At the outset, I would like to make it clear that I am not eulogizing the British rule but making a dispassionate analysis of “What would have happened if the British had not ruled India?”
The Indus valley civilization, Vedic period, Mauryan administration, Gupta administration and Mughal administration are some of the important milestones in Indian administration before the advent of the British rule in India. The peculiarity of all these administrative systems was the supreme power associated with the monarch. As we all know, monarchy is the best when ruled by a benevolent monarch. India as we see today was very different in the past with hundreds of independent rulers ruling the princely states. The centralized administration of the Mauryans, Guptas and Mughals also lacked the centralization that we see today.
The credit for consolidating India goes to the British (though their intentions are debatable). The spirit of enquiry, industrial revolution, inception of the contemporary form of democracy, etc have their roots in the west. The British were responsible in imbibing these values in Indian society. A liberal judicial system based on the principles of natural justice is also a boon for independent India bequeathed by the British. The bridges, railway lines and irrigation canals built by the British some hundred years ago are still intact while some of the flyovers built today have collapsed within a week of their commissioning. English or Hinglish has contributed to the service sector immensely which has enabled our economic growth. The modern education system also has its roots in the British rule which can be traced back to Macaulay’s minutes. The democratic exercise that we all are proud of today was introduced by the British.
We can only simulate the various scenarios and will never be able to prove if the British rule was the right chapter in the Indian evolution. You can only imagine horse and elephant chariots, magnificent palaces, kings and princes indulging in lavish display of their wealth (some of them continue to do it even today), maulvis, qazis or priests administering justice as per religious laws, woman being burnt on the pyre of her husband, etc.
The changes in the west would have of course reached the Indian subcontinent but with a delay, not only because of the geographic distance but also because of the cultural diversity and resistance of these diverse cultural groups to adopt these values. So, the British rule acted as a catalyst in bringing about these changes in our social, cultural, economic and political systems. I do not want to be blamed of following a functional perspective of British exploitation in India. All that I am doing in this article is recollecting the good things about the British rule relative to the bad things that would have occurred if the British had not ruled us. I admit that we Indians were smart enough to hit the iron when it was hot. It is this smartness that has enabled us to be listed as the prospective super power of the world.