Mumbai: Congress leader Shashi Tharoor today said the British started railways in India for “their own selfish reasons” and it was in fact a “very big colonial scam.” Tharoor said there is often a perception that Indians should be grateful to the British for giving the country the facility of Railways, something which is not really true.
“Everyone thinks that the British gave us Railways, shouldn’t we be grateful. We don’t realise that the railways was a very big colonial scam. The purpose of the Raliways was to serve the British to extract goods, minerals, raw materials from the Indian hinterland which were hitherto inaccessible,” Tharoor, who is the Member of Parliament from Thiruvananthapuram, said.
“To send soldiers there, get the labour to move and get these goods out of the hinterland… That was the first purpose,” he added.
Tharoor was in conversation with noted author Amitav Ghosh about ‘The Legacy of the Raj’ during the opening ceremony of the 7th edition of ‘Tata Literature Live’ festival, here.
Tharoor, who launched his book ‘An Era of Darkness: The British Empire in India’ on the occasion, said building the railways “was the most profitable, safe investment in the entire British market throughout the time.” He said when the railway was started, there was a “great deal of racism” with only Europeans being offered the posts of ticket collector and station master, until much later when the positions were given only to Anglo-Indians.
Apart from that, Tharoor said, the Indian passengers were never the priority for the British.
“Indian passengers were not their priority. They had horrendous third class carriages with wooden benches but they charged the highest passenger rates in any railway in the world.
“Whereas the British companies who were shipping freight on the railways, paid the lowest freight rates anywhere in the world. It was only after the Independence that we started reversing these practices,” he said.
Tata Literature Live, a four-day literary extravaganza, will be held simultaneously at two cultural venues – the National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA), Nariman Point and Prithvi Theatre, Juhu.
Ghosh and noted lyricist-poet Gulzar will be honoured with the Lifetime Achievement and Poet Laureate awards, respectively.