J. D. (John David) Rees.

India; the real India (Volume 19) online

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this has already been arranged in several provinces,

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INDIA

but in no case can an enhancement be welcome, and
landholders in India, perhaps more than elsewhere,
rapidly raise their standards of living to suit their
resources for the time being. In theory, Government
assessments represent the sum that may fairly be
demanded on an average of seasons, but it is assessed
upon the assumption that the cultivator will save
from the surplus in a good to meet the deficit in
a bad year. This assumption, however, rests upon
a false basis, and the rigid demand of the land reve-
nue must add materially to the hardships of the poor.
In tracts where great variations from the average
produce are not frequent, this hardship may not
be felt, but where, as so often happens, fluctuations
are common and large, the rigid demand of a fixed
assessment cannot be other than disastrous. In
Madras no revenue is charged upon irrigable land,
the produce of which has not ripened owing to fail-
ure of the water supply, and in the Punjaub partial
failure to ripen, from the same cause, entitles the
cultivator to a proportionate abatement. In Burma
and Assam unirrigated lands are exempt from pay-
ment of assessment if left unsown, but elsewhere,
lands dependent upon the rainfall for water pay a
fixed and very low assessment, irrespective of their
produce. The desirability of making collection more
elastic in respect of these lands has frequently en-
gaged the attention of the administration, and it
must be admitted that an assessment varying with
the out-turn, for such a vast area, would be difficult
to work, would throw great power into the hands of

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THE LAND SYSTEM

subordinates, and would deprive the people of the
object they now have in saving for a rainless day.
On the other hand, it is hopeless to expect an Indian
cultivator to be thrifty and saving, and it is a highly
satisfactory circumstance that the Government of
India has declared that it is not satisfied that, in
well-known tracts, in which the crops are liable to
violent fluctuations, a fluctuating assessment should
not be introduced; though any alteration in the
assessment is in conflict with the terms of the exist-
ing contract, by which the landholder undertakes
the liability for loss in return for an expectation of
profit. It may, upon the whole, be regarded as
sufficiently proved that the permanent settlement
is no protection whatever against famine, that 50
per cent, of the assets is the most ever demanded
from landlords, that the State frequently intervenes
to protect tenants from such landlords, and to limit
the rent they demand, and that in areas where the
State is paid directly by the cultivator the proposal
to fix the assessment at one-fifth of the gross pro-
duce would always largely increase, and in several
provinces would double, the existing Government
demand. It may further be held to be proved that
the policy of long-term settlements is being extended,
that the principle of making allowance for improve-
ments is generally in force, that the disturbance
connected with a new settlement is diminished, and
that over assessment is not a general or widespread
source of poverty and indebtedness in India, and
cannot be regarded as a cause of famine.

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INDIA

The Government of India is further prepared to
concede more elasticity in collection, and to resort
in a still greater degree to reduction of assessment,
in cases of local deterioration, even where such
reduction cannot be claimed under the terms of
settlement. Notwithstanding, the complete answer
which this affords to the baseless charge that the
Indian administration grinds down the faces of the
poor, the proposal to settle with each holder is worthy
of the consideration of the Government, whose
present system, however, was inherited from its
predecessors in title, from whose practice it only
differs in that it is infinitely more moderate and
favourable to the cultivators concerned.



98



CHAPTER IV

THE GOVERNMENT OF INDIA

IN accordance with the lines laid down for this
work, after briefly surveying the past history
of the country, showing the circumstances
under which the present dispensation arose and the
respects in which it chiefly differs from its prede-
cessors, it is necessary to give a brief and popular
account of the manner in which the British admin-
istration of India works. The Hindoo system de-
scribed in the Code of Manu is an absolute monarchy,
and the manner in which the king passed his day,
as laid down in the Code, is practically that adopted
to this day by the ruling chiefs in Travancore and
Cochin, two old-world states, which have never been
invaded by strangers from the north, and which are
therefore a mirror of ancient India and of great
and exceptional interest to the student and his-
torian. The villagers enjoyed a large measure of
autonomy by immemorial custom, and of the various
criticisms which have been passed upon our system
of government none are more weighty than those
which condemn the partial destruction of the village
system, inevitable though that is in view of the
extension of scientific, probably far too scientific,
administration. Armies, the size of which is prob-

