Saturday, October 4, 2014


Traditional Bureaucracy !!
  • The government of east india company initially tried to rule the country with the help of the traditional bureaucracy. 
  • Under the system of robert clive, the traditional bureaucracy was almost fully maintained. 

Domination of European elements !!
  • But the administration of warren hastings introduced a bureaucracy dominated by European elements. 
  • The top offices were held by European civilians, and the lower bureaucracy by the natives. It was a blend of the old and new bureaucracies. 
Colonial Bureaucracy !!  (Era of CORNWALLIS )
  • lord cornwallis abandoned the experiment of ruling the company kingdom with a bureaucracy in partnership with the natives, and laid the foundation of a colonial bureaucracy consisting exclusively of the whites.
  • Until the introduction of Cornwallis’ new civil service, the company’s commercial bureaucracy governed Bengal. It was called Covenanted Civil Service (CCS) and its members were directly appointed by, and responsible to, the Court of Directors. 
  • The officers appointed locally by the fort william authorities belonged to the Uncovenanted Civil Service (UCS). They were engaged mostly for short term and for specific purposes, and their salaries were nominal. 
  • The salaries of the members of the CCS though not high, their right to private trade was a kind of compensation. They were also tacitly allowed to receive commissions and perquisites. Trade and public administration were vested in the same hands.
By separating trade from civil service Cornwallis founded a professional civil service to administer the colonial state. The salary structure of civilians was made immensely attractive. Giving princely salaries to civilians was a means of attracting competent people to the service on the one hand, and removing rampant corruption on the other. 

Recruitment, training, posting and promotions of civilians were henceforth to be regulated by fixed and inviolable rules. Civilians were expected to scrupulously adhere to established rules and regulations. Under no circumstance were they to indulge in the former habit of receiving gifts, bribes, and commissions from concerned parties. The civil service was made exclusively an all-white affair. The natives were left with only insignificant jobs. Cornwallis had the notion that the natives were incorrigibly corrupt and inefficient, and that their participation in the civil service would keep the administration weak and corrupt. The civil service manual embodying the rules and regulations and set-up of the CCS was incorporated into the Charter Act of 1793.

Changes (1793-1854)  

  • The basic structure of the CCS as established by the Cornwallis administration remained mostly intact until 1833. 
  • But considerable changes were then made in the structure of the UCS. 
  • The natives were almost entirely excluded from the state bureaucracy under the reforms of 1793. 
  • But the exclusion policy was not sustained for long. The administration of the newly conquered territories was a strain not only on the existing manpower of the bureaucracy, but also on the state revenue. 
  • The budgetary expenditure of the state increased without a corresponding increase in revenue collection. 
  • The administration of lord wellesley tried to solve the problem by relaxing the exclusion policy and by restructuring the UCS. Wellesley resolved to fill the lower ranks of the UCS by appointing competent natives. He introduced a new post called sadar amin in the judicial department. All petty cases were to be disposed of by sadar amin. In the colonial bureaucracy this sadar amin was the first native member. Under the Cornwallis system there were positions held by natives, such as munsif, pandit, munshi, serestadar, thanadar, sepoy, barkandaz.


  • But these were little short of ministerial under some UCS officer who was a white man. Their services were mostly obtained in lieu of fees and commissions. 
  • The participation of the natives in the UCS was further expanded under lord bentinck
  • As an economy measure, Bentinck increased the power and responsibility of the sadar amin, and created a new post designated as principal sadar amin who was to be above sadar amin. 
  • In the judicial hierarchy the principal sadar amin appeared as the native magistrate and judge just next to the additional district judge.

