p. 3.

99 Govt. of CP to GOI, no. 15-A-1-XII, 18 Jan. 1921. RLB, CP, Rev. and Scarcity Case Files, 14–1/1921; Report on the Famine and Scarcity in the Central Provinces and Berar, 1920–21, Ibid., 14–3/1922. This time, cash advances were not given to the weavers because of the delay in settling these advances experienced in 1916. Instead, the model of 1896–1897 was followed. The weavers were divided into two classes: employers of labor and the employed. The former were given tickets which represented a government guarantee to purchase a monthly outturn of cloth calculated at Rs 60 per loom. The employers then made cash advances to those they employed. Those who received the ticket were chosen by a managing committee consisting of three officials and ten nonofficials, the latter being moneylenders, cloth dealers, and merchants. The committee bought cloth at rates determined by the costs of materials and a daily wage for the weavers. Funds came from interest-free loans made by the government and recouped by the sale of the goods purchased from the weavers, which consisted of 51,913 saris valued at Rs 669,536 and other articles valued at Rs 69,353. Ibid., 16–3/1922.

100 Census of India, 1921, Vol. 1 India, Part I, p. 13.

101 Indian Industrial Commission, Minutes of Evidence, II, pp. 569–70,written evidence by Kolte V. D., pleader, Bhandara, and secretary of the Cooperative District Bank. For a similar failure of two cooperative societies organized among the Momin weavers of Raipur, see Report of the Central Provinces Provincial Banking Enquiry Committee, 1929–30 (Nagpur, 2 vols, 1930), II, 517–18.

102 Note by A. E. Mathias, Registrar of Cooperative Societies, Central Provinces and Berar, 28 Jan. 1919. MPCRO, Comm and Ind. Case Files, 34–13/1919.

103 Indian Industrial Commission, Minutes of Evidence, II, pp. 590–93, written evidence by H. R. Crosthwaite, Registrar of Cooperative Societies, CP and Berar.

104 Director of Industries to Govt. of CP, no. 5274/D, 5 Dec. 1934. RLB, CP, Comm. and Ind. Case Files, 36–6/1935.

105 Report on the Working of the Department of Industries of the Central Provinces and Berar, 1922–23, p. 7 for the attitude of the weavers; every year from 1918–1919 to 1951–1952 the annual report of this department provides figures for the number of fly–shuttle sleys introduced that year and a progressive total.

106 Report of the Fact-Finding Committee, pp. 15–17. It notes (p. 21) that in 1900 Burhanpur has about 10,000 looms making turban cloth and silk-bordered saris. After 1921 both these industries declined, causing serious unemployment not only among weavers but in the numerous subsidiary trades like jari work and dyeing. The weavers of fine quality cloth did not benefit from Gandhi's charkha (spinning wheel) movement because the thread spun was too uneven to be used by them. Census of India, 1921, Vol. I, India, Part I, p. 271.

107 Clow A. G., The State and Industry in India (Calcutta, 1928), pp. 5960; Report on the Working of the Department of Industries of the Central Provinces and Berar, 1924–25, p. 10; Ibid., 1925–26, p. 13. Clow was deputy-secretary in the Dept. of Industries, GOI, when he wrote this book.

108 Report of the Central Provinces Provincial Enquiry Committee, 1929–30, I, p. 228; II, p. 507. The same kind of thing happened in other parts of India. See Clow, (see fn. 107), p. 59. However, the number of fly-shuttle sleys in use in the Central Provinces continued to increase, though more slowly than in the past. In the decade 1930–1939, the Dept. of Industries sold an average of 534 sleys a year compared with an average of 1,219 a year in the previous decade.

