Flood of Fire by Amitav Ghosh, 2016, Excerpt
Their district had been seized by the East India Company a long time ago, but in the beginning the annexation had made little difference and things had gone on much as usual. But with the passage of time the Company had begun to interfere in matters that previous rulers had never meddled with – like crops and harvests for example.
In recent years the Company’s opium factory in Ghazipur had started to send out hundreds of agents to press loans on farmers, so that they would plant poppies in the autumn. They said these loans were meant to cover the costs of the crop and they always promised that there would be handsome profits after the harvest. But when the time came the opium factory often changed its prices, depending on how good the crop had been that year. Since growers were not allowed to sell to anyone but the factory, they often ended up making a loss and getting deeper into debt.