Thank you for your inputs both via mail and via phone call. Here is a summary of the important points.
As mentioned in the original post, India had some of the worst famines during the British rule. These famines were not due to weather conditions. Only after you research what changed in the past 60-70 years, can one really understand the full extent of the high-handedness and complete disregard of the value of Indian life under British rule. British hoarded the grain for feeding crown troops abroad, and even exported grain at the time of famine rather than saving lives.
The farmers were heavily taxed, forced to grow cash crops (rather than food), and no serious thought were put in to create public food-grain distribution systems. As a result in spite of 80% of the population focused on agriculture, the people were barely able to feed themselves. Infant mortality was between 270-300 per thousand live births. (i.e. 27-30% of the live births did not survive) and life expectancy of 32 years. I was trying to compare the data with the rest of the world and was surprised to see that life expectancy of India could not be even plotted on the graph http://investing.calsci.com/blog9-9-09.html
Life expectancy across the globe
Sure the Railroads, ports & telegraph were developed by the British. However the intent of faster troop response, gathering intelligence & snipping any rebellion in the bud. Since the intend of the infrastructure was not developed to spur economic prosperity. The roads, electricity, technical training institutes, adoption of international best practices suffered during British rule. No wonder Mahatma Gandhi himself remarked “Trains accentuate[s] the evil nature of man” and lets “bad men fulfill their designs with greater rapidity.” In times of drought & famine railways was used to create artificial scarcities and beef up the prices rather than other way around. It is presumptuous that railroads, telegraph etc. would not have developed in India without the British. Strange that the British get the credit as if they did us a favor.
For the country that wrote the world’s oldest books on science & technology, only 16% of the population could even write their own name as per the 1951 Census. Pick any metrics of measuring the economic prosperity and India in 1947 would be in the bottom. As per Angus Maddison of Cambridge University, in 1700 the entire Europe had a 23.3% share in the world GDP while India alone was contributing 22.6%. The systematic robbing of India ensured that by the time British exited, India’s share fell to 3.8% of world GDP. The Permanent Settlement of Bengal by creating zamindars impoverished the Indian peasantry.
While the world was going for rapid industrialization, Indian industries esp. Textiles & iron working was systematically destroyed by British. There was no taxation on imports so that the factories in Britain were always occupied, while exports were heavily taxed. Furthermore British had monopoly over the shipping (Boston Tea Party) & railroad which meant that the producers & exporters got a small portion of the realized value of their produce and could not compete against imports. The Indian Rupee was pegged to Pound sterling by British to ensure a constant drain of bullion from India to the London. “The misery hardly finds parallel in the history of commerce,” said the governor general, William Bentinck. “The bones of the cotton weavers are bleaching the plains of India.”
On social reforms, nothing was done to eliminate untouchability in India. The claims of British introducing elections, universal franchise & democracy was a joke. On a population base of 100million, the total electorate in 1934 was 1,415,892 Of which only 81,602 women were registered. Even the 1945 elections was held in only 102 of the 375 constituencies. The export of Opium to China devastated the two great nations India & China equally. It took a century and hash steps by Chairman Mao to cure China of the opium addiction.
Essentially for a period of 200 years, India was systematically dismantled and robbed. Furthermore the divide and rule policy ensured that the country could never stand united and steer itself to regain its past glory.