After the 1857 Revolt, the responsibility of ruling India was directly assumed by the British Crown. Lord Canning became the first Viceroy of India in 1858. The Government of India Act of 1858 and the Queen’s Proclamation in the same year signify this change in the Indian administration. The Queen’s Proclamation remained the basis of the British policy in India for more than 60 years. The administrations of Lord Lytton, Lord Ripon and Lord Curzon were important during this period.
Lord Lytton (1876-1880)
Lord Lytton was an experienced diplomat and a man of striking ability and brilliance. The British Prime Minister, Disraeli appointed him as the Viceroy of India. The prevailing famine and the political disturbances in the North West Frontier caused a great worry to the British at that time.
The famine of 1876-78 had resulted from the failure of two monsoons. It covered an area of two lakh fifty thousand square miles and affected fifty-eight million people. The worst affected areas were Madras, Mysore, Hyderabad, Bombay, Central India and the Punjab. It took a toll of five million lives in a single year. The outbreak of cholera and fever added to the misery of the suffering population. Lytton’s Government failed miserably to tackle the situation. The government’s relief measures seemed to be inadequate. The first Famine Commission (1878-80) under Sir Richard Strachey was appointed and it made many commendable recommendations. They include provision of funds for famine relief and construction work in the annual budget. The Famine Code came into existence in 1883.
The Vernacular Press Act and the Arms Act (1878)
In 1878, the Vernacular Press Act was passed. This Act empowered a Magistrate to secure an undertaking from the editor, publisher and printer of a vernacular newspaper that nothing would be published against the English Government. The equipment of the press could be seized if the offence was committed. This Act crushed the freedom of the Indian press. This created adverse public opinion against the British Government. In the same year, the Arms Act was passed. This Act prevented the Indians to keep arms without appropriate license. Its violation would be a criminal offence. The Europeans and the Anglo- Indians were exempted from the operation of these legislations.
Lord Lytton introduced uniform salt tax throughout British India. He also abolished many import duties and supported the Free Trade Policy. This had seriously affected the Indian economic interest. The system of decentralization of finance that had begun in the time of Lord Mayo was continued during the time of Lord Lytton. The provincial governments were empowered with some control over the expenditure of all provincial matters like land-revenue, excise, stamps, law and justice. Lytton wanted to encourage the provinces in collecting the revenue and thereby strengthen the financial power and position of the provinces. In 1878, the Statutory Civil Service was established exclusively for Indians but this was abolished later.
Lytton and the Second Afghan War (1878-80)
The Afghan policy of the British was based on the assumed threat of Russian invasion of India. The first Afghan War (1838-42) proved to be a disastrous one for the British in India. When Lord Lytton was appointed the Viceroy of India, he was instructed by the home government to follow a forward policy. The Russian attempt to send a mission to Afghanistan was the main cause of the Second Afghan War.
Soon after the outbreak of the war in 1878, the British troops captured the territory between Kabul and Kandahar. The ruler of Afghanistan, Sher Ali fled from his country and died in 1879. His son Yakub Khan became the ruler and the British concluded the Treaty of Gandamak with him. A British Resident was sent to Kabul but soon he was murdered along with other British officers by the Afghan rebels. Although the British troops were able to recapture Kabul, the difficulties in holding it increased due to the activities of the rebels. Suddenly in 1780, Lytton was forced to resign by the new government in England.
Lytton’s Afghan policy was severely criticized because he was responsible for the murder of the British officers including the Resident in Kabul. During his administration, millions died due to famine. The Vernacular Press Act undermined his credit.
Lord Ripon (1880-84)
Lord Ripon was a staunch Liberal democrat with faith in self- government. He was appointed as the Viceroy of India by Gladstone, the Liberal Party Prime Minister of England. Ripon was instructed to reverse the Afghan policy of Lytton. Therefore, as soon as he came to India, peace was made with Afghanistan without affecting the British prestige. The proposal of appointing a Resident in Kabul was dropped. He was also responsible for the rendition of Mysore to its Hindu ruler. Moreover, he repealed the Vernacular Press Act and earned much popularity among Indians. Then, he devoted himself to task of liberalizing the Indian administration.
Introduction of Local Self-Government (1882)
Ripon believed that self-government is the highest and noblest principles of politics. Therefore, Ripon helped the growth of local bodies like the Municipal Committees in towns and the local boards in taluks and villages. The powers of municipalities were increased. Their chairmen were to be non-officials. They were entrusted the care of local amenities, sanitation, drainage and water-supply and also primary education. District and taluk boards were created. It was insisted that the majority of the members of these boards should be elected non-officials. The local bodies were given executive powers with financial resources of their own. It was perhaps the desire of Ripon that power in India should be gradually transferred to the educated Indians. He also insisted on the election of local bodies as against selection by the government. In all these measures, Ripon’s concern was not so much for efficiency in administration. Instead, Ripon diffused the administration and brought the government closer to the people. This was his most important achievement. It was Ripon who laid the foundations of the system which functions today.
