Taking a cue from today’s global trade in poppies of the golden triangle in the south-east and the golden crescent in the western part of Asia, this lecture seeks to examine the role of Indian opium, known to cause unrelenting damage to Chinese health, which paved the way for the Opium wars and European imperialism in China, in the making of two colonial cities of Panjim and Bombay. Opium from Malwa was smuggled to Daman, Diu and Goa and exported to Macao and China in the early nineteenth century. But the curious part is that much of the architecture, physical infrastructure and efforts towards improving coastal hygiene in the emerging capital of Panjim were a gift of this drug trade.
So also much of the munificence of nineteenth century Parsi philanthropists like Jamshetjee Jeejeebhoy towards pioneering hospitals, colleges and sanitaria in Bombay came from profits earned through the opium trade. Strange indeed is the link which colonial powers and philanthropic traders often found between money from drug trade and efforts to improve society.
Dr. Celsa Pinto was Deputy Director of Education at the Directorate of Education, Goa. She is the author of Books and research papers on the economic history of Portuguese India.