Latasinha's Weblog

Social and political Values and Systems in India.

‘Steel-frame’ of governance during British rule?


 British government in India is still remembered allover the world for its efficient and effective governance. How British rulers had created an instrument for it is appreciable. They had created and propped up the Indian Civil Service as an elite service meant predominantly to be engaged in the governance of the country. Its officers controlled virtually all the levers of the governance, deliberated directly at the highest level of policy formulation and decision making. In return, it offered ICS officers best career opportunities, more power, higher salaries, better perquisites, quick promotions, and responsibilities with full freedom to work and superior status than any other service and a place of pride.

The ICS had developed traditions of Independence, integrity and hard work, though these qualities served the British rulers and not the Indian masses. This was the reason that ICS has often been called the “Steel-frame”, which reared and sustained British rule in India for such a long time.

British Government laid stress on merit. It was very particular about the recruitment and training of this elite service. British rulers, in accordance with their aims and objectives, pursued the policy of White-man’s superiority in its appointments. They did not considered Indians capable enough to participate in the governance of the country by holding higher administrative jobs. For a long time, the Indians were deliberately kept at bay. Entrance competitive examination for ICS was held in England till 1922. Very few Indians could bear hazards, expenses of going abroad and taking the risk of extremely remote chance to succeed there. Queen Victoria’s Proclamation of 1858 entitled all Indians, irrespective of race or creed, to be freely impartially admitted to the offices in the services, the duties of which they may be qualified by their education, ability and integrity, duly to discharge. Illbert Bill controversy also proves that White bureaucrats were not at all prepared to share control administrative functions with Indians, in spite of all the official declarations of 1833, 1858, 1861, 1892 and 1909. 

Lord Lytton said We all know that these claims, expectations never can or will be fulfilled. We have had choose between prohibiting them (Indians) and cheating them, we have chosen the least straightforward course. Lord Kimberley, the Secretary of State, laid down in 1893; It is indispensable, that an adequate number of members of the Civil Service shall always be European. Viceroy Lord Landsdown stressed Absolute necessity of keeping the Government of this wide-spread empire into European hands, if that empire is to be maintained. In 1867, Lawrence said, We have conquered India by force of arms, though the policy and good Government have already aided us. In the like manner, we must hold it. The Englishmen must always be in the forefront holding the post of honor and power, as the condition of our retaining of our rule. In Home Department Resolution of May 1904, Lord Curzon’s Government justified the policy, they were pursuing with regard to White-man’s superiority in Civil Service. The highest ranks of the civil employees in India, those in the Imperial Civil Service, the members of which are entrusted with the responsible task of carrying on the general administration of the country, though open to such Indians, who proceed to England and pass the requisite tests, must nevertheless, as a general rule be held by the Englishmen, for the reason that they possess partly by heredity, partly by upbringing and partly by education that knowledge of the principles of Government, the habits of the mind and vigor of character, which are essential for the task and the rule of India, being a British rule and any other rule being in the circumstances of the case impossible. The tone and the standard should be set by those, who have created it and are responsible for it.   

Generally the youths, who joined ICS, were mainly graduates from school to Oxford or Cambridge belonging to British professional middle classes. The main attractions for them to join the ICS, were the status and perquisites, British government gave to it. Good salaries, background, sense of duty and their living in ivory tower kept it honest and made any rumor extremely uncomfortable. Its officers took jobs as a challenge to provide, Care, protection and guidance to the people, they ruled. Mr. Lines, an ex- ICS officer, said, I suppose, we thought of a simple Indian villager… Here are simple people, who need leadership. Mr. Arthur, another ex ICS officer, said, Their attitude, certainly was paternalistic, which was necessary in a colonial administration. Philip Maser said that there was esprit de’corps amongst the officers. Lines pointed out, It is the Esprit de’corps, which served to enforce a strong moral code.” It did not need to be articulated. Every body knew it. “The smallness of service – just over a thousand at any given time – made for a strong sense of service loyalty.Clive Dewey said that the historical evidence pointed out to only a minute handful of officers being corrupt.  