109 Report of the Central Provinces Provincial Banking Enquiry Committee, 1929–30, I, p. 229.

110 Indian Tariff Board, Cotton Textile Industry (Delhi, 2 vols, 1934), II, p. 63. Such estimates must be regarded with caution; they depended in part on an estimate of how many pieces a weaver could produce in a month. Also, weavers worked for about 300 days in a year, or the equivalent of 10 months, so that 8 to 13 annas a day would approximate to Rs 13–20 a month. The maximum Capacity of a loom with the fly-shuttle was 25 saris a month. In 1934, the weaving superintendent said that a weaver used 20 to 40 lb of yarn a month from which he produced 9 to 15 saris; the cost of raw materials, including silk for borders, was between Rs 15 and Rs 35, and the weaver's earning came to Rs 15–25 a month.Memorandum on the Handloom Industry in the Central Provinces and Berar, by the Weaving Superintendent, Central Provinces, June, 1934. RLB, CP, Comm. and Ind. Case Files, 36–42/1934.

111 In 1911, those engaged in spinning, sizing and weaving were shown in three separate categories; in 1921, those engaged in spinning were in one category and those in sizing and weaving were combined into another; in 1931, there was a single combined category of cotton spinning, sizing, and weaving. In 1911 and 1921 all person contributing to the family maintenance were regarded as ‘workers’. In 1931, the definition was changed and ‘earners’ plus ‘working dependants’ are the equivalent to ‘workers’ as defined in 1911 and 1921.Census of India, 1911, vol. X, Central Provinces and Berar, Part II, Table XV, p. 215–16; Ibid., 1921, vol. XI, Central Provinces and Berar, Part II, Table XVII, p. 221; Ibid., 1931, vol. XII, Central Provinces and Berar, Part II, Table X, p. 137; Part I, p. 223.

112 It should be borne in mind that since weaving was connected with caste, there was a tendency for weavers who had abandoned the occupation to enter themselves as weavers at the census, especially if their new occupation was socially inferior to weaving. Similarly, those who had recently taken up weaving might not enter themselves as weavers, particularly if their previous occupation was considered superior to weaving. Report of the Fact-Finding Committee, p. 35. In the Central Provinces, where all but the Koshtis were ritually impure, this might mean that the number of Koshtis returning weaving as their principal means of livelihood is an overstatement.

113 The Indian Tariff (Cotton Yarn) Amendment Act, 1927 (this introduced duties on imported yarn which were increased in 1932 and 1934); the Cotton Textile Industry (Protection) Act, 1930; and the Indian Tariff (Textile Protection) Amendment Act, 1934. Appendix Table A shows that mill production increased every year from 1929 to 1938 except in 1933; handloom production fluctuated wildly; imports declined drastically.

114 Up to 1926–1927 the Central Provinces spent about Rs 39,000 a year on the development of handloom weaving; Wight's salary accounted for Rs 12,000. Thereafter, expenditures declined steadily and in the five years from 1929–1930 to 1933–1934 averaged Rs 16,771 a year. NAI, India, Industries and Labour [Ind. and Lab.] (Industries) Procs., F. no. I-354(2)/1934.

115 Director of Industries, CP, to Govt. of CP, no. 2771-D, 25 June 1934. RLB, CP, Comm. and Ind. Case Files, 36–42/1934.

116 Govt. of CP to GOI, no. 2477–2303 XIII, 27 Nov. 1934.Ibid., 36–67/1934.

117 Progress of Schemes for Development of Handloom Weaving in the Various Provinces. NAI, India, Ind. and Lab. (Industries) Procs., F. no. I-354 (24)/1936; Memorandum by the Director of Industries, no. 4546/D, 2 Sept. 1936. RLB, CP, Comm. and Ind. Case Files, 36–44/1936.

118 Report of the Fact-Finding Committee, p. 190.

119 Ibid., p. 192.

120 The Fact-Finding Committee provided two estimates for production of handloom cloth for the Central Provinces. (I) Its own estimate, based on the number of handlooms and the average output per working loom according to the type of loom engaged in cotton weaving, was 79.6 million yards for 1937–1938 (Table XXII, p. 59). Based on its all-India estimate of 1,477 million yards fo cloth produced from 323.3 million lb of yarn (Table XX, p. 57), and using its conversion rate of 1 lb yarn = 4.57 yards cloth, then CP weavers consumed 17.4 million lb yarn that year, a drop of nearly 10 per cent from consumption in 1930–1931 (see Table 3 above). If the old conversion ratio of 1 lb yarn = 4 yards of cloth, used by the Fact-Finding Committee up to 1930–1931, is employed then yarn consumption was 19.9 million lb, an increase of 3 per cent over 1930–1931. (2) The CP government provided an estimate of 103.17 million yards fo cloth (Table XXIII, p. 60) produced from 21.76 million lb yarn [99.4% machine spun] (Appx. XV, p. 284). On the whole, it seems reasonable to conclude that consumption of yarn (and hence producation of cloth, whatever conversion factors are used) was higher at the end of the 1930s than at the beginning. This is borne out by the all-India figures provided in Table 2 above and in Appendix Table A.

