Post-Colonial Public Service

Post-Colonial Public Service in India

The Post-Colonial Public Service in the Report on Indian Constitutional Reforms by Edwin S. Montagu and Lord Chelmsford, 1918


313. In the forefront of the announcement of August 20 the policy of the increasing association of Indians in every branch of the administration was definitely placed. It has not been necessary for us nor indeed would it have been possible-to go into this large question in detail in the time available for our inquiry. We have already seen that Lord Hardinge’s Government were anxious to increase the number of Indians in the public services, and that a Royal Commission was appointed in 1912 to examine and report on the existing limitations in the employment of Indians. The commission made an exhaustive inquiry into the whole subject, in the course of which it visited every province in India, and its report is now being examined by the Government of India and the local governments with a view to formulating their recommendations with all possible dispatch. The report must form the basis of the action now to be taken, but in view of the altered circumstances we think that it will be necessary to amplify its conclusions in some important respects. The report was signed only a few months after the outbreak of war and is publication was deferred in the hope that the war would not be prolonged. When written it might have satisfied moderate Indian opinion, but when published two years later it was criticized as wholly disappointing. Our inquiry has since given us ample opportunity, of judging the importance which Indian opinion attaches to this question. While we take account of this attitude, a factor which carries more weight with us is that since the report was signed an entirely new policy towards Indian government has been adopted, which must be very largely dependent for success on the extent to which it is found possible to introduce Indians into every branch of the administration. It is a great weakness of public life in India to-day that it contains so few men who have found opportunity for practical experience of the problems of administration. Although there are distinguished exceptions, principally among the dewans of native states, most Indian public men have not had an opportunity of grappling with the difficulties of administration, nor of testing their theories by putting them into practice. Administrative experience not only sobers the judgement and teaches appreciation of the practical difficulties in the way of the wholesale introduction of reforms, however attractive, and the attainment of theoretical ideals, but by training an increasing number of men in the details of day-to-day business it will eventually provide India with public men versed in the whole art of government. If responsible government is to be established in India, there will be a far greater need than is even dreamt of at present f or persons to take part in public affairs in the legislative assemblies and elsewhere and for this reason the more Indians we can employ in the public services the better. Moreover it would lessen the burden of imperial responsibilities if a body of capable Indian administrators could be produced. We regard it as necessary therefore that recruitment of a largely increased proportion of Indians should be begun at once. The personnel of a service cannot be altered in a day: it must be a long and steady process; if, therefore the services are to be substantially Indian in personnel by the time that India is ripe for responsible government, no time should be lost in increasing the proportion of Indian recruits.


314. At the same time we must take note of certain limitations to the policy of change. The characteristics which we have learned to associate with the Indian public, services must as far as possible be maintained; and the leaven of officers possessed of them should be strong enough to assure and develop them in the service as a whole. The qualities of courage, leadership, decision, fixity of purpose, detached judgement, and integrity in her public servants will be as necessary as ever to India. There must be no such sudden swamping of any service with any new element that its whole character suffers a rapid alteration. As practical men we must also recognize that there are essential differences between the various services and that it is possible to increase the employment of Indians in some more than in others. the solution lies therefore in recruiting year by year such a number of Indians as the existing members of the service will be able to train in an adequate manner and to inspire with the spirit of the whole. Again it is important that there should be so far as possible an even distribution of Europeans and Indians, not indeed between one service and another, but at least between the different grades of the same service. Apart from other considerations this is a reason for exercising caution in filling up the large, number of vacancies which have resulted from short recruitment during the last four years. We must also remember how greatly conditions vary between the provinces. In arriving at any percentage to be applied to certain services we should take into account the fact that in some provinces the admissible percentage will probably be much lower than what seems possible for the service as a whole, with the result that the percentage in other provinces must be much higher. If the Indian Civil Service be taken. as an example, and if, for the sake of argument, the recommendation of the commission is accepted that recruitment for twenty-five per cent of the superior posts be made in India, then to attain an all-round percentage of twenty-five the proportion in say Bombay, Bengal, and Madras will have to be considerably more than twenty-five per cent., because in Burma certainly and probably also in the Punjab it will be much less. Indeed it seems self-evident that the actual percentage for the whole of a service can only be worked out with special regard to the conditions of each province. Lastly it would be unwise to create a demand in excess of the supply. At present the number of candidates of higher quality than those who are now forthcoming for the provincial services is strictly limited, and, though the opening of the more attractive services may be expected to stimulate the supply, it will still be necessary, if the present quality of the services is not to be unduly impaired, to take special steps to see that recruits are of a satisfactory standard.


315. Subject to these governing conditions we will now put forward certain principles on which we suggest that the action to be now taken should be based. First, we would remove from the regulations the few remaining distinctions that are based on race, and would make appointments to all branches of the public service without racial discrimination.


