Greedy Dubash Pau­piah and corrupt East India Company officials, Madras

Corrupt practices.
Below is the recorded story of the British East India Company (EIC) officials and their Debash (or Dubashi)- Indian agent  at  Fort St. George, Madras (now Chennai, TN) whose dereliction of duty, corrupt practices and greed to make fast bucks landed them in serious trouble  and pushed them from the dizzy height of power and prestige  to  the abysmal depth; simply it was sudden fall from sublime to disgrace. No matter what sort of job you do, honesty, commitments  and unquestionable integrity are essential to progress in life. Your promotion and perks will come to you slowly, but surely. ''Jack rabbit jump'' to make money will,at last, put you in the soup.

We have to go on  a short  nostalgic trip down the
memory lane  to the early colonial days of Madras (now Chennai,Tamil Nadu state) then called Chennapatna.  Indian Agents locally called Dubhasis played  a  key role between the English Sahibs (Durai in Tamil) and the native rulers and merchants  in their daily interactions with respect to business dealings, etc.  Gradually the Indian agents as consented by the officials made an inroad into the corridors of power and political affairs in  Fort St. George, Madras because of their long and close acquaintance with higher-ups like  the Governors, etc.  It is imperative that their  dedicated services as interpreters or agents or translators for the English officials and merchants  could never be ignored. Rather, the officials relied heavily on them for  better administration, implementation of civil  projects, purchase of commodities, etc. The officials needed the cooperation of the local population and could approach them only through dubashis.  No political and  commercial agreements with local rulers or others could be possible  for the English without their help and advice. Including low-ranking English officials, powerful local traders and contractors could access the Governor or any  other higher-ups in the saddle of  power only through them. They had unquestionable authority and power within the confines of Fort St. George.
In this kind of  political scenario prevailing in the major trading post in Madras, the English kept the Debhasis in close proximity to keep them abreast of what was going on in the places around them. It was at this juncture Avadhanum Pau­piah, a Telugu Brahmin, native of  Nel­lore town (Andhra state; close to Madras) got a name for his dedicated services to the company and developed not only political clout but also close connection with the power that be. Nellore was then in the princely state of Carnatic. Though Paupiah had little formal education, he was shrewd and fairly proficient  in Persian, which was the court language of the princely state and learnt English.  During the governorship of Jon Holland (1789) 
and his brother Edward Holland, third member of the Governor in Council and President of the Board of Revenue (constituted 
in 1786) there  developed a close contact between them and  
Pau­piah. This association with mutual trust transformed the life of this poor man and put him on the pinnacle of power; obviously he began to wallow in money. 

Beginning his life at the bottom of the rung as a "writer" (clerk who writes or copies documents and papers) /clerk  in the Sea Customs office of the EIC, Madras  on a monthly salary of  just six rupees,  Pau­piah  began to go up the ladder of professional  life. His official responsibility included  collection of customs dues and  keeping the company accounts. This  job  proved to be highly lucrative - something like hen laying golden eggs for a man who was earning the lowest monthly salary.  Over a period of time with income beyond his expectations, he began to buy  several houses in Madras.  Soon he owned properties worth three or four lakhs of pagodas.  Later, he became the chief dubash to the powerful Holland brothers over whom he exerted much  influence. The Holland brothers were dishonest corrupt to the core and they became members of the Assembly through dishonest means. In 1789, John Holland became the Governor of Madras (residency).
It had been the custom for everyone to speak first to the dubash regarding  all business matters before consulting the Governor. It was through Pau­piah that the Governor  communicated with the native courts. Paupiah  became so powerful that he could access  the Governor even at the dead of night. Be they Rajahs or Nawabs, or powerful local rulers, they had to oblige Paupiah. “His house became a beehive of activities - a sort of rendezvous place for people seeking favors as well as help in business matters requiring wheeling and dealing, etc.
East India Co. Fort St. George, Madras (Chennai,Tamil Nadu)
Above image" Fort St George, Madras early colonial time. Fort St George was, in origin, essentially a fort. The inner citadel was built in 1640, the outer wall and four bastions by 1659, primarily as protection from the “inland enemy”, variously Mughal generals, nawabs and the rulers of Golconda. Visitors approved of the fortifications’ height and thickness, however  Andrew Cogan built it big when the Company’s stock was so small”. The Prospect of Fort St George was commissioned by Thomas Pitt, governor of Madras from 1698 to 1709, but was only completed after his death in 1726'' (