Changes as power of COMPANY diminished !!!
  • The structure of the CCS was changed significantly under the Charter Act of 1833. 
  • The Cornwallisian CCS was designed to administer the company’s Bengal state. 
  • But the colonial state subsequently underwent dramatic changes. 
  • The vast territorial conquests from the time of Wellesley (1798-1805) to lord amherst (1823-1828), the abolition of the company’s monopoly from 1813, the withdrawal of the ban on Europeans to control land and settle in the mufassil, the abolition of the trading right of the Company, and the policy of liberalisation of the Bentinck administration (1828-1835) made the Cornwallisian bureaucracy mostly unworkable. 
  • Under the Charter Act of 1793, the Court of Directors enjoyed the privilege of recruiting members of the CCS, a privilege which came under severe public criticism after the abolition of the monopoly right of the Company in 1813.

Charter Act of 1833
  • Under the changed circumstances it became practically impossible to run the colonial state with only the white bureaucracy. 
  • The Charter Act of 1833 provided that henceforth UCS would be open to all people irrespective of race, religion and caste. 
  • But civilian pressure groups prevented the Charter declaration from being fully implemented. Bentinck could only introduce some reforms in the judicial branch of the government. He appointed a principal sadar amin in the district court. 
  • He also proposed to appoint a native deputy collector in the district administration, but in the face of civilian opposition the proposal remained unimplemented until the 1840s.

Lack of ADMINISTRATIVE abilities due to lack of proper training and recruitment !!

Under Bentinck, major changes took place in the recruitment and training of civilians. Under the Charter Act, 1793, recruitment for CCS was an exclusive privilege of the Company. The directors of the company and members of the Board of Control enjoyed the privilege of nominating at least one writer (beginner civilian) each to the Company’s civil service. The system was called patronage and was something which the designated authorities of the Company enjoyed. The writers were between 14 and 16 years old, and had insufficient education and experience. There was no system for training the newly recruits who, in fact, got appointed through working as writers or apprentices with the experienced staff for a couple of years. The system of patronage and apprenticeship was designed to run the affairs of the Company when it was only a commercial organisation. But for governing a state such a system was certainly inadequate.

Reforms introduced by WELLESLEY !!
  • Lord Wellesley felt the immediate need to reform the system of recruitment and training of the civil service of the empire. 
  • But for political and other legal complications the system of patronage continued for some time. 
  • Under the circumstance, Wellesley tried to educate and train the writers in his own way. He established a training and educational centre for them in Calcutta in 1800. This was called fort william college. 
  • Before the writers assumed any office they were required to take education and training for three years at the College. The writers were required to learn at least two Indian languages, and complete specific courses on Indian history and culture, Hindu and Muslim laws, eastern and western civilisation, and theories and practices of government and administration.

The PATRONAGE SYSTEM in Bureaucracy !!

  • The Court approved Wellesley’s idea of training the writers but not of training them in the college at Calcutta.  
  • Instead, the court founded in 1805 a similar institution called East India College, commonly known as Haileybury College in England. 
  • The candidates nominated by the directors and other holders of patronage were required to study at this college for three years. The syllabi of their study included political economy, classics and general literature, mathematics, history and laws of England, history and laws of India, natural philosophy and some oriental languages, such as Arabic, Persian, Hindustani, Bangla and Sanskrit. 
  • The candidates successfully completing three-year course were called upon to proceed to India to join as writers. At Fort William College, the writers were required to study the languages of the concerned province for which they were selected. The writers demonstrating the highest merit were selected for service in Bengal. 
  • The unsuccessful candidates at Hailebury College were given a second chance to appear in examinations. Candidates unsuccessful for the second time were discarded, and fresh nominations were sought from their patrons. 
  • The patronage system in the recruitment of civil service was abolished under the Charter Act of 1853, and consequently Hailebury College was also abolished in 1858.

The Macaulay Committee !!
  • Competitive examinations for recruitment  East India Company lost its monopoly in 1831 and its patronage system in 1853. These measures led Parliament to set up a five-member committee headed by tb macaulay to make recommendations on the nature of recruitment and training of civilians for the Covenanted Civil Service. 
  • According to the recommendations of the Macaulay Committee, a permanent committee called Civil Service Commissioners was set up for recruiting civilians on the basis of merit. 
  • The Civil Service Commissioners would hold annual competitive examinations in London, and recommend to the Court a list of candidates according to merit. 
  • The competition was made open to all citizens of the British Empire with age limit between 18 and 23 years. 
  • Educational qualification was graduation or any equivalent degree. The total marks of examinations was 1250, and the subjects were English composition; English literature and history; Greek language, literature and history; Roman language, literature and history; French language, literature and history; German language, literature and history; Italian language, literature and history; mathematics, natural sciences, moral and political philosophy, Sanskrit language and literature, and Arabic language and literature.