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INDIA

ably exaggerated, but which no doubt were large,
were maintained to defend each kingdom, which
was separated into military divisions, each division
supporting a body of troops. The revenue consisted
of a share in the produce of the land, taxes on com-
merce and on shopkeepers, and a forced service of a
day a month by all accustomed to manual labour,
and it has already been shown that the people were,
according to accounts given by early travellers, in
all probability fairly contented. Under the Mogul
administration, the revenue collector was magistrate
and police officer as well as revenue official, and this
system, against which an outcry is now being made
by critics of the Congress School, has survived in
the main to the present day. Sir Courtenay Ilbert,
the latest writer, has divided the history of British
India into three periods from the beginning of the
seventeenth to the middle of the eighteenth century,
when the East India Company as a trading cor-
poration alternately coerced and cajoled the Indian
powers and fought with its rivals the French and
Dutch; from the middle of the eighteenth to the
middle of the nineteenth century, in which period
the Company acquired and consolidated its terri-
tory, sharing its power with the Crown in progres-
sively increasing proportions and, pari passu, being
deprived of its mercantile functions and privileges,
and the third period after the Mutiny of 1857,
when the remaining powers of the Company were
transferred to the Crown. Passing reference has
been made to the conquests of Lord Clive, and

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THE GOVERNMENT OF INDIA

during the troublous period in which Britain was at
war with France, Holland, Spain, and America, India
was preserved by one of the greatest men England
has ever produced Warren Hastings. The con-
quests and annexations of Lords Cornwallis, Wel-
lesley, Hastings, and Dalhousie have already been
briefly reviewed, and subsequent to the Mutiny the
history of India is a record of development, the only
important territorial addition made being Upper
Burma, acquired in 1886. It is now time, therefore,
to explain how the present system of government
arose, and what that system is.

By Lord North's regulating Act of 1773 a Gover-
nor-General and four Councillors were appointed to
administer Bengal, and Madras and Bombay were
placed in subordination to the former Presidency.
By Pitt's Act of 1784 the administration of the three
Presidencies was placed under a Governor and three
Councillors, of whom the Commander-in-Chief was
one, the control of the Governor-General in Council
being maintained and extended. The Charter Act
of 1813 withdrew the Company's monopoly except
in regard to tea and the China trade, and the Charter
Act of 1833 put an end to its commercial business
and vested the entire civil, military, and legislative
power in the Governor-General in Council. In 1836
the Lieutenant-Governorship of the North- West,
now United, Provinces, and in 1854 that of Bengal,
was created, the latter province till then having
been directly administered by the Governor-General.
The original intention was to make Bengal a Presi-

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INDIA

dency, with a Governor in Council, which forms
the justification for a claim by the Congress party
that this constitution should now be conceded.
Those who support this request can hardly have
been at the pains to learn that the Governor-in-
Council constitution is now anomalous and unworthy
of imitation, since it has lost all signs of independence
other than outward pomp and the power of corre-
sponding directly upon unimportant subjects with
the Secretary of State. More than this, since the
abolition of the office of provincial Commander-in-
Chief, the Governor possesses no power beyond that
of overriding his Council in cases of grave importance,
which never can arise in a subordinate administra-
tion in telegraphic communication with Calcutta,
and, even with his casting vote, he can only equal
two votes of his colleagues, so that he might prac-
tically be, throughout his term of office, as powerless
as Warren Hastings for a time was. It is far more
likely that, in order to save the additional expense
entailed, the old Presidencies will be reduced to Lieu-
tenant-Governorships than that the latter adminis-
tration will be levelled up, if indeed it be an ascent
for a Lieutenant-Governor, all powerful in respect
of acts within the administrative competence of his
Government, to become a Governor, who might be
readily reduced to a cipher in his own Council.
That the men are so much better than the system
is the only reason why the now three-legged con-
stitutions of Madras and Bombay continue to work
in an admittedly satisfactory manner.

