Saturday, July 13, 2013

JC White: Father of modern Sikkim - ii



JC White had a great influence in Sikkim. In his popular blog, Rajen Upadhaya, History Lecturer, Namchi Govt. College writes “With the appointment of J C White as the Political Officer in 1889, Sikkim witnessed his self styled Zamindari System. A number of Lessee Landlords were created throughout Sikkim with untold powers to mortgage or to confiscate the lands of the innocent peasants. Further, with the help of his Sikkimese protégés Claude White board upon a policy of obliterating the ancient economy of Sikkim. This paved a way for the birth of Kaziism, Thikadari system, and all the other forced labours like Kuruwa, Kalobhari, Jharlangi, Theki-Bethi, Ghar-Lauri etc”.
In 1889 JC White conducted a land survey, according to which each piece of land was leased to the interested landowners at various rates. Labour tax of two rupees for every household was charged along with an excise charge rupees two for the brewing of grain alcohol. Auctions for the license to weigh and tax cardamom produce were introduced. License for liquor shops, hide trade and timber was added as the source for state revenue. He also introduced the grazing tax of rupees two per sheep.
It is interesting to note that despite the several major reforms introduced by JC White, he was very much impressed with the Dzumsa System, old traditional self government of village assembly of Lachen and Lachung. White had come across this customary panchayat at Lamteng in Lachen and Lachung in the Lachung valley. The system was retained without any changes.
In one of his budget speech in 2005-2006, Shri Pawan Kumar Chamling, the Chief Minister of Sikkim had mentioned that late John Claude White had prepared the first budget of Sikkim in 1889. The first budget showed a revenue surplus of Rs 5367. The total revenue generated was Rs 20336 and total expenditure was Rs 14969. The major sources of revenues then were from land forest and excise, while the main expenditure included public works, allowance to Raja and agriculture.
Ari- Bangla or more popular Aritar Dak bungalow, East Sikkim is said to be built during the reign of JC White in 1895. Going through the pages of the visitor book of 1895, John Claude White was among the first few people to have stayed at Aritar Dak Bunglow during its early days. The first page of the Visitor Book at Aritar Dak Bunglow shows that JC White was on an official duty and had stayed at the bungalow on two separate dates (11.11.1896 and 15.11.1896).  An interesting note in the visitor book does mention that, the chowkidar was absent when he (JC White) was on the visit and had to enter the bungalow through the window of the dressing room by removing the nails that was replaced.
Due to the strategic point of Aritar during the Kalimpong-Tibet route, JC White decided to establish a Police Out-Post in 1897 to look after the territorial disputes and crime. The proposal was also agreed by the Chogyal. The Police Out-Post was first of its kind in Sikkim. Thus it was here at Aritar, Sikkim Police was born.
Apart from his administrative skills, JC White is today remembered for his photography Sikkim and Tibet. It was his photography that showed rare glimpse of Tibet, a country that was unknown to the western world. JC White’s passion for photography grew when we had to travel extensively in the regions on surveying expeditions. Today he is referred as the father of mountain photography. His collection of photography taken during his Tibet visit in 1904 as a part of Younghusband Expedition was brought into a book “In the Shadow of the Himalayas: Tibet, Bhutan, Nepal, Sikkim: A Photographic Record by John Claude White 1883-1908” by Kurt Meyer and Pamela Deuel Meyer was published in 2005 in Ahmedabad, India.
Interestingly being related to philately I would also like to share that the central design of the Sikkim state revenue stamp that has the south-east face of Mt. Siniolchu, in the north of Gangtok is the photograph taken by Hoffmann is in the illustration of Claude White’s book “Sikkim and Bhutan”.
White retired from his professional life in 1908. In 1909 he left for England, where he published his memoirs Sikkim and Bhutan: Twenty-One Years on the North-East Frontier, 1887-1908.