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Social and political Values and Systems in India.

Bureaucracy in India

Origin of civil services in India – The civil services in India can, without doubt, be regarded as the most remarkable of all the institutions, Britain has bequeathed to India. The term `Civil Service’, which is now applied to the general body of persons employed on non-combatant work connected with the administration of states, was first used in the late eighteenth century to designate those employees (known as ‘writers’) of East India Company, who were engaged in Mercantile work.

Civil Servants being transformed from traders into administrators – As the character of the company changed – its trading operations were first supplemented by territorial dominion and eventually replaced by the responsibilities of government – its civil servants were transformed from traders into administrators.

Initially in trading roles – Roughly from 1606 to 1740, the civil servants were managing primarily trading operations, and incidentally administrative work. When it grew more and more in size, as the East India Company acquired territorial possessions notably after the battle of Plassey, its  role started changing and administrative tasks increased with time. Precisely from 1741 to 1834, the civil servants were entrusted with purely administrative activities.

After transfer of power to British Crown in 1858 –  By 1858, when the transfer of power from East India Company to the British Crown became a reality, the foundation of the Indian Civil Services was formally implemented. Soon after the termination of the `Rule of Company Bahadur, it was replaced by the `Rule of Crown’. An organised bureaucratic hierarchical structure came into existence in India.

During this period, the Secretary of State for India, in Britain, was at the top the Viceroy and Governor General of India just below him; Provincial Governors/Lt. Governors/Chief Commissioners below Viceroy; and Collector/Magistrates or Deputy Commissioners and other civil servants etc. occupying the lowest rung of the four tier structure of the centralised white bureaucracy.

In India, the Viceroy and the Governor General (the supreme bureaucrat for the Government of India) was the Crown’s representative. His office was set up by the Regulating Act of 1773, while the Act of 1858 decorated its title as Viceroy and the Governor General of India. He had assumed much authority in his own hands on account of being the `man on the spot.’ All provincial and local administration was under his absolute control. Due to the policy of maintaining a uniform administrative system all over the country, his control was very extensive in the administrative field. Though the public services were recruited by the Secretary of State, it was the duty of the Government of India to lay down policies of reform and progress of the administrative system in the form of Resolutions.

The Act of 1919 and that of 1935 had relaxed Central control over the provincial administration, but Governor continued to act as the concrete embodiment of the bureaucratic administration under the absolute superintendence, direction and control of the Governor General.

The civil servants of different ranks, i.e. Commissioners/Deputy Commissioners/District Collectors and Magistrates etc., were entrusted with the responsibility of running the administration of their division, district or some such local area according to the dictates of the upper echelons of British Bureaucracy.

System of recruitment From 1805 to 1885, the higher civil servants were nominated by the individual Directors of the Company. From 1858 onwards, in order to make the civil services in India more efficient and well equipped, the British Civil Service Commission was created in 1855 and given the responsibility to select officials through competitive examination.

Bureaucracy under British government in India – Bureaucracy under 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.

Developed traditions of Independence, integrity and hard work – Under British rule, higher Civil Services in India had developed traditions of Independence, integrity and hard workthough 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 its elite services, engaged specially in Control Functions. 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.

Steps taken to maintain White-men’s superiority – 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. But 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. Illbert Bill controversy confirms the fact 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.

Bureaucrats provided “Care, protection and guidance” to the people, they ruled – Generally the youths, who joined Indian Civil Services, 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.

The officers belonging to higher civil services 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.

Stress on merit – 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.

Balancing the Administrative power – 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 and 1932, 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.

British rulers 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.

Firm and clear message of British rulers to up-coming social groups – Till the last, British Government kept its elite services 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 Award” of 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.

Position of bureaucracy when national movements started Post 1919 period witnessed the intensification of national movements, emergence of Gandhi and Congress and the acceptance of the methods of violence by some parties as a means to achieve independence. During this period the main task of the administration was to maintain law and order intact at any cost.

Bureaucracy under British rule not accountable to Indian people – The civil service throughout British rule was characterized as hierarchy of officers neither chosen nor accountable to the Indian people. At the level of local administration, it meant `Raj’ to the masses of the country, as the rule of an officer “was based on fear and awe and mass obedience was extracted by repression and suppression of popular demands”. The higher civil servants were appointed and for that reason, accountable to those above them.

All these developments during first half of the twentieth century show 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.

After Independence In 1947 came the Independence. With the attainment of Independence and adoption of socialist and egalitarian society as ultimate national goals, the demands on administration undergone a qualitative change. The basic task of administration changed from one of attending to routine regulatory function to that of development administration, promoting a rapid socio-economic change.

Since then, the pressure on administration has increased manifold, because of –

  • Quantitative expansion in the work load of modern governments;

  • Increasing complexity of the problems of modern governments;

  • The accelerative thrust of science & technology;

  • Demand for specialisation,

  • The rapidly rising tempo of political consciousness among masses;

  • The dependence of national stability upon the ability of government to satisfy at least a minimum of popular need and expectations;

  • An urgent need for radical change in the attitudes of the government employees

More the problems, more efficient and better equipped bureaucracy of the nation should be, its being an important instrument to solve nation’s problems, to face the challenges and meet new demands.


July 21, 2018 - Posted by | Bureaucracy/Civil Services |

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