Dadabhai Naoroji- The Grand Old Man Of India

“Is it vanity that I should take great pleasure in being hailed as the Grand Old Man of India? No, that title, which speaks volumes for the warm, grateful and generous hearts of my countrymen, it to me, whether I deserve it or not, the highest reward of my life.”

Dadabhai Naoroji

Dadabhai Naoroji was born on September 4 1825 to a poor Parsi family in Bombay. At school, he displayed exceptional intelligence and skill in mental arithmetic. He recieved his higher education at Elphinstone Institution in Bombay. He was a scholar, trader, and politician. He was appointed as the dewan by the Maharaja of Baroda in 1874.

In 1886 he contested the elections for The House Of Commons from Holborn Constituency of London. In 1922 he was elected as from Central Finsbury as the first Indian member of Imperial Parliament on British votes.

He spent most of his life away from home, in England.

Dadabhai Naoroji

Dadabhai Naoroji is regarded as one of the most important Indians during the birth of the nascent independence movement. In his writings, he came to the conclusion that the exertion of foreign rule over India was not favourable for the nation, and that independence (or at the very least, responsible government) would be a better path.

In 1865, Naoroji directed and launched the London Indian Society, the purpose of which was to discuss Indian political, social and literary subjects. In 1867 he also helped to establish the East India Association, one of the predecessor organisations of the Indian National Congress with the aim of putting across the Indian point of view before the British public. The Association was instrumental in counter-acting the propaganda by the Ethnological Society of London which had tried to prove the inferiority of the Asians to the Europeans. He later became Prime Minister of Baroda and was a member of the Legislative Council of Bombay. He was elected President of the Congress in 1886.

Naoroji moved to Britain once again and continued his political involvement. Elected for the Liberal Party in Finsbury Central, he was the first British Indian MP. During this time, he put his efforts towards improving the situation in India with his clear vision and effective communication. In 1906, Naoroji was again elected president of the Indian National Congress.

Dadabhai Naoroji’s work focused on the drain of wealth from India to Britain during the period rule of British rule in India.

He estimated the net national drain profit of India which turned out to be 200–300 million pounds in his book ‘Poverty’ which were taken out of India’s revenue to Britain and were not recirculated into India.

The Dadabhai Naoroji Road in Mumbai, the Dadabhai Naoroji Road in Karachi, Pakistan and Naoroji Street in the Finsbury area of London are all named after him.

Dadabhai Naoroji

“Be united, persevere, and achieve self-Government, so that the millions now perishing by poverty, famine, and plague may be saved, and India may once more occupy her proud position of yore among the greatest and civilized nations of the world.”

“More than 20 years earlier a small band of Hindu students and thoughtful gentlemen used to meet secretly to discuss the effects of British rule in India. The home charges and the transfer of capital from India to England in various shapes, and the exclusion of the children of the country from any share or voice in the administration of their own country, formed the chief burden of their complaint.”

“Indians were British citizens with a birthright to be free (…) [and they have] every right to claim an honorable fulfillment of our British pledged rights…. It is futile to tell me that we must wait till all the people are ready. The British people did not -wait for their parliament…. Self-government is the only and chief remedy. In self-government is our hope, strength and greatness. I am a Hindu, a Muslim, a Parsi, but above all an Indian First.”


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