102



THE GOVERNMENT OF INDIA

The transfer to the Crown in 1858 made no dif-
ference except that the Governor-General became
known also as Viceroy, though the title has no stat-
utory basis, the Governor-General in Council being
the authority responsible for the entire administra-
tion of British India and for the control of the
native states. Immediately under the central or
supreme Government, known as the Government
of India, are foreign relations, defence, taxation,
currency, debt, tariffs, post, telegraphs, and rail-
ways, and, subject to its control, provincial govern-
ments are responsible for internal administration,
the assessment and collection of the revenue, irri-
gation, and communications. So complete is this
control that no new appointment can be created,
except of a very minor character, by provincial gov-
ernments ruling over perhaps 50,000,000 of people;
but the latter have their own budgets and the ex-
penditure of shares of certain items of revenue raised
within their own limits. The shares were for-
merly assigned for periods of five years and formed
the subject of continual controversy, but arrange-
ments are now being made of a more permanent
character. The larger provinces have their own leg-
islative councils, which, however, can only deal with
local matters, and then only with the ultimate
approval of the Governor-General in Council. The
latter authority deals directly with the important
native states, though some of these such as Pati-
ala and Travancore are under the political con-
trol of the adjacent provincial administrations, an

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INDIA

arrangement which, in regard to the latter state
at any rate, leads insensibly, perhaps inevitably,
to its precious individuality being impaired and
its own admirable and indigenous systems being
forced into correspondence with those obtaining in
neighbouring British districts.

The Council of the Governor-General consists of
six ordinary members and the Commander-in-Chief,
the Governor-General having since 1786 the power
to override the majority of his Council in matters
of grave importance, a power which has hardly ever
been exercised. By the Councils Act of 1861 the
distribution of the work of the various departments
among the members was legalised, any act done
under orders so passed being deemed to be the act
of the Governor-General in Council, the members
of which under this system fulfil the function of
Ministers with departmental portfolios viz., For-
eign, Home, Revenue and Agriculture, Legislative,
Finance, Public Works, Commerce and Industry,
Army and Military Supply. The Governor-General
takes the first, Revenue and Public Works are under
another, and the remaining departments have each
their own members. At the head of each depart-
ment is a Secretary, whose position is somewhat
similar to that of a Permanent Under-Secretary of
State in England. The disposal of work by members
is subject to reference to the Governor-General in
cases of difference of opinion, or where the subjects
are of exceptional importance, and the vote of the
majority prevails when matters come before the

104



THE GOVERNMENT OF INDIA

collective Council at its weekly meetings. The
Foreign Department deals with external politics
and frontier tribes, controls the administration of
Ajmere, the new North-West Frontier Province
and British Beluchistan, and transacts all business
connected with native states, which cover 770,000
square miles, with a population of 64,000,000, but
few of which, outside Rajputana, date from any
earlier period than the eighteenth century and the
chaos in which the Mogul Empire expired. Some of
the chiefs, as, for instance, the Nizam of Hyderabad
and the Maharaja of Travancore, coin money, tax
their subjects, and inflict capital punishment with-
out appeal; none have power to deal with external
relations, or, without restrictions, with Europeans.
The Home Office deals with general administration,
law and justice, jails, police, education, health, and
local government, with which the provincial govern-
ments are immediately concerned. It also super-
vises the ecclesiastical department, which consists of
bishops and chaplains, but the policy of Government
is one of the strictest religious neutrality. Mission-
ary schools are eligible for educational grants, but
these are solely available for secular instruction,
and may be obtained on similar terms by schools
of any religious denomination. The department
of Revenue and Agriculture administers the land
revenue and the forests, deals with famine relief,
and organises agricultural inquiries and experiments.
Under the care of the Finance Department are
Imperial and Provincial finance, currency, bank-

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INDIA

ing, opium, salt, excise, stamps, assessed taxes, and
the general supervision of the accounts of the whole
empire. The department of Commerce and Indus-
try was formed in 1905 to facilitate the disposal of
questions concerning trade and manufactures, and
a Railway Board was created at the same time to
deal, in subordination to it, with matters relating
to the administration of the railways of the empire.
Post office, telegraphs, customs, statistics, shipping,
emigration, mines, and other matters have also been
transferred to the new Commercial member.