Until final training and posting, the successful candidates would be called probationers. Probationers would take training at Oxford University for two years. During probation period, probationers would mainly study major Indian languages, and India’s history, geography, society, economy, politics, culture and laws. Every probationer was required to achieve proficiency in two Indian languages including the vernacular language of the province of posting. Any probationer could be removed from selection if he failed in any academic and physical examinations. The successful probationers would be posted to various provinces according to merit. The reason for such rigorous academic training for civilians was elaborated in the Macaulay report. It was argued that the role that was played by elected parliament and local bodies in governing the kingdom of Britain was to be played by the civilians recruited to govern the kingdom of British India. And hence the civilians, who were to be virtual lords of the land and people, must be so perfect morally and intellectually and so judicious in the exercise of power as would make them perfect representative of British nation and benevolent guardians of the Indian people.

The probationers from the top of the list would be posted to the Bengal presidency. After being posted in a province, the probationers would receive practical training as assistant collectors under the district collector and magistrate. After successful completion of all these tests, a probationer would get regular appointment as a member of the Covenanted Civil Service.

Indianisation of bureaucracy

  • The professional bureaucracy of British India was an all-white affair until the last decade of the Company rule. 
  • The lowest cadres of the Uncovenanted Civil Service, particularly in the judicial branch, were made open to local elites by the administration of Lord Wellesley and Lord Bentinck. 
  • Though the Charter Act of 1833 withdrew the Cornwallisian embargo on the recruitment of natives for civil service, in theory, the exclusion continued in practice until 1854 when the Company’s privilege of patronage was finally abolished and recruitment by open competitive examinations began. 
  • As for the entry of Indians into CCS was concerned, the open competition system did not actually end the ethnic exclusiveness of the service. For instance, Indian candidates were required to go to London to compete for CCS.

This meant that an aspirant, no matter how meritorious, would have to fund the passage to London and would have to be religiously uninhibited. Furthermore, the examination syllabi focussed on European languages, literatures and histories, subjects, in which the Indian students were not proficient. Consequently, CCS remained an exclusive club for whites. From 1855 to 1914, Indian recruitment remained insignificant (only 84 as against 2644 Europeans), and no Indian could rise in rank above that of district judge or district magistrate.

These factors drew the attention of nationalists and the vernacular press. Their persistent demand was that in the governance of India, Indian participation would have to be made significant. Attempts were made to enhance native participation in the bureaucracy by restructuring UCS. 

Under the Civil Service Act 1861, the former UCS was abolished and a new service called Subordinate Executive Service for the Indian and Anglo-Indian communities was introduced. Under this service, deputy and sub-deputy collectors were appointed from amongst the departmental candidates. From a departmentally prepared panel of three persons one was appointed on the basis of merit ascertained by a departmental competitive examination. Under the pressure of the nationalists the civil service was further Indianised in 1879 by creating a new service called Statutory Civil Service, under which provisions were made to appoint a certain number of Indians in the higher executive service by nomination. Recruitment of aristocratic but loyal people from Hindu and Muslim communities was essentially the object of this service.

But such divisive measures evoked severe criticism from the Bengal press and the elites. Their demand was to hold Indian Civil Service (ICS) examinations in India and recruit increasing number of Indians in the ICS and other services. In 1886 was thus set up Public Service Commission commonly called Aitchison Commission. The commission was asked to make recommendations on ways and means of further Indianising the civil service.