316. Next we consider that for all the public services, for which there is recruitment in England open to Europeans and Indians alike, there must be a system of appointment in India. It is obvious that we cannot rely on the present method of recruitment in England to supply a sufficiency of Indian candidates. That system must be supplemented in some way or other: and we propose to supplement it by fixing a definite percentage of recruitment to be made in India. This seems to us to be the only practical method of obtaining the increased Indian element in the services which we desire. We do not suggest that it will be possible to dispense with training in Europe for some of the principal services. It will be necessary to make arrangements to send for training in England the candidates selected in India, but as to this we anticipate no difficulty.


323. We have already touched more than once on the question of the future of the European services in India; but the importance of the subject justifies us in returning to it. Do the changes which we propose point to the gradual, possibly the rapid, extrusion of the Englishman with all the consequences that may follow therefrom? Is it conceivable that India’s only surviving connexion with the empire will be found in the presence of British troops for the purpose of defending her borders? We may say at once that the last contingency cannot be contemplated. We cannot imagine that Indian self-respect or British commonsense, would assent for a moment to such a proposition. At least so long as the empire is charged with the defence of India, a substantial element of Englishmen must remain and must be secured both in her Government and in her public services. But that is not the practical or the immediate question before us. What we have had to bear in mind is how our reforms may react on the position and the numbers of Europeans in the Indian services. We are making over certain functions to popular control, and in respect of these-and they will be an increasing number-English commissioners, magistrates, doctors, and engineers will be required to carry out the policy of Indian ministers. Simultaneously we are opening the door of the services more widely to Indians, and thereby necessarily affecting the cohesion of the service. Some people have been so much impressed by the undoubted difference of view between the services and educated Indians, and by the anticipated effects of a larger Indian element in the services that they apprehend that this may result in increasing pressure to get rid of English-men, and increasing reluctance on the part of Englishmen to give their further services to India under the new conditions. This danger is one which we have anxiously considered. We are certain that the English members of the services will continue to be as necessary as ever to India. They may be diminished in numbers; but they must not fall off in quality. Higher qualifications than ever will be required of them if ‘they are to help India along her difficult journey to self-government. We have, therefore, taken thought to improve the conditions of the services, and to secure them from attack. But we sincerely hope that our protection will not be needed. There was a time in Indian politics when service opinion and Indian opinion often found themselves in alliance against other points of view. Our reforms will, we believe, do away with the factors which worked a change in those relations. With the removal of disabilities, and the opening of opportunity there is no reason why relations between educated Indians and the services should not improve. In the reservations which we propose there is nothing to arouse hostility. No reasonable man should cavil at safeguards which are imposed in order to gain time for processes of growth to occur. If our own judgement has been too cautious we have provided means for correcting it, and of adjusting future progress to the results attained.


326. Of the Indian Civil Service in particular we have something further to say. Its past record we might well leave to speak for itself. But all the more because of the vehement and sometimes malignant abuse to which the service is exposed, it is not out of place to pay our tribute to energies finely dedicated to the well-being of India. This abuse is partly due to the fact that on the personnel of the service, which is at once the parent and the mainstay of the existing system, has fallen much of the odium which would more justly be directed against the impersonal system itself. Partly it is due also, we think, to the tradition of the service, dating from days when it had no vocal criticism to meet, which imposes silence on the individual officer while the order of things that he represents is attacked and calumniated. Now the position of the Indian Civil Servant, as we have already said, is not analogous to that of the civil servant at home. He takes his place in the legislative and executive councils; he assists in the formulation of policy. But when his doings are attacked he remains except for a few official and rather formal spokesmen in the legislative councils mute. This gives him in the eyes of educated Indians a certain intangible superiority of position, a cold invulnerability, which makes sympathetic relations between them impossible. We do not think this condition of silence can altogether be maintained. With coming changes there must be a greater liberty of action to the European public servant in India to defend his position when attacked. He ought not to leave the task of political education solely to the politicians. He also must explain and persuade, and argue and refute. We believe he will do it quite effectively. The matter is, however, by no means free from difficulty; there are obvious limitations to the discretion which can be granted; and these will be considered by the Government of India.


337. These are political considerations peculiar to India itself. But both on economic and military grounds imperial interests also demand that the natural resources of India should henceforth be better utilized. We cannot measure the access of strength which an industrialized India will bring to the power of the empire; but we are sure that it will be welcome after the war. Mere traders with an outlook of less than a generation ahead may be disposed to regard each new source of manufacture as a possible curtailment of their established sources of profit. But each new acquisition of wealth increases the purchasing power of the whole, and changes in the configuration of trade that disturb individuals must be accompanied by a total increase in its value which is to the good of the whole. Meanwhile the War has thrown a strong light on the military importance of economic development. We know that the possibility of sea communications being temporarily interrupted forces us to rely on India as an ordnance base for protective operations in Eastern theatres of war. Nowadays the products of an industrially developed community coincide so nearly in kind though not in quantity with the catalogue of munitions of war that the development of India’s natural resources becomes a matter of almost military necessity. We believe that this consideration also is not a matter of indifference to India’s political leaders; and that they are anxious to see India self-supporting in respect of military requirements.


