Administrative Changes After 1858

Administrative Changes After 1858

The Act of 1858 provided that the Governor-General would have an Executive Council whose members were to act as heads of different departments and as his official advisers and whose positions were similar to that of Cabinet ministers. The Council discussed all important matters and decided them by a majority vote, but the Governor-General had the power of veto. In fact, gradually all power was concentrated in the hands of the Governor-General. The Indian Councils Act of 1861 enlarged the Governor-General’s Council for the purpose of making laws and so it was known as the Imperial Legislative Council. The Governor-General was authorized to add to his Executive Council between six and twelve members of whom at least half had to be non-officials who could be Indian or English. The Imperial Legislative Council possessed no real powers and cannot even be called a weak parliament.

Provincial Administration

The British had divided India for administrative convenience into provinces, three of which-Bengal, Madras and Bombay-were known as Presidencies. The Presidencies were administered by a Governor and his Executive Council of three members, who were appointed by the Crown. The Presidency Governments possessed more rights and powers than other provinces which were administered by Lieutenant Governors and Chief Commissioners appointed by the Governor-General. The Indian Councils Act of 1861 laid down that legislative council similar to that of the centre should be established first in Bombay, Madras and Bengal and then in other provinces. The provincial legislative councils too were mere advisory bodies.

Administrative Changes in Local Bodies

Financial difficulties led the Government to further decentralize administration by promoting local government through municipalities and district boards. India’s increasing contact with Europe and the pressure of the Indian nationalists made it necessary that some of the European advances in economy, sanitation, and education should be transplanted in India. However, the government did not have adequate finances. Therefore, it was decided to transfer local services like education, health, sanitation, and water supply to local bodies that would finance them through local taxes.

Many Englishmen had pressed for the formation of local bodies on another ground also. They believed that associating Indians with the administration in some capacity or the other would prevent their becoming politically disaffected. This association could take place at the level of local bodies without in any way endangering the British monopoly of power in India. Local bodies were first formed between 1864 and 1868, but almost all of them consisted of nominated members and were presided over by District Magistrates which did not represent local self-government as there was no principle of election.

A step forward was taken in 1882 by Lord Ripon. A government resolution laid down the policy of administering local affairs largely through rural and urban local bodies, a majority of whose members would be non-officials. These non-official members would be elected by the people wherever and whenever officials felt that it was possible to introduce elections. But the elected members were in a minority in all the district boards and in many of the municipalities. District officials continued to act as presidents of district boards. The Government also retained the right to exercise strict control over the activities of the local bodies and to suspend or supersede them at its own discretion. The result was that except in the Presidency cities of Calcutta, Madras and Bombay, the local bodies did not grow elsewhere. But the politically conscious Indians welcomed Ripon’s resolution and worked actively in these local bodies with the hope of transforming them into effective organs of local self-government.

Administrative Changes in the Army

The Indian army was carefully reorganized after 1858. The East India Company’s European forces were merged with the Crown troops. But the main purpose of the reorganization was to prevent the recurrence of another revolt. Several steps were taken to minimize, if not completely eliminate, the capacity of Indian soldiers to revolt. Firstly, the proportion of Europeans to Indians in the army was raised and fixed at one to two in the Bengal Army and two to five in the Madras and Bombay armies. Moreover, European troops were kept in key geographical and strategic positions. The crucial branches of the army like artillery and, later in the 20th century, tanks and armoured corps were put exclusively in European hands.

The older policy of excluding Indians from the officer corps was strictly maintained. Secondly, the organization of the Indian section of the army was based on the policy of “divide and rule” so as to prevent its chances of uniting again for a revolt. Discrimination on the basis of caste, region, and religion was practised in recruitment to the army. Soldiers from Avadh, Bihar and Central India, who had taken part in the Revolt of 1857, were no longer taken in the army on a large scale. On the other hand, the Sikhs, Gurkhas, and Pathans, who had assisted in the suppression of the Revolt, were recruited in large numbers. In addition, Indian regiments were made a mixture of various castes and groups which were so placed as to balance each other.

Administrative Changes in Military

As a result of the revolt of 1857, several changes were introduced in the organization of the army. In 1861, an army officer was appointed as a military member of the Governor General’s Executive Council who was to head the administration of the Indian army.

  • The Commander in Chief was also an extraordinary member of the Executive Council. But later in 1907, the Commander in Chief, on the recommendation of Gen. Kitchener, became the only responsible authority under the Government of India, for military administration.
  • Till 1895, the Presidencies of Bengal, Bombay and Madras maintained separate armies, and under separate commanders. Although the Commander in Chief of the Bengal Army was nominally the head of military forces, the Governments of Bombay and Madras managed their own forces and recruited them locally.
  • By the Act of 1893, the whole army of India was placed under the control of one Commander in Chief and divided into four territorial units at Bombay, Madras, Bengal and Punjab, each under a Lt. General.

Check out History of India notes in detail. 

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