The Aitchison Commission

  • The Aitchison Commission recommended the abolition of the Subordinate Civil Service and Statutory Civil Service, and instead creation of provincial civil services named after the provinces, for example, Bengal Provincial Civil Service, Punjab Provincial Civil Service. 
  • The Aitchison Commission further recommended that some services reserved for the CCS ought to be transferred to the provincial civil service and that every provincial civil service should have a junior cadre called subordinate civil service
  • Furthermore, it recommended that recruitment in these services should be made through competition among departmentally nominated candidates
  • In short, making a strong and prestigious provincial civil service was the essence of the Aitchison Commission. 
  • All the recommendations of the Aitchison Commission were implemented, including the name of the service. 
  • Instead of Covenanted Civil Service, it was now named Indian Civil Service thus making the title consistent with that of the provincial civil service which was now introduced for the provinces.

Bengal Provincial Civil Service, like all other provincial civil services created under the Aitchison Commission Report, did not in fact create any new access to the superior services reserved for the ICS which was still almost an exclusive club for whites. Consequently the reforms in the structure of the civil services did not at all abate the agitation for meaningful Indianisation of civil services.

Arguments of Central Government against the ideas of Aitchison Committee's recommendations !!
  • Against unreserved and unrestricted Indianisation of civil services, the central government argued that all provinces of British India were not equally equipped for open competition. 
  • Even within the province itself, in its view, all communities were not equally prepared for free competition. 
  • In addition, there were ethnic and low caste problems. It was argued that completely open competition would lead to the absolute predominance of the Bengal Hindu Bhadralok class in civil services, a development which would create undoubtedly new political problems. 
  • For example, though Muslims were majority community in Bengal, in 1915 only five percent of them were represented in the service. 
  • Free competition was thus sure to make the situation further worse.

The Islington Commission !!
  • The problem was intensely studied by the islington commission (1912-1915). 
  • Guided by political considerations, the Commission recommended for recruitment to the civil services both at Indian and provincial levels on the basis of proportionate representations of leading communities and ethnic peoples
  • The report was strongly opposed by the indian national congress and the nationalist press. 

The Montagu - Chelmsford Report !!

The montagu-chelmsford report (1918) suggested that one-third of the positions in the superior civil services should be recruited in India, and that this percentage should progressively increase in the interest of the development of self-governing institutions.

The LEE Commission !!
  • The lee commission of 1924 further studied the recommendations of the Montagu-Chelmsford Report and recommended for the planned Indianisation of the civil services. 
  • According to the recommendations of the Lee Commission, 20% of the ICS vacancies should be filled by promotion from the provincial civil service, and 80% should be equally divided between Indians and Europeans. 
  • Recruitment should be on the basis of competitive examinations held in England and India. 
  • In the recruitment and promotions the government was advised to keep communal and ethnic interests in view. 
  • For the first time ICS examinations were held in India in 1922. 
  • As per recommendations of the Lee Commission, the Indian Public Service Commission was established in 1926. 
  • In 1935 it was renamed as the Federal Public Service Commission
  • The functions of the Commission were to frame rules and regulations of civil services, hold competitive examinations, and oversee the over-all Indianisation processes at both provincial and central levels. 
  • The Public Service Commission consisted of five members including the chairman, and was directly appointed by, and responsible to, the Secretary of State-in-Council. 
  • Under the Government of India Act of 1935, many superior services were transferred to the provincial civil service. But the district administration was retained in the hands of the ICS until the end of British rule in 1947.

The days of the ICS of the British colonial brand closed with the partition of India in 1947. However, the dominions continued mostly to maintain the British structures of administration along with the elite cadre of top civil service on the model of the erstwhile ICS. India since 1947 has been maintaining the elite Indian Administrative Service (IAS). Pakistan also had its own cadre of elite civil servants in the Civil Service of Pakistan (CSP) which existed in the original form until the dismemberment of Pakistan in 1971 when its Eastern wing (East Pakistan) emerged to have been an independent state of Bangladesh. Under the new circumstances the elite civil services were recast to meet the demands of the new state.

Print Friendly and PDF

Blog Archive