Tuesday, May 2, 2017

B Morarji & Company Burma

B Morarji & Company Burma 

Burma was colonised and annexed by the British East India Company by fighting three Anglo-Burmese wars in 19th century. Like India, Lord Dalhousie pioneered to remove Kingship from Burma. Lower Burma was annexed in 1852 and the rest in 1885. Indian Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar was expelled to Rangoon in 1858 and Burma Emperor Thibaw of Konbaung Dynasty was expelled to India in 1885. While the British took Bahadurshah Zafar to Burma and buried him there, they brought the Burmese king and family to Madras for about two years and kept them in a small building which is still there. From here,they were moved to Ratnagiri in Maharashtra. He died there in December 1916.

Burma became part of British India. After enactment of Government of India Act 1935, British made Burma a colony administrated separately from 1 April 1937. Ba Maw became the first PM, opposed Burma's participation in WW-II, resigned and was arrested. Aung San formed Burma Independence Army (BIA). Japan formally entered the Second World War. Burma was devastated, Japanese troops took over Rangoon. Burmese executive administration was established under Ba Maw in 1942. Initially the BIA and Arakan Army fought with Japanese for 3 years, later switched towards Allied side. Aung San became Dy Chairman of Executive Council of Burma in 1947. AFPFL won the April 1947 elections, Aung Sang was set to be the first PM of Burma but he and his 6 cabinet ministers were assassinated on 19 July 1947. Union of Burma became independent from Britain on 4 January 1948. U Nu the cofounder of AFPFL (Anti Facist People's Freedom League) became it's first PM. Ne Win became the Chief of Armed Forces from 31 January 1949. Following split in AFPFL, he became caretaker PM (58-60) and then seized power in coup d'état in 1962. Ne Win became the President of Burma (1962-1988). Following riots in Rangoon University (he was expelled from the University in 1929, failing Biology exam), in July 1962, his 5 minutes radio speech at 8 PM concluded with a famous statement, "if these disturbances were made to challenge us, I have to declare that we will fight sword with sword and spear with spear". All universities were closed for two years (1962-64). One party rule of Burma Socialist Program Party was established. Between 1962-65, important laws were adopted including the nationalisation of the economy and persuaded the policy of autarky. He declared 50 and 100 kyat ceased to be legal tender overnight to curbed the hoarding of black money. People lost their savings overnight. (He demonetises large notes again in 1987, issued denominations of 45, 90; following an advise is an astrologer to follow lucky number 9!).

There were many Tamils, the Chettiars and Muslims were in trade there. For Tam Brahmins, it was like going to the US now. The father in law of Shri G. Sundaram, IAS Rtd, Gujarat was a Professor of Chemistry in Burma and Aung SAN was his student. He overtly supported the Burmese Independence movement. When war broke out, he sent his family by the last ship. He came back walking. Out of five lakh people who walked, one lakh died on the way. There was no news of them for 4-5 months. His affection for Burma was such that he named his house in Madras as "Burma House".

There were many Gujaratis and Indians living in Burma. Ethnic Indians formed the backbone of the government and economy serving as soldiers, civil servants, merchants and moneylenders. Anti indian riots started in 1930, followed by migration in 1945 when Japanese troops took over Burma and lastly the forced expulsion in 1962 reduced the role of Indians in Burma.

Gujaratis in Burma were in trading business, mainly running rice mills or timber marts. B Morarji was a company formed in Burma by Morarji Desai of Amadpur village of Navsari District of Gujarat. B stands for his elder brother name Bhimji. They were six brothers (Bhimji, Morarji, Khandubhai, Ranchodji, Bhagvanji, Dahyabhai), of whom, three (Morarji, Bhimji and Bhagvanji) were settled in Rangoon leaving agriculture land at native village. They owned rice mills and holding forests to run timber business. Later Chotubhai, the nephew of Morarji joined them and became a political figure, became President of All India Burma Congress. Following the coup d'état in 1962, all their properties were nationalised. They were advised to leave the country in 1964-65. They held British Passports and some of their Mistris moved to US but they decided to return to home village in India. Government of India had arranged for the shipments for their easy return of Indians at home. Morarji Desai and his brothers left Burma with their families. On the second day of their reaching to Calcutta, Morarji died of heart attack. Other brothers then returned Amadpur in Navsari, where they had enough land to survive. Each brother received the share of 100 bigha land. One of the brothers Chotubhai Desai, received 100 bigha land. He had to sold 30 bigha land for family needs. His son Rameshbhai Desai received 70 bigha in heirship. He became the Sarpanch of the village but he had to sell 30 bigha land for his family needs. Their farmers were the Dublas (tribal). The productivity was less. There is a proverb, " Dubla vave ne Dubla khay" (the weak cultivate and the weak eat). The owner had to sell their land to attend marriages and other responsibilities. 

Rameshbhai's successor son Mukesh Desai (the Sarpanch of previous term, whom I met) received 40 bigha land in heirship. He is able to add 15 bigha and now hold 45 bigha land after a very hard work of two decades. The prices of lands in Gujarat are going up. The crops may not give that much return on investments but the price rise of the land makes the investment on land profitable. 

At home, in 1956, another Morarji Ranchodji Desai, being a  Chief Minister holding Revenue portfolio, modified the Tenancy Act and notified the rules made the tillers the owner of the land  ("land to the tillers") w.e.f. 1st April 1957. Desais in South Gujarat were the land owners of huge lands, had lost many lands to the tillers due to the Land Reforms. When Morarjibhai Desai contested the election from the Gandevi Assembly Constituency in the general elections of 1957, he lost it due to the land reforms. Morarjibhai then moved to national politics, joined Nehru Cabinet in 1957. 105 demonstrators shot dead at flora fountain (Hutatma Chawk) at Mumbai on 21/11/1955 and death of 5-8 students at Lal Darvaja, Ahmedabad on 8/8/1956 during his tenure as CM of Bombay State added fuel into fire of the Samyukta Maharashtra and Mahagujarat movement resulted into formation of two States: Maharastra and Gujarat on 1st May 1960. Dangs was given to Gujarat in lieu of Bombay. Abu was lost from Gujarat because the State was not formed in the first round on 1956. Gujaratis are happy with Abu in the North and Daman in the South to spend their leisure time! Over the years, with the industrious nature of the people, great political leadership, entrepreneurs' adventures and bureaucrats excellence, etc, have place the State in the list of one of the most developed States of the Country. Gujarat become Growth Engine of India. How important Gujarat was during Mughals that Emperor Akbar built Buland Darwaja in 1601 AD to commemorate his victory over Gujarat. Aurangzeb rebelled against his father Emperor Shahjahan on his transfer from Ahmedabad to Aurangabad. British established their first factory and Presidency Office at Surat. Parsi landed to this land in 8th century and Vasco da Gama, the first Portuguese explorer to reach India (Calicut) by Sea on 20 May 1498, with the help of a Gujarati.

Today is Gujarat Birth Day. Glorious Gujarat is now 57 years old. Burma history is linked with Gujarat today because the present CM of Gujarat was born in Yangon (Rangoon) Myanmar (Burma) on 2nd August 1956.

Happy Birthday Gujarat.

1st May 2017


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