121 The Fact-Finding Committee gathered evidence on the monthly earnings of handloom weavers in Madras, Bengal, and Bombay Presidencies which showed drastic falls in their earnings between 1928 and 1941, in some cases as high as 70 to 80 per cent. They estimated that most weavers earned 4 to 6 annas a day, with a few highly skilled ones getting 8 to 12 annas and even a rupee a day and the least skilled ones earning only 2 or 3 annas. This represented the combined earnings of a family. Ibid., pp. 199–200. The figures for the Central Provinces are consistent with those for other parts of India. In the Central Provinces in 1941 the monthly earnings of independent weavers and those working under a master were stated to be from Rs 7–8 to Rs 15 in the busy season (October to December) and Rs 6 to Rs 10 in the slack season (October to September). Ibid., p. 82. This would average out to about 3 annas a day.

122 Provincial Weaver' Coop. Soc. to Govt. of CP, 5 Oct. 1947. Vidarbha Record Office, Nagpur, CP, Comm. and Ind. Case Files, 2–136/1948.

123 In March 1943 the Society was reorganized under a new president, N. L. Balekar, a weaver by caste and a lawyer. With the aid of a government loan it established primary societies, in Nagpur and other places, which the handloom weavers were now willing to join because they needed the cooperative, not for credit or marketing, but in order to get yarn. Director of Industries to Govt. of CP, no. 381/D, 10 May 1944.Ibid., 2–5/1945.

124 For post-independence developments in the handloom industry, see Nanekar K. R., Handloom Industry in Madhya Pradesh (Nagpur, 1968). In the early part of 1988, I visited several centers of the handloom industry in Nagpur and the neighboring town of Saoner. The weavers are still producing saris on fly-shuttle looms and market them through government-subsidized cooperatives. But their living standards are low and nowhere did I see sons following fathers in their traditional occupation. The weavers themselves believed that they were the last generation that would engage in this craft.

125 Chandra Bipan in Morris Morris D. et al. , The Indian Economy in the Nineteenth Century: A Symposium (Delhi, 1969), pp. 53 and 59; Chandra Bipin et al. , India's Struggle for Independence (New Delhi, Penguin edn. 1989), pp. 42, 95.

126 Morris et al. , Indian Economy., pp. 5960.

127 Evidence of SirMehta Sorabji B. , Manager, Empress Mills, to the Royal Commission on Labour in India, Evidence, vol. III, Part I (Written), pp. 92, 100; Part 2 (Oral), pp. 73, 82. [IOLR]. This was at the time when Koshtis in Nagpur were burning their fly-shuttles because they could not market their increased output.

128 Morris Morris D., ‘The Growth of Large-Scale Industry to 1947,’ in The Cambridge Economic History of India, II (1983), p. 669. Morris's discussion of the handloom sector in a lengthy chapter devoted to large-scale industry is very brief but does suggest a retreat from his earlier argument that the handloom weavers were no worse off economically at the end of the nineteenth century than at the beginning, and that in the twentieth century in increases in yarn consumption by the weavers suggests either expansion in the number of weavers or an increase in full-time employment of weavers or both. Morris (see fn. 125), p. 162.

129 This point has been made by Gadgil D. R., The Industrial Evolution of India in Recent Times, 1860–1939 (Bombay, 5th edn, 1971), p. 328.

130 Morris. (see fn. 128), p. 672.

131 Report of the Fact-Finding Committee, p. 22; and fn. 23 above.

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Modern Asian Studies
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