Oxford: Former union minister, Shashi Tharoor, has said that the least the British could do for exploiting India during its 200 year old rule was to accept that moral reparations are owed and even a “ sorry” would do.
Participating in “ Reparations Debate” at the Oxford union, Tharoor said:“Personally, I will be quiet happy if it was one pound a year for the next 200 years after the last 200 years of Britain in India.”
Speakers at the debate included the Jamaican High Commissioner to the UK, Aloun Ndombet Assamba, Ghanaian economist, Dr George Ayittey, British politician Sir Richard Ottaway, American historian William Roger Louis and British historian and Prof John M Mackenzie.
Tharoor was countering the argument of Sir Richard about the effect of British rule on India’s economic condition. India’s GDP was 27 per cent before the British arrived. When they left, it was a meagre 4 per cent. In fact Britain’s industrial revolution was actually premised upon the de-industrialization of India.
He quantified the loss suffered by India due to two world wars and the huge number of Indian lives that were sacrificed. Yet, when the Bengal famine took place, Winston Churchill’s comments were unbecoming of a British Prime Minister.
Tharoor pointed out that it was often said the massive Indian railways was a gift which the British gave India. But the fact was that it was a profitable deal where a private company of Britain charged twice the actual cost for construction of the railways. But, all the money came from Indian taxpayers.
“We were denied democracy so we had to snatch it, seize it from you with the greatest of reluctance it was considered in India’s case after 150 years of British rule and that too with limited franchise,” Tharoor said.
Hitting out at Sir Richard for saying how Britain provided aid to India,Tharoor said the Indian government spends twice that amount of aid on fertilizers subsidy to the farmers.
Tharoor said : “We are not talking about reparations as a tool to empower anybody, they are a tool for you to atone, for the wrongs that have been done and I am quite prepared to accept the proposition that you can’t valuate, put a monetary sum to the kinds of horrors people have suffered.’’
“Certainly no amount of money can expedite the loss of a loved one as somebody pointed out there. You are not going to figure out the exact amount but the principle is what matters,” Tharoor added.