Modern Indian History - Public Service


  • All positions of power and responsibility in the administration were occupied by the members of the Indian Civil Service who were recruited through an annual open competitive examination held in London.

  • Indians also could sit in this examination. Satyendranath Tagore, brother of Rabindranath Tagore, was the first Indian civil servant.

  • Almost every year, thereafter, one or two Indians joined the coveted ranks of the Civil Service, but their number was negligible compared to the English entrants.

  • In practice, the doors of the Civil Service remained barred to Indians because −

    • The competitive examination was held in faraway London;

    • It was conducted through the medium of the alien English language;

    • It was based on Classical Greek and Latin learning, which could be acquired only after a prolonged and costly course of studies in England; and

    • The maximum age for entry into the Civil Service was gradually reduced from twenty-three in 1859 to nineteen in 1878.

  • In other departments of administration such as: Police, Public Works Department, and Railways the superior and highly paid posts were reserved for British citizens.

  • The rulers of India believed it to be an essential condition for the maintenance of British supremacy in India.

  • The Viceroy, Lord Lansdowne, stressed "the absolute necessity of keeping the government of this widespread Empire in European hands, if that Empire is to be maintained."

  • The Indians, in the civil services, functioned as agents of British rule and loyally served Britain's imperial purposes.

  • Under Indian pressure, the different administrative services were gradually Indianised after 1918, but the positions of control and authority were still kept in British hands. Moreover, the people soon discovered that Indianisation of these services had not put any part of political power in their hands.