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Bureaucracy in India Under Provincial Autonomy (Post 1935 Period)

 

 

The Indian Nationalists were not satisfied with the changes brought about by the Act of 1919 in regards to the All India Services. Three points of view emerged. These were:

  • One section was in favour of retaining status quo in the matter of All India Services, such as to Muslims of the Provinces, where they were in a minority, the British element in all India Services offered protection against domination by the Hindus.

  • Another group desired to retain the ICS and IP, but wanted the Government of India to recruit and control the members of these services.

  • Yet another section of the Indian public opinion was averse to the retention of All India Services and insisted on its provincialisation.

    Chetty, a member of the Central Legislative Assembly, said that the control of the Secretary of State authorised its officers: “To escape effective control either by Provincial Executive or by the Provincial Legislature. An All India Service, with these extraordinary privileges, is an anachronism in any system of provincial responsible government and we would add, is a violation in the spirit of the Government of India Act, 1919”.

    In 1928, the Committee under the Chairmanship of Moti Lal Nehru, appointed the All Parties Conference, recommended discontinuance of all the All India Services and pressed for their provincialisation. Similar were the views of the Committee appointed by the United Provinces Legislative Council, which asserted: “We hold that retention of these services (i.e. All India Services) in a system of full provincial autonomy would unnecessarily complicate matters”. Shiva Rao said: “I do not think it would be satisfactory to work these services on an All India basis and at the same time ensure a proper relationship between the Services and the Ministry.” Bheemarao Ambedkar also said: “No Province can be deemed to have provincial autonomy, if it has not the right to regulate the civil services that is going to work in its area”

    In 1933-34, in the Joint Committee on Indian Constitution Reforms, some leaders again urged the provincialisation of All India Services, but it did not accept it, because it regarded the need for a regular supply of officers, both Indian and British, of the highest quality as vital to the stability of the proposed Constitution itself. “It is of the first importance that in the early days of `New Order’ and indeed until the course of events in the future can be more clearly foreseen, the new Constitution should not be exposed to risk and hazard by radical changes in the system which has for so many generations produced men of the calibre.

    The net effect of all this turmoil was that India Act of 1935 allowed the continuance of only three All India Services, namely, Indian Civil Service, Indian Police Service and Indian Medical Service (Civil). Other services were not abolished abruptly or altogether. Only fresh recruitment into these services was discontinued, thus enabling its painless extinction through the natural process of retirement, resignation and causalities of its members.

With the advent of provincial autonomy, ICS, the main amongst the All India Services, underwent a change in its role. The Governor’s Executive Council was replaced by a Council of Ministers. The officials of All India Services ceased to be the members of Legislature or to have any share in the determination of policy of the government except in advisory capacity.

The ICS officials undertook diverse type of rural developmental activities and had to function more and more through Village Panchayats, District Boards and Cooperative Societies. During the war time, they looked after supplies, regulation and promotion of trade and industry, etc. In all these spheres, the officials proved their metal and competence.

During this period, the ICS officials had lost much of its past authority and, therefore, showed a noticeable fall in standards. The Rowland Committee remarked: “The present position, in our judgement, is thoroughly unsatisfactory both from the point of view of the district officer himself as well as from the point of view of the efficiency of the governmental machine and welfare of the people in the district…He is expected to see that nothing goes wrong in his district, but he has little power outside. The Magistrate and Collector failed to see that things go right. He is supposed to compose differences between other officers, but he has no power to impose his will upon the recalcitrant. He can cajole and persuade, he cannot compel…In our view, the situation, if left to itself, can only deteriorate further because activities of the government in the mofussil will increase and practically every department is thinking in terms of a “Provincialised service” and makes little attempt to disguise its determination to go ahead with its own plans, without reference to any other part of the government.

Now onwards, the officials learnt to tolerate the elected representatives and ministers. Those, who were still thinking in terms of their previous status and authority, took premature retirement. Others surrendered themselves to the new circumstances. The process of rapid Indianisation also made, to some extent, the harmony possible between the two.

Still this period witnessed frequent clashes between the Indian Ministers and British officials and former’s helplessness in regard to All India Services as is evident from Sardar Patel’s Statement: “I tried to get the District Magistrate of Gurgaon transferred. I could not succeed…I tried hard. I wrote to the then Government of Punjab: I pleaded with the Viceroy, but I found it difficult to remove him”.

Pt. Nehru had the impression that “Not only the Viceroy, but the British Members of his Council, the Governor’s and even the smaller fry who functioned as Secretaries of Departments or Magistrate speak from a noble and attainable height, secure not only in the conviction that what they say or do is right, but hat it will have to be accepted as right, whatever lesser mortals may imagine, for theirs is the power and glory.”

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June 18, 2009 - Posted by | Bureaucracy/Civil Services

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