The battle of Plessey (1757) was followed in the words of the Bengali poet Nabin Chandra Sen, by ‘a night of eternal gloom for India’.
The English proclaimed Mir Jafar the Nawab of Bengal and set out to gather the reward. The Company was granted undisputed right to free trade in Bengal, Bihar and Orissa.
It also received the Zamindari of the 24 Parganas near Calcutta. Mir Jafar paid a sum of Rs. 17,700,000 as compensation for the attack on Calcutta to the company and the traders of the city. In addition, he paid large sums as ‘gifts’ or bribes to the high officials of the company.
Even though Mir Jafar owed his position to the company, he soon repented the bargain he had struck. His treasury was soon emptied by the demands of the company’s officials for presents and bribes, the lead in the matter being given by Clive himself.
Mir Jafar soon discovered that it was impossible to meet the full demands; of the company and its officials, who on their part, began to criticise the Nawab for his incapacity in fulfilling their expectations. And so, in October 1760, they forced him to abdicate in favour of his son-in-law, Mir Qasim, who rewarded his benefactors by granting the company the Zamindari of the districts of Burdwan, Midnapore, and Chittagong, and giving handsome presents totaling 29 lakhs of rupees to the high English officials.
Mir Qasim, however, belied English hopes, and soon emerged as a, threat to their position and designs in Bengal. He was defeated in a series of battles in 1763 and fled to Award where he formed an alliance with Shuja-ud-Daulah, the Nawab of Awadh, and Shah Alam II, the fugitive Mughal Emperor.
The three allies clashed with the company’s army to Buxar on 22 October 1764 and were thoroughly defeated. In 1763, the British had restored Mir Jafar as Nawab and collected huge sums for the company and its high officials. On Mir Jafar’s death, they placed his second son Nizam-ud-Daulah on the throne and as a reward to themselves made him sign a new treaty on 20 February 1765.
By this treaty the Nawab was to disband most of his army and to administer Bengal through a Deputy Subahdar who was to be nominated by the company and who could not be dismissed without its approval.
The company thus gained supreme control over the administration (or nizamat) of Bengal. The company’s authorities on their part set out to gather the rich harvest and drain Bengal of its wealth. In the years 1766, 1767 and 1768 alone, nearly £5.7 million were drained from Bengal.
The abuses of the ‘Dual government and the drain of wealth led to the impoverishment and exhaustion of that unlucky province. In 1770 Bengal suffered from a famine which in its effects proved one of the most terrible famines known in human history.