338. We are agreed therefore that there must be a definite change of view; and that the Government must admit and shoulder its responsibility for furthering the industrial development of the country. The difficulties by this time are well known. In the past and partly as a result of recent swadeshi experiences, India’s capital has not generally been readily available; among some communities at least there is apparent distaste for practical training, and a comparative weakness of mutual trust; skilled labour is lacking, and, although labour is plentiful, education is needed to inculcate a higher standard of living and so to secure a continuous supply; there is a dearth of technical institutions; there is also a want of practical information about the commercial potentialities of India’s war products. Though these are serious difficulties they are not insuperable; but they will be overcome only if the State comes forward boldly as guide and helper. On the other hand there are good grounds for hope. India has great natural resources, mineral and vegetable. She has furnished supplies of manganese, tungsten, mica, jute, copra, lac, &c., for use in the War. She has abundant coal, even if its geographical distribution is uneven; she has also in her large rivers ample means of creating water-power. There is good reason for believing that she will greatly increase her output of oil. Her forest wealth is immense, and much of it only awaits the introduction of modern means of transport, a bolder investment of capital, and the employment of extra staff -while the patient and laborious work of conservation that has been steadily proceeding, joined with modern scientific methods of improving supplies and increasing output, will yield a rich harvest in future. We have been assured that Indian capital will be forthcoming once it is realized that it can be invested with security and profit in India; a purpose that will be furthered by the provision of increased facilities for banking and credit. Labour, though abundant, is handicapped by still pursuing uneconomical methods, and its output would be greatly increased by the extended use of machinery. We have no doubt that there is an immense scope for the application of scientific methods. Conditions are ripe for the development of new and f or the revival of old industries on European lines; and the real enthusiasm for industries, which is not confined to the ambitions of a few individuals but rests on the general desire to see Indian capital and labour applied jointly to the good of the country, seems to us of the happiest augury.


341. Connected intimately with the matter of industries is the question of the Indian tariff. This subject was excluded from the deliberations of the Industrial Commission now sitting because it was not desirable at that juncture to raise any question of the modification of India’s fiscal policy; but its exclusion was none the less the object of some legitimate criticism in India. The changes which we propose in the Government of India will still leave the settlement of India’s tariff in the hands of a Government amenable to Parliament and the Secretary of State; but, inasmuch as the tariff reacts on many matters which will hence forth come more and more under Indian control, we think it well that we should put forward for the information of His Majesty’s Government the views of educated Indians upon this subject. We have no immediate proposals to make; we are anxious merely that any decisions which may hereafter be taken should be taken with full appreciation of educated Indian opinion.


342. The theoretical free trader, we believe, hardly exists in India at present. As was shown by the debates in the Indian Legislative Council in March 1913, educated Indian opinion ardently desires a tariff. It rightly wishes to find another substantial base than that of the land for Indian revenues, and it turns to a tariff to pr6vide one. Desiring industries which will give him Indian-made clothes to wear and Indian-made articles to use, the educated Indian looks to the example of other countries which have relied on tariffs, and seizes on the admission of even free traders that for the nourishment of nascent industries a tariff is permissible. We do not know whether he pauses to reflect that these industries will be largely financed by foreign capital attracted by the tariff, although we have evidence that he has not learned to appreciate the advantages of foreign capital. But whatever economic fallacy underlies his reasoning, these are his firm beliefs; and though he may be willing to concede the possibility that he is wrong, he will not readily concede that it is our business to decide the matter for him. He believes that as long as we continue to decide for him we shall decide in the interests of England and not according to his wishes; and he points to the debate in the House of Commons on the differentiation of the cotton excise in support of his contention. So long as the people who refuse India protection are interested in manufactures with which India might compete, Indian opinion cannot bring itself to believe that the refusal is disinterested or dictated by care for the best interests of India. This real and keen desire for fiscal autonomy does not mean that educated opinion in India is unmindful of imperial obligations. On the contrary, it feels proud of, and assured by, India’s connexion with the empire, and does not desire a severance that would mean cutting the ties of loyalty to the Crown, the assumption of new and very heavy responsibilities, and a loss of standing in the world’s affairs. Educated Indians recognize that they are great gainers by the Imperial connexion, and they are willing to accept its drawbacks. They recognize that the question of a tariff may be mainly, but is not wholly, a matter of domestic politics.

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