Civil Services under British Raj

Civil Services under British Raj

This article deals with ‘ Civil Services under British Raj – UPSC.’ This is part of our series on ‘Modern History’ which is important pillar of GS-1 syllabus . For more articles , you can click here

Civilian bureaucracy was meant only to implement policies framed in Britain  . Distance between London & India , the difficulty of communication & their command over information from the field gave them a considerable amount of  discretion & initiative . IN THEIR HEYDAYS THEY WERE MOST POWERFUL OFFICIALS IN EMPIRE IF NOT THE WORLD .

Evolution of Indian Civil Services

1 . Initial Times

  • Establishment of  bureaucracy of civil servants under the British rule was a gradual process.
  • East India Company employed in its regular service apprentices, writers and factors nominated by the Directors. They had no regular scale of pay and they were partly compensated by private trade.
  • Administrative responsibility of the Company increased as it assumed territorial control over large tracts of India.

2. Developments under Warren Hastings

  • Regulating Act of 1773 banned private trade for all the civil servants who were employed in the collection of revenue or the administration of justice.
  • Warren Hastings felt the need to reorganize the district level administration.
  • Administrative functions were taken away from the private agencies 

3. Developments under Cornwallis

Separation of Powers and De-Indianisation of Civil Services

  • Lord Cornwallis reorganized the civil-bureaucracy by specifying administrative responsibilities.
  • He separated the work of revenue collection from administration of justice.
  • He eliminated  Indians from the administration of justice and revenue-collection.
    • Muslim judges were replaced by the European covenanted servants as Circuit Judges
    • Work of settlement, registry and accounts was transferred to the Board of Revenue managed by the covenanted English civil servants.

4. Developments under Wellesley

  • Wellesley believed in a strong and professionally trained bureaucracy.
  • He did not adopt the policy of separation of judiciary and executive and combined the power of justice, revenue-collection and policing.
  • He established the College of Fort William (1800) to train civil servants and to acquaint them with the language and history of India. It was a short-lived experiment that was given up in 1802 by the orders of the Court of Directors. Haileybury College was founded in 1806 and it was given statutory status by the Charter Act of 1813. This institution provided training to the civil servants to be employed in the Company’s service in India.

5. Charter of 1833

  • Competition for recruitment
  • But it was limited competition among candidates nominated by the directors => couldn’t improved situation

6. Charter of 1853

  • Introduced Principle of open competition
  • Haileybury college was abolished & civil servants recruited through an examination held annually in England. Examination was open to all natural born subjects of Her Majesty
  • Committee headed by Macaulay, appointed by the Board of Control prescribed the age and qualifications of the civil servants as well as the curriculum to be taught to the prospective civil servants
    • Age of probation was raised from a minimum of 18 years to a maximum of 23 years.
    • Probationers were to be taught about Indian history, geography, natural resources of India and the physical and moral qualities of the different races of India, the progress of British power in India, the general principles of jurisprudence, finance, banking and taxation etc, and one of the vernacular languages.
    • This open competition was held annually in London.

In principle, it was open to all British subjects including Indians. However, indians faced enormous difficulties in joining the ranks of the coveted civil service. Still, a few English educated Indians did manage to enter it.

  • Max age was 23 which was lowered to 22 in 1860 & finally till 19 years in 1878 .

Process towards Indiansiation of Civil services

7. Lord Lytton and Statutory Civil Services

  • Charter Act of 1853 had declared all offices in India open to merit irrespective of nationality & colour and Charter Act of 1853 provided for holding of a competitive examination in London for recruitment to higher services . Act was passed in 1870 saying that 1/5th recruits to Covenant Service should be Indians even without competitive examination but it took for government to 10 years to frame rules
  • Indians couldn’t enter ICS because difficulties facing aspirants were great. From 1862 to 75 only 40 Indians appeared for ICS & only 10 were successful.
  • Lytton proposed the straightforward course of closing Covenanted Civil Service to Indians & instead create ‘a close native service’ to meet the provisions of the Act of 1870 . Home Authorities didn’t favour this because of its discriminatory nature .
  • Lytton then proposed plan for Statutory Civil Services in 1878-79 (According to Act of 1870)  . According to rules of 1879 , the Govt of India could employ some Indians of good family & social standing in  SCS on recommendation of Provincial Government subject to confirmation & number of such appointments not to exceed 1/6th of total appointments . (However , SCS didn’t become popular with Indians & discarded later)
  • Since SoS didn’t accept proposal to discard CCS to Indians altogether, hence he made calculated move to discourage Indians from competing by reducing max age from 21 years to 19 years .

Throughout India this was seen as a colored legislation & it was difficult for Indians to digest this humiliation

8. Lord Ripon’s suggestions

  • Realized political importance of Indian Middle class & argued that their continued exclusion from administration might eventually spell danger for empire => he preferred simultaneous competitive examination in India
  • But proposal met with opposition from European bureaucracy

9. Provincial Civil Services

  • Statutory civil service was abolished  on the recommendation of Charles Aitchison Commission (1886). A new service now styled as the Provincial Civil Service was established. Indian could still enter into ICS but exam to be held in London only
  • PCS consisted of Certain superior class of executive posts that were earlier reserved for the covenanted civil service . The recruitment to this service was made partly by promotion from the subordinated civil service and partly by direct recruitment and open competition.
  • Although the men of ICS and provincial civil services discharged similar duties like, their power and social status differed vastly. However, it did create additional opportunities for  educated Indians and  weaning away from  nationalism.

10 . Government of India Act,1919

  • Provided for separate(not simultaneous ) recruitment exam to ICS to be held in India
  • First held in Allahabad in 1922
  • As a result till 1941 , Indian Civil Servants outnumbered Europeans

Impact of Indianisation of Civil services

  • Reduced its value as an apparatus of authoritarian rule for empire & paved way for transfer of power
  • Made it possible for continuation of tradition into period after independence when only nomenclature changed into IAS

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