The chief executive officer of the army is the
Commander-in-Chief, under the supreme authority
of the Governor-General in Council. The separate
armies of Bengal, Madras, and Bombay were abol-
ished in 1895, and there are now five territorial
divisions; the 'northern, eastern, and western com-
mands and the Burma and South India divisions.
Up till 1906 all business connected with the army
was transacted by the Military Department, which
was in fact the War Office, but in that year it
was replaced by the two departments of Army and
Military Supply, the former of which, in charge of
the Commander-in-Chief, deals with cantonments,
volunteers, and all matters concerning the army,
except stores, ordnance, remounts, medical service,
and India marine, which are managed by the de-
partment of Military Supply. These changes were
effected after considerable controversy, and though
the Viceroy of the day, Lord Curzon, reluctantly
agreed to them he subsequently resigned office over

106



THE GOVERNMENT OF INDIA

the question of the officer actually to be appointed
to the charge of Military Supply.

British India is divided into thirteen local gov-
ernments, two of which, Madras and Bombay, are
Presidencies; five of which, Bengal, the United Prov-
inces of Agra and Oudh, the Punjaub, Burma, and
Eastern Bengal and Assam are Lieutenant-Gov-
ernorships; four of which, the Central Provinces,
the Andamans, Coorg, and A j mere are Chief -Com-
missionerships, and the new North-West Frontier
Province and British Beluchistan. Of these local
governments two, the North-West Frontier Prov-
ince and the Lieutenant-Governorship of Eastern
Bengal and Assam, were created during the vice-
royalty of Lord Curzon, in 1901 and 1905 respectively.
In respect of the former territorial unit so much
controversy has arisen that it will be necessary to
refer to the matter elsewhere, and in regard to the
latter, though considerable differences of opinion
existed, there is, upon the whole, a most unusual
consensus of opinion to the effect that the step taken
was necessary. Sir Mackworth Young, .the Lieuten-
ant-Governor of the Punjaub, from which certain
districts were detached, disapproved of the formation
of this territory, and of adjoining border tracts over
which we exercised direct influence since 1892, into
a separate administration, but he pointed out, and
so did Sir Dennis Fitzpatrick, an ex-Lieutenant-
Go vernor, that when the Punjaub Government dif-
fered with the Government of India, it was only in
the weight the former attached to the difficulties

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INDIA

and risks inherent in some forward movement with
which it was more impressed on account of their
closer proximity. The Secretary of State had found
the existing administrative conditions unsatisfactory,
and the Lieutenant-Governor agreed that, if the
elimination of the Punjaub Government from trans-
frontier control was desired, the creation of a sep-
arate administrative unit was the best solution.
Indeed, a series of eminent authorities had expressed
their approval of some such scheme, and among
them were Sir B. Frere, Sir H. Durand, Sir J. Browne,
Sir R. Sandeman, Sir W. Lockhart, Sir C. Aitchison,
Sir G. Chesney, Lord Lytton, Lord Lansdowne,
and Lord Roberts, who indeed was actually desig-
nated head of a new Frontier Province by Lord
Lytton, when the outbreak of the Afghan War led
to the retirement of the latter from India. The
weighty opinion to the contrary of Lord Elgin must
here be recorded, and further notice of this important
question must be deferred to a chapter on frontier
relations.

By whatever designation known, the head of
every local government is under the control of the
Governor-General in Council, Lieutenant-Governors
differing from heads of provinces, other than the two
Presidencies, in that their charges are constituted
under Act of Parliament. By the Indian Councils
Acts of 1861 a legislative council may be created
for any provinces not already possessing such, and a
lieutenant-governor may be appointed to such prov-
ince, and under an Act of 1854 the Governor-General

108



THE GOVERNMENT OF INDIA

in Council may, with the sanction of the Secretary
of State, take any territory in British India under
his management and provide for its administration.
Burma and Eastern Bengal were made Lieutenant-
Governorships under the former, and Assam in 1874,
and the North- West Frontier Province in 1901, were
separated from Bengal and the Punjaub respectively,
under the latter Act.