Like Lord William Bentinck, Lord Ripon was a champion of education of the Indians. Ripon wanted to review the working of the educational system on the basis of the recommendations of the Wood’s Despatch. For further improvement of the system Ripon appointed a Commission in 1882 under the chairmanship of Sir William Hunter. The Commission came to be known as the Hunter Commission.
The Commission recommended for the expansion and improvement of the elementary education of the masses. The Commission suggested two channels for the secondary education-one was literary education leading up to the Entrance Examination of the university and the other preparing the students for a vocational career. The Commission noted the poor status of women education. It encouraged the local bodies in the villages and towns to manage the elementary education. This had resulted in the extraordinary rise in the number of educational institutions in India.
First Factory Act (1881)
Lord Ripon introduced the Factory Act of 1881 to improve the service condition of the factory workers in India. The Act banned the appointment of children below the age of seven in factories. It reduced the working hours for children. It made compulsory for all dangerous machines in the factories to be properly fenced to ensure security to the workers.
Ilbert Bill Agitation (1884)
Lord Ripon wanted to remove two kinds of law that had been prevalent in India. According to the system of law, a European could be tried only by a European Judge or a European Magistrate. The disqualification was unjust and it was sought to cast a needless discredit and dishonour upon the Indian-born members of the judiciary. C.P. Ilbert, Law Member, introduced a bill in 1883 to abolish this discrimination in judiciary. But Europeans opposed this Bill strongly. They even raised a fund of one lakh fifty thousand rupees and established an organisation called the Defense Association. They also suggested that it was better to end the English rule in India than to allow the English to be subjected to the Indian Judges and Magistrates. The press in England joined the issue. Hence, Ripon amended the bill to satisfy the English in India and England.
The Ilbert Bill controversy helped the cause of Indian nationalism. The Ilbert Bill Controversy is a high watermark in the history of Indian National Movement. Ripon was totally disillusioned and heartbroken and he tendered his resignation and left for England. The immediate result of this awakening of India was the birth of the Indian National Congress in 1885, the very next year of Ripon’s departure.
Estimate of Lord Ripon
Lord Ripon was the most popular Viceroy that England ever sent to India. The Indians by and large hailed him as “Ripon the Good”, because he was the only Viceroy who handled the Indian problems with compassion and sympathy. His attempt to remove racial distinction in the judiciary, the repeal of the Vernacular Press Act, the rendition of Mysore and the introduction of the Local-Self Government increased his popularity among Indians. His resignation was deeply regretted by Indians who cherished his memory with gratitude.
Lord Curzon (1899-1905)
Lord Curzon occupies a high place among the rulers of British India like Lord Wellesley and Lord Dalhousie. He was a thorough imperialist. In order to make the administration efficient, Lord Curzon overhauled the entire administrative machinery. His internal administration may be studied under the following heads.
Curzon took a serious view of the fall in the standard of education and discipline in the educational institutions. In his view the universities had degenerated into factories for producing political revolutionaries. To set the educational system in order, he instituted in 1902, a Universities Commission to go into the entire question of university education in the country. On the basis of the findings and recommendations of the Commission, Curzon brought in the Indian Universities Act of 1904, which brought all the universities in India under the control of the government.
Police and Military Reforms
Curzon believed in efficiency and discipline. He instituted a Police Commission in 1902 under the chairmanship of Sir Andrew Frazer. Curzon accepted all the recommendations and implemented them. He set up training schools for both the officers and the constables and introduced provincial police service. As for the remodeling of the army, it was by and large done by Lord Kitchener, the Commander-in-Chief in India in Curzon’s time.
Calcutta Corporation Act (1899)
The Viceroy brought in a new legislative measure namely the Calcutta Corporation Act in 1899 by which the strength of the elected members was reduced and that of the official members increased. Curzon gave more representations to the English people as against the Indians in the Calcutta Corporation. There was strong resentment by the Indian members against Curzon’s anti-people measures.
Preservation of Archaeological objects
Curzon had a passion for preserving the ancient monuments of historical importance in India. No Viceroy in India before or after him took such a keen interest in archaeological objects. He passed a law called the Ancient Monuments Act, 1904 which made it obligatory on the part of the government and local authorities to preserve the monuments of archaeological importance and their destruction an offence.
Partition of Bengal, 1905
The Partition of Bengal into two provinces was affected on 4 July 1905. The new province of Eastern Bengal and Assam included the whole of Assam and the Dacca, Rajshahi and Chittagong divisions of Bengal with headquarters at Dacca. Though Curzon justified his action on administrative lines, partition divided the Hindus and Muslims in Bengal. This led to the anti-partition agitation all over the country. This had also intensified the National Movement.
Estimate of Lord Curzon
Lord Curzon assumed his office, when he was forty years old. All his reform measures were preceded by an expert Commission and its recommendations. He made a serious study of the Indian problems in all their aspects. At the beginning Curzon earned the popularity and admiration of the Indian people. He lost the popularity by the act of Partition of Bengal.
- Module-3 Modern India by NIOS
- Modern India by Bipin Chandra
- Class-12 Tamil Nadu State Board History Book