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Q10. Describe the participation of India in WWI and What was the Impact of World War I on India?

The First World War (1914-18) plunged Britain in a savage, utterly destructive war. Inevitably, India, being the largest British colony then, got drawn into the conflict as a major source of men and material. When war broke out in 1914, India was in a state of growing political unrest and was pushing for more self-government. Many shared the view that if Britain got involved in a crisis somewhere in the world, Indian separatists would use this as an opportunity to advance their cause.

These fears were unfounded. Those with influence within India believed that the cause of Indian independence would best be served by helping out Britain in whatever capacity India could. Offers of financial and military help were made from all over the country. Despite the pre-war fears of unrest, Britain, in fact, could take many troops and most of her military equipment out of India as fears of unrest subsided. Indian troops were ready for battle before most other troops in the dominions.

Indian troops were on the Western Front by the winter of 1914 and fought at the first Battle of Ypres. In total, 800,000 Indian troops fought in all the theatres of the war with 1½ million volunteering to fight. They fought in most theatres of war including Gallipoli and North and East Africa. In all 47,746 were classed as killed or missing with 65,000 wounded.

The conflict caused logistical problems for the British government to maintain the supply lines from Britain to the far-flung war front. This created opportunities for Indian industrialists to set up war goods oriented industries in the country. Other industries were also utilized for making items needed for soldiers.

Second, in the War years there was a huge ‘drain of wealth’. The wealth was drained out in the form of grain and raw materials for the military needs. The situation was such that food was exported while Indians starved. Jute bag was among the non-food items that were in great demand in the war front.

Most importantly, as war-time expenditure sky-rocketed, the colonial government diverted a good part of its revenue receipts to the war budget. It looked around frantically for additional sources of revenue. As a part of this drive, it increased taxes and duties. All this resulted in diversion of funds from welfare schemes to war expenditure and a bigger tax load on the common people.

Impact of World War I on India

The war operations in Europe sucked huge quantities of commodities like wheat, rice, sugar, tea, coffee etc. The export of the items from India caused scarcity in the domestic market. Prices rose sharply bringing immense distress to the low and middle class consumers. Another impact of the World War I was felt when the prices of industrial goods as also of imported manufactures went up sharply. for the common people the war meant misery and fall in the standard of living.

as war-time expenditure sky-rocketed, the colonial government diverted a good part of its revenue receipts to the war budget. It looked around frantically for additional sources of revenue. As a part of this drive, it increased taxes and duties. All this resulted in diversion of funds from welfare schemes to war expenditure and a bigger tax load on the common people. The pain was felt across the country.

Able-bodied young men in large numbers from the countryside were recruited into the British army. Such induction of Indian recruits unsettled social life in rural areas. Villages experienced a shortage of farm hands, carpenters, blacksmiths and other such artisans.

Such was the cost of the war, that India’s economy was pushed to near bankruptcy.

On the political front India believed that the cause of Indian independence would best be served by helping out Britain in whatever capacity India could – including the Indian National Congress. Offers of financial and military help were made from all over the country. For its endeavors, India expected to be rewarded with a major move towards independence or at the least self-government. When it became obvious that this was not going to happen, the mood in India became more militant. the far-reaching effect of the World War I, however, was the rise of Mahatma Gandhi who transformed the very nature of the Indian national movement. The British government’s post-war attitude quickly alienated Gandhi Ji and was a great stimulus for his independence movement. In 1919, the Government of India Act was introduced. This introduced a national parliament with two houses for India.

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