It is now necessary to refer to the manner in which
the Home Government of India has grown up
and is at present constituted. The regulating Act
of 1773 did not materially alter the system under
which the Court of Directors and General Court of
Proprietors managed the business and other affairs
of the East India Company, but in 1784 Pitt estab-
lished the Board of Control, with power to direct
all operations and concerns relating to the civil
and military government of India, the President of
this board being the political ancestor of the Sec-
retaries of State for India, and the real effectual
control being transferred to that officer, though
patronage and other powers were still left with the
Company. This system obtained till 1858, when
the government, territories, and revenues of India
were transferred to the Crown. Under the Act of
that year the Secretary of State is made the con-
stitutional adviser of the Crown, and he has the
power of issuing orders to every officer in India,
including the Governor-General, and of directing all
the business relating to India, which is transacted
in the United Kingdom. He may act without con-

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INDIA

suiting his Council in all matters in respect of which
he is not required by statute to act as Secretary of
State in Council, and he may withhold from his
Council "secret" communications regarding making
war or peace, negotiation with foreign Powers, and
relations with native states, or such other matters
as he may regard as urgent, but no matter for which
the concurrence of the Council is required can be
treated as secret or urgent, and among these are
the making of any grant or appropriation of the
Indian revenues. The members of the Council of
India are appointed by the Secretary of State, and
it meets once a week. Five members are a quorum,
and a subdivision into committees facilitates the dis-
posal of the business of which it disposes. At least
nine members must have served or resided in India
for ten years, and in practice the most distinguished
of the retired civil servants are appointed, men whose
presence at the India Office gives additional weight
and authority to the decisions of the statesman who
occupies for the time being the great office of Sec-
retary of State. The establishment at the India
Office is paid out of the revenues of India, but cannot
be increased without an order in Council, which has
to be laid before Parliament, which has supreme
authority over India, as over all other dominions of
the Crown. In practice, however, it only legislates
for India, as it did in the session of 1907, when
the political constitution requires amendment, or the
Secretary of State needs to issue a loan. The
revenues of India are under the control of the Gov-

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THE GOVERNMENT OF INDIA

eminent of India, except that they may not be
applied to defraying the expenses of military opera-
tions beyond the frontier without the consent of
both Houses, except for preventing or repelling actual
invasions, or upon other sudden and urgent neces-
sity. As the Home charges, including the Secretary
of State's salary, are defrayed from Indian reve-
nues, they are not included in the annual estimates
laid before Parliament, though detailed accounts of
receipts and disbursements, and a report on the
moral and material progress of the country, have
to be so laid.

As the President of the Board of Control is the
political ancestor of the Secretary of State for India,
so are the writers, factors, and merchants the offi-
cial forebears of the present Indian civil servants,
who were organised upon their present footing by
Lord Cornwallis, after Clive and Hastings had in-
creased their pay in order to put an end to the
practice of supplementing it by private trade and
other means. Nominations to this service were
made by the directors, and in 1805 the college at
Haileybury was established for the training of
writers before they went to India. In 1853 this
service, for which the principal civil offices in India
were reserved, was thrown open to competitors,
and in 1858 the college at Haileybury was closed.
The age limits are from 22 to 24, and on arrival
in India every civil servant becomes a magistrate
of the lowest class, and has to qualify in law and
languages before he becomes eligible for promotion.

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Among many matters concerning India misunder-
stood in England is the extent to which the natives
of the country are employed in its administration.
About 1200 Englishmen are engaged in the civil
government, and in the more or less direct control
of 300,000,000 of people, and excluding 864 civil
charges which are held by members of the Indian
Civil Service, and excluding all posts of minor
importance held by natives, there are 3,700 persons


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Online LibraryJ. D. (John David) ReesIndia; the real India (Volume 19) → online text (page 7 of 21)