Jason Hickel says that the council bill system used to pay exporters of Indian goods during the British Raj was a mechanism by which Britain extracted wealth from India without giving India anything in return:
Tirthankar Roy insists that the council bill system was simply a remittance instrument like a bankers draft and that there was no mystery or fraud in it:
Who is right?
I’m suspicious of Hickel because his writing is polemical. However, what he says does sort of makes sense to me and I don’t quite understand Roy’s attempt at refutation.
Clearly no fraud has been committed on the individual exporter – they are being paid. But are they not been paid with Indian wealth and, if they are, does that not mean that Britain is getting the goods from India for free and then selling them on for a profit to a third party?
Roy says that the council bill had nothing to do with taxation, but he goes on to say that the rupees paid to the exporter might come from taxation. But even if the rupees are newly created, at what point is Britain paying for the goods, goods for which it is receiving payment in gold?