Ambedkarites have persistently advocated for the inclusion of Baba Saheb's image on Indian currency considering his precious contribution in shaping India's economy.
Ambedkarites have persistently advocated for the inclusion of Baba Saheb's image on Indian currency considering his precious contribution in shaping India's economy.Source: Representational Image from X

100 Years of the Problem of Rupee: Dr. B.R. Ambedkar's Historic Thesis Shapes India's Economic Future

On this day, 15th December 1926, Dr. Ambedkar presented evidence before the Royal Commission on Indian Currency and Finance on his thesis - "The Problem of Rupee." It is said that each member of this commission held a copy of Dr. Ambedkar’s 257-page paper.

Lucknow- What was the title of the thesis that Dr. B. R. Ambedkar submitted to the London School of Economics, for which he was awarded his doctorate in 1923? This might appear to be quite an easy question for most Ambedkarites, but Himani Bundela, a native of Jhansi, who breezed through the 15 questions of Kaun Banega Crorepati to win Rs 1 crore, couldn’t answer this question and deprived herself of the chance to win Rs 7 crore, the prize money for this question. The answer to this question – "The Problem of Rupee-its Origin and Solution" – is not an esoteric knowledge among Ambedkarites today. As the thesis completed 100 years in 2023, we take a look at the thesis that surpassed the boundaries of a research paper.

On this day, 15th December 1926, Dr. Ambedkar presented evidence before the Royal Commission on Indian Currency and Finance on his thesis - "The Problem of Rupee." It is said that each member of this commission held a copy of Dr. Ambedkar’s 257-page paper. It is noteworthy that the paper completed 100 years this year, as it was presented and published in 1923 as the thesis for his doctoral research at the prestigious London School of Economics (LSE).

The Doctoral Thesis that Laid the Foundation of the Indian Banking System

Dr. Ambedkar postulated the need, working style, and outlook of the Royal Commission, also known as the Hilton Young Commission. The Commission duly incorporated the guidelines presented by Ambedkar in 1926, and later the legislative assembly passed the recommendations in the name of the RBI Act 1934. Consequently, the Reserve Bank of India was established on 1st April 1935.

During British rule, the Indian currency was pegged to the British pound, and the exchange rate was fixed at a rate that favored British interests. The British Indian government had absolute control over the issuance of currency, and they used this power to manipulate the value of the rupee to their advantage.

In his thesis, he exposed the strategy of the British to keep the exchange rate inordinately high, which tipped the balance in favor of their factory products.

One of the major issues was the constant devaluation of the Indian rupee by the British government. The value of the rupee was artificially lowered to benefit British exporters and to finance the expenses of the colonial administration. This devaluation had severe economic consequences for the Indian population, leading to inflation and a decline in the standard of living.

Gold Exchange Standard

He argued that the gold exchange standard does not have stability, and developing countries like India cannot afford gold exchange standards as they are prone to inflationary pressures. He buttressed his claims with statistical figures. The thesis also advocated the regulation of government deficits and the circular flow of money. The book comprises seven chapters.

In the first three chapters of the book, he touches upon the deficiencies associated with silver currency. In the first chapter of the book known as “From a Double Standard to the Silver Standard,” he has touched upon the economic contours of the Mughal Empire and mentioned that the economic condition during the Mughal era was much better than that in the English Empire. Dr. Ambedkar explained how silver standards had been established through the waning of gold currency and how it had been supplemented by paper currency. He pointed out that Act XXIII of 1870 did nothing new - neither the number of the coins authorized by the mints nor its tender-powers. Rather, it helped make some improvements in monetary laws. Since the invention of coinage, people always thought that the actual value of the coin can be exact with the price of the coin legalized by the mint. So according to him, the exact value of the coin can’t, however, always be the same as the certified value.

In the second half of the chapters, Ambedkar draws a comparison between the rupee and coins. The second chapter is "The Silver Standard and the Dislocation of its Parity." In the introduction to the third chapter, “The Silver Standard and the Evils of its Instability,” Ambedkar was concerned about the economic results of the disruption of the ‘par’ of exchange, and he describes it as the most “far-reaching character.”

In the fourth chapter of the book, titled “Towards the Gold Standard,” Ambedkar focuses on how the establishment of a stable economic system was contingent upon the re-establishment of a common standard of value. In the seventh as well as the last chapter of the book titled “A Return to the Gold Standard,” Ambedkar examined the system of the economy that was moving towards the changes made in the exchange standards.

The Thesis that Left its Imprint on Economy and History

Only a few research papers and theses have left their imprint on the economic structure of an economy as "The Problem of Rupee-its Origin and its Solutions" has. The fact that the Reserve Bank of India, the central bank of the country, was formed based on the guidelines made in the research paper proves the acumen of Dr. Ambedkar as an economist.

The research paper was published in 1923 by P. S. King and Sons and had the foreword by Edward Kennan, who grossly disagreed with the assertion of Ambedkar in his thesis. The Thesis is also published by the Dr. Ambedkar Foundation as a part of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar's writings and speeches.

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