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Administrative changes after 1858

Administrative changes after 1858

  • The Revolt of 1857 gave a severe jolt to the British administration in India and made its reorganization inevitable.
  • Introduction
  • An Act of Parliament in 1858 transferred the power to govern from the East India Company to the British Crown.
  • While authority over India had previously been wielded by the Directors of the Company and the Board of Control, now this power was to be exercised by a Secretary of State for India aided by a Council.
  • The Secretary of State was a member of the British Cabinet and as such was responsible to Parliament.
  • Thus the ultimate power over India remained with British Parliament.
  • By 1869, the Council was completely subordinated to the Secretary of State.
  • Most of the members of the India Council were retired British-Indian officials.
  • Under the Act, a government was to be carried on as before by the Governor-General who was also given the title of Viceroy or Crown’s personal representative.
  • Viceroy was paid two and a half lakhs of rupees a year in addition to his other allowances.
  • With the passage of time, the Viceroy was increasingly reduced to a subordinate status in relation to the British Government in matters of policy as well as the execution of policy.
  • As a result of the Regulating Act, Pitt’s India Act, and the later Charter Acts the Government of India was being effectively controlled from London.
  • Instructions from London took a few weeks to arrive and the Government of India had often to take important policy decisions in a hurry.
  • Control by the authorities in London was therefore often more in the nature of post facto evaluation and criticism than of actual direction.
  • By 1870, a submarine cable had been laid through the Red Sea between England and India.
  • Orders from London could now reach India in a matter of hours.
  • The Secretary of State could now control the minutest details of administration and do so constantly every hour of the day.
  • No Indian had a voice in the India Council or the British Cabinet or Parliament.
  • Indians could hardly even approach such distant masters.
  • In a given condition, Indian opinion had even less impact on government policy than before.
  • On the other hand, British industrialists, merchants, and bankers increased their Influence over the Government of India.
  • In India, the Act of 1858 provided that the Governor-General would have an Executive Council whose members were to act as heads of different departments and as his official advisers.
  • The position of the members of the Council was similar to that of Cabinet ministers.
  • Originally there were five members of this Council but by 1918, there were six ordinary members, apart from the Commander-in-Chief who headed the Army Department.
  • The Council discussed all important matters and decided them by a majority vote; but the Governor-General had the power to override any important decision of the Council.
  • In fact, gradually all power was concentrated in the Governor-General’s hands.
  • The Indian Councils Act of 1861 enlarged the Governor-General’s Council for the purpose of making laws in which capacity it was known as the Imperial Legislative Council.
  • The Governor-General was authorized to add to his Executive Council between six and twelve members of whom at least half had to be non-officials who could be Indian or English.
  • The Imperial Legislative Council possessed no real powers and should not be seen as a sort of elementary or weak parliament.
  • It was merely an advisory body.
  • It could not discuss any important measure, and no financial measures at all, without the previous approval of the Government.
  • The Imperial Legislative Council had no control over the budget.
  • It could not discuss the notions of the administration; the members could not even ask questions about them.
  • The Legislative Council had no control over the executive.
  • No bill passed by Legislative Council could become an Act until it was approved by the Governor-General.
  • The Secretary of State could disallow any of its Acts.
  • Thus, the only important function of the Legislative Council was to ditto official measures and give them the appearance of having been passed by a legislative body.
  • The Indian members of the Legislative Council were few in number and were not elected by the Indian people, but rather were nominated by the Governor-General whose choice invariably fell on princes and their ministers, big zamindars, big merchants, or retired senior government officials.
  • For the better understanding, we can study the major administrative changes under the following heads:
    • Provincial Administration
    • Local Bodies
    • Change in Army
    • Public Services
    • Relations with Princely States
    • Administrative Policies and
    • Extreme Backwardness of Social Services
  • All these headings have been described briefly in subsequent chapters (with the same headings).

Administrative changes after 1858 – Administrative changes after 1858 – Administrative changes after 1858

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