Thursday, 5 September 2013

Nothing changes except the outfits (2) - why no social insurance in Bangladesh / Bengal?

Talking of imperious Bangladeshis, I asked a historian why National Insurance was not introduced in Bengal about 1911 when it started in the UK. My post below about Charles Hardinge (pictured) is wrong; he was the Viceroy.

Wikipedia tells me that Bengal had a former district officer as temporary governor 1911, Edward Duke, who became deputy in 1912 to an ex-governor of Australia, Thomas Gibson-Carmichael. Then as now, failed MPs sometimes happen to get well-paid government jobs and this one had tried being a UK MP for the party that brought-in National Insurance. So he knew what it was. Unusual for the people who worked for the Indian Civil Service who had been toughened-up with a ten-year stretch of boarding school before being "posted" to India. Most of them learned about the UK from surface-mail copies of The Times, arriving in bundles.

The historian usually does West-Indies, but said that if there was a Bengali assembly, discussion of national insurance would show-up in its records. He told me that the experience of empire diverged between white colonies and others from the 1860s to 1914. This surprised people in India, who had been lead to expect something different. Colonies like New Zealand could be the first part of the empire to have women voters. So why not Bengal? It's one of history's un-answered questions, and a reason for poverty in Bangladesh and clothes manufacturing today.

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