By Neil Charlesworth
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Extra info for British Rule and the Indian Economy 1800–1914
Progress, too, in the provision of modem communications was considerable. By 1913 India boasted nearly 34,000 miles of railway, just over half the total for Asia (including the Russian Asiatic territories and the Middle East) and more than each of the continents of Africa and Australasia [123: 22]. Any reader tempted to a simple view of Indian 'industrial backwardness' might reflect that capacity in the Indian cotton spinning industry still exceeded that in the Japanese equivalent by nearly three times in 1914 [84: 335,367], a date when some would characterise Japan as having already achieved a cotton-led industrial take-off.
During this period the East India Company was prepared to use the Indian public revenues not just to settle overseas debt and administrative charges but also to meet financial obligations to its own shareholders. Remembering the drive to maximise land revenue receipts in this era, resources, it might be argued, were being directly expropriated to Britain from the Indian land, and the 'remittance problem' became widely noted in early nineteenth-century writings . Then, during the 1830s, the issue acquired a different dimension as Indian governments started to borrow heavily in Britain, in particular to finance the expensive, expansionary wars of the period: the taxpayer in British India now seemed to be acquiring new burdens to ensure the subjection of other Indians.
These characteristics might be explained in terms of the poverty of the grass-roots economy and problems of raw material supply and location. Clearly the rate of growth of demand for industrial goods was likely to be slow and variable. The onset of depression in the Bombay cotton industry during the late 1890s might seem unsurprising when potential customers were faced with famine. Industry, too, understandably developed close to sources and channels of supply: Bombay the focus of trade routes from diverse cotton growing regions like Berar, Gujarat and Dharwar, and Calcutta the natural recipient of the Bengal countryside's jute.