4th September 1825: The Grand Old Man of India Dadabhai Naoroji is Born


On 4th September 1825 the Grand Old Man of India, Dadabhai Naoroji was born in Mumbai to a prominent Parsi family.


Dadabhai Naoroji was an educator, ordained Parsi priest, intellectual, cotton trader, politician and a social leader. He was also the first Asian to be a British MP. Naoroji was even the founder of the Indian National Congress along with A.O Hume and Dinshaw Edulji Wacha. Through his book, Poverty and the Un-British Rule (published in 1901), Naoroji pointed out that most of India’s wealth went to Britain.


In 1850 at the age of 20, Dadabhai Naoroji was offered the position of Professor at the Elphinstone Institute in Mumbai. He was the first Indian to hold such a position. In 1855 Naoroji became Professor of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy in Mumbai. Later that year Naoriji travelled to London to become partner in Cama and Co, the first Indian company that was established in Britain and he resigned after three years of partnership citing ethical reasons. Following that Naoroji established  Naoroji and Co in 1859, his own cotton trading company. He later became a Professor of Gujarati at the University College of London.


In 1867, Naoroji helped set up the East India Association, an organization set up before the formation of the Indian National Congress, which wanted to put forward the Indian point of view to the Britrish. The association received great support from prominent Englishmen which helped them influence the British Parliament.


Naoroji became Prime Minister of Baroda in 1874 and was the member of Legislative Council of Mumbai from 1885 to 1888. He was also the member of the Indian National Association founded by Surendranath Banerjee in Kolkata. These two groups were later merged in the Indian National Congress since they had the same vision and objectives. Naoroji was elected President of the Congress in 1886. Back in Britain to carry on his political immersion, Naoroji was elected the first British-Indian Member of Parliament. He was assisted by Muhammad Ali Jinnah (future founder of Pakistan) in his political duties as MP. In 1906 Naoroji was elected again as the President of the Indian National Congress. He is remembered for his moderate views even when the party was divided between the extremists and the moderates. Naoroji was also a mentor to Mahatma Gandhi and Gopal Krishna Gokhale.


Most of Dadbhai Naoroji’s work revolved around the drain of wealth from India to Britain because of Colonial rule. Throughout his work through economics, Naoroji tried to prove that Britain was in fact draining money out of India. To explain this, Naoroji define six factors:


  • India is ruled by a foreign government.
  • India does not attack foreign immigrants who bring labour and capital to contribute to the Indian economy.
  • India pays for British Civil Administration and occupational army.
  • India pays for empires built within and outside the country.
  • Opening the country to free trade was in a way exploiting India by offering high paying jobs to foreigners.
  • The main income earners in India would eventually leave the country with the money earned because they were foreigners.


Though Naoroji did give credit to the British for the services they introduced to India, such as the railways. But he argued that most of the money earned by the railways was drained out of India. Hence the money earned by the railways did not belong to India. Similarly, the East India Company would buy Indian goods with the money drained from India and export them back to Britain.


When elected to the Parliament, in his first speech Naoroji questioned the place of India within India. He explained that India was Britain’s subject or slave depending on how willing Britain was on giving India the institutions that the British operated. If these institutions were given to India then India would be able to self govern and the revenue earned would remain in India. Naoroji also championed the cause of equal employment and was against Indians taking on mediocre jobs that they were overqualified for, while the British got all the high paying jobs. Dadabhai Naoroji believed that to stop the drain, India needed to develop industries so that revenue could be kept within the country.


Dadabhai Naoroji passed away on 30th June 1917 in Mumbai. Following his death many places have been named after him; such as the Dadabhai Naoroji Road in Mumbai, the Dadabhai Naoroji Road in Karachi (Pakistan), Naoroji Street in London and Naoriji Nagar in Delhi.


Also on This Day

1888: Gandhi left for England for his Bar-at-Law.

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