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


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