(One finds an uncanny resemblance between the rule of Muhammad-bin-Tughluq and the present rulers of the country!)
There is a popular saying that the History repeats itself. Muhammad-bin-Tughluq ruled Delhi from 1325 A.D. to 1351 A.D. After Allaudin Khilji he is supposed to have been the greatest Sultan of Delhi. He is fondly remembered for his bold experiments and innovative thought in many fields especially in administration and agriculture. He is supposed to have been one of the most remarkable rulers of his time. He was highly educated and very well knew both the Arabic and Persian languages. He was very adept in the subjects of religion, philosophy, astronomy, mathematics, medicine and logic. He was also very good at calligraphy.
Even though the Sultan had good knowledge yet he had certain weaknesses. He was very impatient and hasty due to which many of his experiments failed. After the death of his father he ascended the throne in Delhi after declaring himself Sultan in Tughlaqabad where he stayed for forty days. On his arrival in Delhi he was greeted by the nobles and crowned in the Red Palace of Balban. Because of the expectations of the people, he started taking bold measures in different fields. First was revenue assessment to make a correct tabulation of the income and expenditure in the country. For this he set up a separate office. The idea was to have a uniform standard of revenue.
However, the first wrong step was increase in the taxation in Doab Region. Even though the area was very fertile yet the farmers were already paying half the produce as tax. Also the increase came when the area was on the verge of famine. He took harsh measures to recover the tax due to which farmers ran away from their villages and some even went to jungles to join dacoits. In order to bring some improvements in agriculture, he set up a department of agriculture called the Diwan-i-kohi. A large number of peasants were engaged for cultivation. However, even this project also failed. The reason was the land chosen for cultivation was not fertile and the officers lacked experience. The result was again a disaster.
His most known ill-conceived action was the transfer of capital from Delhi to Devagari (Daulatabad). He felt that it was not possible to control southern states from Delhi. Devagari was more central and had been a base for the expansion of Turkish rule in India. Moreover, Delhi was very prone to Mongol invasions. Deavagari being situated in centre was more suitable for South and North administration. He ordered people of Delhi to shift to Davagari. It was a nightmare for the people. However, after spending two years there, he realized as he could not control South from Delhi, similarly he could not control North from Daulatabad. He had no option but to shift the capital back to Delhi! It was at a huge cost both in terms of the discomfort to the people and unnecessary expenditure.
Another bold but disastrous step was introduction of a new currency. Before Muhammad-bin-Tughlaq the rulers depended upon gold and silver coins. However, during his time huge amount of currency was required for various measures and experimental steps. There was not enough gold and silver available. So he ordered making of token currency of bronze coins. However, soon people started making these coins at home and a huge quantity of these forged coins entered everywhere. Tughlaq failed to stop the proliferation of the forged coins and had no alternative but to withdraw the same. Finally, the Sultan made preparations for two expeditions, one to Khurassan and the other to Karajal. Both had to be abandoned at a huge cost. It was because of these failures he has been called a Mad Sultan!
In the present context, some similar steps were taken which refresh the memory of the Sultan. The intention as evident from various pronouncements was good. These included “Ache Din”, “Sab ka saath, sab ka vikas” and so on. However, the hasty implementation created untold problems. The most important is the change in currency which is these days called the “demonetization”! This sudden and unannounced step created immense difficulties especially for the poor. The withdrawal of the major portion of the currency in circulation consisting of the high denomination notes created a chaos especially among the lower strata of the population. This was because of the curbs on withdrawal of currency and shortage of small denomination notes. The worst affected were the farmers and the daily wage earners. The intention as projected was to end black money in the country and stop fake currency as well as prevent use of currency for terror acts. However, according to information 97% of these high denomination notes were deposited in the banks. So where was the black money? There were also instances of the new notes being made by forgers. The cash crunch created havoc and reportedly over a hundred people died while standing in queues before ATMs to get their own money! As regards overall economy, it also received a jolt. The rupee had a substantial fall in the international market. A number of economists described the step as robbery against the poor people while the corporates remained unaffected.
As regards shifting of the capital, it is happening in a different way. Gujarat with Ahmedabad as its capital is becoming new destination for corporates and multinationals. With the state government giving every possible facility, the investments in Gujarat are in billions of dollars. If not politically, but economically it will be soon India’s capital. NaMo may try his best to give shape to his ideas to make India one of the best advanced and developed countries but he is being pulled down by his Hindutva baggage. The most recent is Mohan Bhagwat’s declaration that everyone born in India is a “Hindu”!
Muhammad Tughluq was ultimately pulled down by his two disastrous expeditions. Well, in the present case, the “Surgical Strikes” may ultimately prove to be the nemesis. These did not achieve anything but created a tense atmosphere of hostility and enmity which is not good for the economic development intended to make India a welfare state. The resemblance to the earlier historical period makes one feel quite uncomfortable and there is no choice but to keep the fingers crossed and hope for the best!
Mohammad Ashraf, I.A.S. (Retired), Former Director General Tourism, Jammu & Kashmir