 Lloyd George, the British Prime Minister in his historic Steel-frame speech, said on Aug.2, 1922 in the House of Commons that British civil servants were the very basis of the Empire in India and so he could not imagine any period, when they could dispense with the guidance and assistance of a small nucleus of the British civil servants. He said, I do not care, what you build on it, If you take that Steel-frame out of the fabric, it will collapse. There is only one institution, we will not cripple, there is one institution, and we will not deprive of its functions or of its privileges and that is that institution, which build up the British Raj – British Civil Service in India.” The British rulers were not only particular about the appointments in the ICS, but also provided sound training, while on job and atmosphere conducive to efficient performance. Immediately after their arrival in India, new recruits were attached to district for rigorous on-the-job training for eighteen months. During one year of district training, the officers had to get thoroughly acquainted with villages, administrative compulsions and a working knowledge of the relationship between various branches of Government at district headquarters like police, agriculture, local bodies etc. Another six months were directed to more intensive revenue work in district under land settlement. It meant harder and more complicated work. Great stress was laid on touring and camping out. They had to maintain diaries, which were thoroughly scrutinized by their seniors. It was made clear to senior district officers vide G.O. No. 738, published on 18th April, 1916, in ICS Manual, Madras, “The great importance of paying attention to the training of young men, who were entrusted to their guidance and whose success in life and influence for good depends so greatly on the assistance, which they received at the outset of their career.” The system was so enforced and watched, that there was no escape, whatsoever, from acquiring knowledge about the basics of administration, and to learn about the problems of each and every area of their jurisdiction. Guidance of the seniors prepared them to deal with those properly. The Government paid all the attention to see that, the new recruits were shaped into ICS role properly. 

National leaders like Gandhiji, Gokhale, Tilak, Patel and others put pressure on the British for holding Civil Services examination in India, simultaneously with that of England. They demanded more higher jobs for Indians. Consequently, from 1922 onwards, the British Government started holding Civil Services examination in India also. As a result more and more Indians joined the iCS.  

To maintain the standard, dignity and honour of the services as earlier, the British Government arranged three years of rigorous foundational training for the Indians selected from Indian center. For appointees selected from UK center it was two years. They were required to undergo a years training in U.K., at one of the four universities – Oxford, Cambridge, London or Dublin, immediately after joining ICS. This training was for duration of two years for those, selected from the Indian center (Delhi). From 1937, it was reduced from two to one year. The purpose of longer probation period, in Britain, for Indians was to bring them in close touch with British way of life, broaden their outlook, develop loyalty to Britain and develop the mentality of a foreign ruler. The Indian officials had to appear in two examinations at the end of their probation in U.K., while their British counterparts, selected from London center, appeared only in one examination. In all other matters like emolument and privileges, the Indian ICS officials got equal treatment, as was given to their British counterpart.  

No doubt, all these efforts have helped ICS developing gradually into one of the most efficient/powerful services in the world. It is unfortunate that today, neither the politicians, nor bureaucrats think or care on these lines i.e. to give the nation an efficient and effective governance by placing right persons on right positions at right time or to remove growing slackness in recruitment and training processes, which has ultimately led the nation to ineffective governance. 

With the intensification of National movement, birth of Indian National Congress Party in 1885 and the demand for greater Indian participation in Government and its administration left a dampening effect on the attraction of British youths to join ICS. All the attempts to attract them fell flat. The number of British officials began to decline.  

The British rulers saw to it that no section of Indian society could become strong enough to pose a threat to its rule in India. The dominance of Brahmins in administration and modern callings, their being main force behind the entire national movement, agitation and terrorist activities cautioned the ruler. To balance the power and to counter preponderance of Brahmins and forward castes, the rulers propped up other sections of the society. Through the Acts of 1909, 1919 and1932, the British fixed up quota on the basis of caste, community, occupation, religion etc., in government jobs and gave them separate representation in Legislative Councils, and Assemblies. They bestowed special benefits and preferences in education and Government jobs for different upcoming groups. They transferred some service functions to the Provinces and along with it, delegated the authority of appointments,promotions etc in those areas to the Provincial Governments. The Colonial rulers were aware of the consequences of this delegation of authority. They knew well that all these move would generate rivalry between different sections of the society, divide Indian society and adversely affect its administration.  

However, till the last, British Government kept the ICS untouched from the quota system. They firmly and clearly said to the upcoming groups that they wouldn’t weaken their Steel frame at any cost for any body, as on it depended efficient governance of the country. It told the upcoming groups in clear terms, With its utmost desire to do so, the best for these classes, the Government will be and is powerless to help them, unless they qualify themselves to the same extent as others of their countrymen for duties of administration and public. 

Communal Awardof 1932 could not be implemented till 1943, because of the procedural constraints. In 1943, the British Government issued orders for 8 1/3% Reservation of posts for SC candidates in Central Government Services, raising the age limit for them to enter in competitive examinations, and lowering the examination fee for them. However, after 1943, the recruitment to ICS was suspended, earlier due to Second World War and later, because of transfer of power to Indians.  

All this shows that British design to prepare an atmosphere for the successful implementation of Reservation policy on basis of caste and community before quitting. It is unfortunate that the independent India has fallen into the trap. 



November 27, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized |


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