The EIC introduced certain new reforms in the existing  revenue  after getting  a jagir from the Nawab of the Carnatic in 1763, the company aimed at taking more revenue for itself.  Accordingly,  Haliburton, the most powerful and influential member of the Board of Revenue, introduced  a new system - warachittam, a new mode of revenue-collection, by which the Company could get more revenue than through the then existing system. 
 Above image: "The Rise of India Stock & sinking fund of oppression," engraving by B. W. (January 1784). Courtesy of the British Cartoon Collection, American Antiquarian Society, Worcester, Massachusetts................................
The natives and the merchants  were not happy about this new system as they would lose a big chunk of revenue. They  appealed to the Governor and leading merchants, like Kandappa Mu­da­liar, Sami Sungaraman Chetty, Ponnappa Mudali and Appaji Rao, sought  Paupiah's help  and bribed him to get the  new revenue system of warachittam buried for ever.  But Haliburton  was resolute to get it introduced  Suspecting blockage of resolution  by Haliburton, Paupiah and the Holland brothers hatched a plot to remove Haliburton soon from the Board of Revenue. They framed up  charges against him  by  instigating the natives to oppose the Company administration.  Pau­piah had several natives sent petitions against Haliburton to the Company. As there was enough evidence on hand EIC  removed Halibur­ton from the Board of Revenue and posted  him to Chan­dra­giri as pay master, a post of no importance.
East India Co. squeezing money, India
With the removal of  Haliburton, the Holland brothers, in collusion with  Paupiah, misappropriated huge amount in the later period. The cheating was so bad the notoriety of  Paupiah became a byword in common parlance. In the wake of corrupt administration and continuous  official misdeeds, the  Holland brothers name was on the line.  They became unpopular  to such an extent  Jon Holland had been  relieved of the Governorship and Edward ­Holland was fired from the Board of Revenue, Reason:  misappropriation of funds and ­amassing huge wealth through bribes. No sooner had William Medows  become the new Governor than  Haliburton appealed to him  to constitute a commission in July 1792 to go into the bottom of the misdeeds done by the Holland brothers and his cronies including their Dubhasi Avadhanum Paupiah, and their  his role in relieving him  swindling both Government and private parties. The accomplices of  Paupiah, Avadha­num Thangasami, his brother, Appay­yangar, a relative, and Venka­tacha Chetty admitted their roles before the Commission. 
Paupiah was tried between 11 and 13 July 1792 for conspiracy against David Haliburton in the Court of Quarter Sessions presided over by  Gov. Charles Medows  assisted by three Justices of Peace.    All four accused were sentenced to imprisonment and fine and were ordered to stand in the pillory for an hour.  Paupiah was jailed  for three years and fined £ 2000 in addition.

Paupiah's release from the jail, his misfortune never stopped and now a commission of inquiry in 1808 by the govt. had  found in Paupiah’s residence  evidence to prove his role in a  large number of forged bonds in the names of various Nawabs of the Carnatic  in the country. The holders of the genuine bonds agitated for repayment of the value of the bonds. The committee found that  Paupiah had swindled  very large amount. Prosecution for forgery was instituted against Paupiah, but he passed away  in 1809 before the trial prosecution. 

The scheme was exposed by Lord Cornwallis, the Governor-General of India who unraveled the corrupt practices of the Hollands. The Hollands managed to escape and sail to England, but Paupiah was convicted along with three other Indians.

There is a street named after Paupiah in Choolai, Chennai where his popularity as a swindler remains etched today. There are many streets named after debhasis  such as Thambu Chet­ty Street, Lingi Chetty Street, Sunga Raman Chetty Street in George Town and Pachiyappan Street in Chetput among others.Dubash is generally used to refer to  a cheat or fraudulent person.  Even  today the word dubakoor is being frequently used as a slang in Tanil movies  to refer to a cheat.

'Paupiah's trial' was the subject of a 1793 book of the same title by David Haliburton.  Its co-author was Scottish writer Sir Walter Scott.