Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Taking lessons from the masters

The BBC gets all indignant about the latest , and very predictable news from Afghanistan. The Taleban made an estimated $100m (£50m) in 2007 from Afghan farmers growing poppy for the opium trade, the United Nations says. Antonio Maria Costa, head of the UN's Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), said the money was raised by a 10% tax on farmers in Taleban-controlled areas. The UN estimates last year's poppy harvest was worth $1bn (£500m).

The same BBC website carries an interview with the Indian writer Amitav Ghosh about his new book Sea of Poppies .

"...Under the British Raj, an enormous amount of opium was being exported out of India until the 1920s... India was the largest opium exporter for centuries. ..I had no idea that opium was essentially the commodity which financed the British Raj in India. Opium steadily accounted for about 17-20% of Indian revenues..."

What did the Indians gain out of it ? Before the British came, India was one of the world's great economies. All the empirical facts show you that British rule was a disaster for India. Before the British came 25% of the world trade originated in India. By the time they left it was less than 1%.

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