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120. "The British Bania"

"You talk of the impoverishment of Indians being the result of British exploitation, but is it not a fact that the real cause of the agriculturists' misery is the rapacity of the Bania and extravagance of expenditure on the occasion of marriages and funerals? Finally, you charge the British Government with extravagance. But what have you to say to the extravagance of the Indian Princes?" . . . were questions shot at Gandhiji by a member of the audience at a gathering representing various institutions held at Woodbrooke Hall, London, during his visit to England in the latter part of 1931 in connection with the Second Round Table Conference. Gandhiji's reply was as follows :

"The Indian Bania is not a patch upon the British Bania and if we were acting violently, the Indian Bania would deserve to be shot. But then, the British Bania would deserve to be shot a hundred times. The rate of interest charged by the Indian Bania is nothing compared to the loot carried on by the British Bania through the jugglery of currency and merciless exactions of Land Revenue. I do not know of another instance in history of such an organized exploitation of so unorganized and gentle a race.' As for the profligacy of the Indian Princes, while I would have little hesitation, if I had the power, in dispossessing them of their insolent palaces, I would have infinitely less in depriving the British Government of New Delhi. The extravagance of the Princes was nothing compared to the heartless squandering of crores of rupees on New Delhi to satisfy the whim of a Viceroy in order to reproduce England in India, when masses of people were dying of hunger."