The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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State, Economy and Social Transformation: Hyderabad State (1724-1948) By Y. Vaikuntham, Manohar, Rs 450

The princely state of Hyderabad has always attracted attention not only for the wealth of its natural resources but also on account of the splendid wealth of its rulers. It was Mir Qamaruddin Khan Chin Qilich Khan, better known as Nizam-ul-Mulk, who car-ved out a portion of the Deccan territory of the Mughals and established a dominion that was lorded over by a succession of powerful Nizams.

The rule of these Asaf Jahis left a permanent imprint on the social and cultural lives of the people of India. Thus the paucity of historical research on these Asaf Jahis is quite inexplicable.

State, Economy and Social Transformation, Hyderabad State tries to establish why, in spite of its rich natural resources, Hyderabad, under the Asaf Jahis, lagged behind. Its author, Y. Vaikuntham, teaches at the Osmania University and has published many works on modern history. His thesis in the present book is much too ambitious and perhaps inevitably, he fails to live up to it. There is nothing much in the book about the administration of the line of kings who ruled for more than two centuries and the social condition of the people during this time.

The book is neither investigative, and interpretative nor it is very interesting. The author seems to come into his own in the parts that deal with the economy, but even here he does not exploit his sources fully. He dismisses the subject with short chapters on land revenue, industrial development, transport, and trade and commerce. Although many a famine afflicted Hyderabad, dedicating a full chapter to famines seems a bit excessive. On the other hand, there is nothing here by way of a glimpse into a lost period of history that one would expect from a book of this kind.

There are many difficulties in writing an economic history of India. The paucity of materials, specially those dealing with Hyderabad, may have acted as an impediment though Persian and Urdu source materials do not seem to have been exploited to the full.

Amazingly however, the author finds nothing worthy of praise in the long reign of the Asaf Jahis. He evaluates the state mainly in terms of its human and natural resources. According to Vaikuntham, the state lagged behind other princely states in British India in economy and statecraft because it was autocratic and feudal.

But how many places in that age were free of feudalism' Thus Vaikunthamís thesis seems to be built on flimsy ground. Also, the reasons for the tardy growth in the state must be compared with that of other princely states if it is to stand as a convincing argument. This book may not be a significant work, but it cannot be dismissed outright. It is a storehouse of information and will surely serve as a foundation for more exhaustive works to come.

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