Latasinha's Weblog

Social and political Values and Systems in India.

Working of bureaucracy under the Crown (1858-1919)


From 1858 to 1919 under the Crown was the golden period for Civil Services. During this period, the civil services were institutionalised. The civil services were classified into Convenanted (Higher – Imperial and Provincial) and Un-covenanted (Subordinate) on the basis of the nature of work, appointing authority and pay-scales. Imperial services, occupying the higher rungs of civil services and controlled by the Secretary of State, were further divided into All India Services and Central Services.

On the eve of the Government of India Act, nine All India Services existed. The oldest and the most important amongst the All India Services was the ICS responsible for general administration, which owes its origin to Lord Machulay Report submitted in 1854. The last to be added to the list of All India Services was the Indian Agriculture Service in 1906.

During this period, civil services not only became rigid in its class structure, but also became bureaucratic in methods and procedure of work. Routine work and cumbersome office procedures severely affected the power of initiative and enterprise which were found in abundance in the older generation of the civil service. So much so that those officers, who once wielded the sword so fearlessly began to grumble under the tyranny of pen. Sir William Hunter commented, “He governed most, who wrote most”. Thus came into being multiplication of reports, returns and correspondence and obsession for office work.

Unlike the decentralised administration during the East India Company, the growth of rapid means of communication made centralisation of administration possible. The whole system, from top to bottom, became well-knit, highly centralised and behaved like an unbreakable steel frame with all the characteristics of a full-fledged Autocracy. Centralisation tightened the regulatory functions of the officials to supervise and control the subordinate officials and made the office procedure elaborate and cumbersome.

The British Government was very clear about its aims and objectives. These were to maintain law and order, to collect revenue and to perpetuate British rule in India as long as possible. The British Government in India did not favour its indulgence in any kind of social welfare activity, which would, later on, pose problems for Imperial rule in India. In accordance with these objectives, civil services responsible for law and order situation and revenue collection, were conceived and propped up as the elite service meant predominantly for British citizens and were bestowed with all kinds of authority, favours, concessions and privileges. Owing to its high prestige, remuneration and enormous authority, it was nicknamed as the “Heaven Born Service”.

At the level of local administration, officers of ICS were dubbed as “Little Napoleans”. They occupied key positions in specialist departments as well. Aichinson Commission report comments “The control of certain specialist departments should always be retained into the hands of ICS officers, so as to secure that the operation of these departments could be conducted in conformity with the principle governing the general administration and to avoid inter-departmental frictions.

From 1858 to 1919, Civil Services, specially the ICS, attracted the best talent of British Society, who graduated from Oxford or Cambridge. British Rulers wanted appointments in all senior positions by the dictum of “Whiteman’s superiority”. Their reasons for it were that they possess partly by heredity, partly by upbringing and partly by education that knowledge of the principles of government, the habits of mind and vigour of character, which are essential for the task. The tone and standard should be set by those who had created it and were responsible for it.

February 17, 2010 Posted by | Bureaucracy/Civil Services | | Leave a comment

Working of Civil Services under the East India Company (Pre-1858)


The East India Company had consolidated its position as a dominant power in India by 1784. The spread of its authority demanded a change in the administrative system. The role of the civil servants of East India Company changed from merchants to that of statesmen, from traders to governors, and judges and magistrates. The shape to this system, was given during the regimes of Warren Hastings, Lord Cornwallis and Lord Wellasly.

After the annexation of Indian territories, Lord Wellasly (1798-1805) created a corps of specially talented officers—selected from the Commercial services as well as army—called `pioneers’ and entrusted them with the pioneering task of settling newly conquered areas, making political adjustments, restoring law and order, assessment and collection of land revenue, administration of criminal and civil justice, maintenance of roads and bridges, digging canals, opening schools and hospitals and thereby gaining confidence of people.

In the absence of any fast means of communication, the officers at the district were compelled to take decisions of their own o important matters of policy and administration. The main characteristics of the administration during those days were as follows:

  • Concentration of authority and responsibility in the District Officers who were Magistrate, Collector, and Judge;
  • The area of the district was not so large as to make this undivided responsibility impossible. The District Officer had complete knowledge of his area and people;

  • The administration was based on a set of simple laws and rules, respected Indian Institutions and local customs, so far as they did not clash with the Imperial interest; and

  • Formalities were at the minimum level.

Thus, the administrative structure was simple, but effective. The officers possessed a high sense of responsibility. They developed traditions of character, initiative, imagination, understanding and paternalism. Munro, Malcolm, Elphinston, Metcalf, and Lawrence brothers were some of those great administrators, belonging to the group of `Pioneers’, who are still remembered as the founders of a new tradition of administration. The civil service was not only a career for them, but something which they had built-up, united and administered. They were the spokesmen of its dumb masses and often fought with their superiors for the interest of the people. A civilian of those days said, “They ruled with an iron hand in a velvet glove”.


February 17, 2010 Posted by | Bureaucracy/Civil Services | | 1 Comment

Need of Civil Service/bureaucracy


To run the administration of a country nicely, a band of ‘permanent, paid and professional’/capable officers—efficient, prompt, just and sympathetic—belonging to different disciplines of bureaucracy/civil services are required. Had there been only the leaders and elected representatives of the people, the work of the governance would never have been done properly. Civil service is, therefore, an indispensable part of any government, which provides continuity on a long-term basis.. The civil servants not only dig expert knowledge from the raw material, but give it a shape with a sense of commitment. Due to its exclusive and specialist nature of work and the need for more expert knowledge in administration for improving the quality of life, the importance of administrative civil services increases day-by-day.

As Shri C. Rajagopalachari, “For any administration to be good and efficient, as a whole, we want right type of men. The quality of men placed in position is more important than laying down of rules and methods of operation”

Institution of modern civil services is one of the oldest and most wonderful institutions, the British Government has bequeathed to India. It has a long historical background and is a product of centuries. It has prospered, slowly but steadily, under three successive regimes—The East India Company, the Crown and the Indian Republic.

February 17, 2010 Posted by | Bureaucracy/Civil Services | | Leave a comment


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