Q. 154.5( 2 Votes )

What other ways the problem of opium production could be solved?

Answer :

The problem could have been partly solved by increasing the price of opium. But the government was reluctant to do so. It wanted to produce opium at a cheap rate and sell it at a high price to opium agents in Calcutta, who then shipped it to China. This difference between the buying and selling price was the government's opium revenue. The prices given to the peasants were so low that by the early eighteenth century angry peasants began agitating for higher prices and refused to take advances. In regions around Benaras, cultivators began giving up opium cultivation. They produced sugarcane and potatoes instead. Many cultivators sold off their crop to travelling traders (pykars) who offered higher prices. By 1773, the British government in Bengal had established a monopoly to trade in opium. No one else was legally permitted to trade in the product. By the 1820s, the British found to their horror that opium production in their territories was rapidly declining, but its production outside the British territories was increasing. It was being produced in Central India and Rajasthan, within princely states that were not under British control. In these regions, local traders were offering much higher prices to peasants and exporting opium to China. In fact, armed bands of traders were found carrying on the trade in the 1820s. To the British this trade was illegal: it was smuggling and it had to be stopped. Government monopoly had to be retained. It therefore instructed its agents posted in the princely states to confiscate all opium and destroy the crops.

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