Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Evolution of Indian Administration: Kautilya’s Arthashastra; Mughal administration; Legacy of British rule in politics and administration - Indianization of public services, revenue administration, district administration, local self-government.

The series of articles/posts beginning from this one will discuss all about Administration and administrative practices in the Indian context. 


Click on ' JOIN THIS SITE ' to get instant updates on new posts on this blog. And also for 'INTERACTIONS AND DISCUSSIONS' regarding this blog's posts 'JOIN ITS FACEBOOK COMMUNITY/GROUP' that is mentioned on the right hand side of this page.

Indian 'Administration' traces its earliest known form to the tribal system which later emerges as a monarchical system. We gain a lot of knowledge about ancient Indian Administration from ancient religious and political treatises. In the early Vedic period there were many tribes who elected their own chiefs and he handled all their responsibilities and the administration of the tribes and the Sabha( Assembly of elders) and Samiti(Assembly of people) were the tribal assemblies. The chief protected the tribe but had no revenue system or hold over land thus wars were resorted to and the booty shared among the tribes.

The first form of the 'State' in India can be traced back to the times of Manu(original name Satyavrata) the first King and progenitor of mankind according to Hinduism.People were fed up with anarchy as there was no neutral judge/arbitrator in between to solve issues of society, and so they appointed Manu as King and paid service fees as taxes for looking after them and ensuring mutual benefit and justice to everyone in society owing to his wisdom and philosophical attitude & the King was divine and regarded as descended from God.

As per the Ramayana and Mahabharata/Later Vedic times it goes to portray the role of the King as the whole and sole of administration being helped by his principal officers who were the Purohit and Senani where the Purohit( Priest) wielded much more authority than the kshatriya(Warrior clan) kings. Other figures of administration were Treasurer,Steward,Spies and Messengers,Charioteer,Superintendent of Dices. This is also mentioned in the Manu Smriti and Sukra Niti.

No legal institutions were there and the custom of the country prevailed as the law and capital punishment was not practiced but trials took place where justice was delivered by the King in consultancy with the Priest and Elders at times. By the time Kautilya wrote the ArthaShastra the Indian Administrative system was well developed and the treatise of Kautilya gives a very first detailed account of the same. We will discuss that below.

The Mauryan period was the era of major development in Indian Administration. Decentralisation was prevalent as the village units played a very important role as the base of administration since ancient times.Empires were divided into provinces,provinces into districts,districts into rural and urban centres for efficient administration.

Kautilya's ArthaShastra is a work on Varta ( Science Of Economics) & Dandaniti(statecraft/Management Of State Administration) existing in the Mauryan rule. It was written sometime between 321 and 300 BC. It was retrieved in 1904 AD and published in 1909 AD by R. Shamasastry. It touches upon topics like functions of the chief executive,hierarchy,bureaucracy,corruption,local administration,supervisory management,motivation,morale and job description.

The most noticeable aspect of the Arthashastra is its emphasis on Public  Welfare even in an autocratic agrarian State. That is where its timelessness lies.

It is composed in the form of brief statements called Sutras and is compiled in 15 books(Adhikarnas),150 sections,180 chapters(prakarnas),6000 verses(sutras).

The 15 books could be classified under:
i) Concerning the discipline of economics and statecraft.
ii) Duties of government Superintendent.
iii) Concerning the Law
iv) Removal of thorns
v) Conduct of courtiers.
vi) Sources of sovereign State.
vii) End of six fold policy
viii) Concerning vices of the king and calamities that may arise as a consequence
ix) Work of an invader
x) Relating to a war.
xi) Conduct of a corporation
xii) Concerning a powerful enemy.
xiii) Strategic way of capturing a fort
xiv) Secret means like occult practices and remedies to keep of enemies or traitors.
xv) Plan of the treatise and thirty two methods of treating a subject.

Kautilya viewed the State as an institutional necessity for human advancement. According to him the State comprises of eight elements - King,Minister,Country,fort,treasury,army,friend and enemy. And State's prime function was to maintain law and order,punishing wrong doers and protecting subjects.

The empire was divided in to a Home Province(capital territory/administrative unit) under direct control of the central government and four to five outlying provinces(States),each under a viceroy responsible to the central government. The provinces possessed a good amount of autonomy in this feudal-federal type of organisation.Provinces were further divided into districts,districts into rural and urban centres with a whole lot of officials in charge at various levels.Departments to carry out execution of policy were created in all of these divisions with specialists dominating in the Mauryan era. Elites were preferred in job recruitment and the procedure for appointing is the same as it is practiced today. A centralised data bank of all government transactions and records were maintained in an organisation of the centre just like the cabinet secretariat and this performed audit and inspection functions of the three tiers of govt that is local,state and central.

This set up is very much similar to our present times where Union Territories and National Capital Territory are administrative units under Central rule where representative of the centre in the form of administrators/Lieutenant Governor appointed by the President rule the affairs under the direct supervision of the President & Central government.The states are under a governor(viceroy in olden times) appointed by and reporting to the President(King in olden times). The President is advised by his minister(s) and the sovereign power lies in the country's people. Also, the federal setup of powers given to states under the state list,and the district administration organisation and hierarchy. Audit mechanisms were in place and civil servants were recruited to perform the duties of policy implementation.

The King was head and his functions were military,judicial,legislative and executive,similar to modern state's functions of the President. And he was to be well equipped in all areas of study especially economics,philosophy,statecraft and the three Vedas. kautilya stated that whatever pleases the king only is to be avoided and only that which pleases the people is what needs to be followed.
Kautilya stated that the king was like the Father and all the people/subjects of the country/empire were his children. That is how he is supposed to take care of them. This is conceptualised as Welfare State in Modern times.

Corruption was not tolerated at all and dealt with severely where the ill-earned money was confiscated. Kautilya had his own criteria for selection of officers for the same. Once basic qualifications were met he tested them on their attitude to piety,lucre/revenue,lust,fear. Those who completed this criteria of piety were appointed as judges/magistrates,and those who crossed the test of revenue became revenue collectors, and those pass the test of lust are appointed to the king's harem, The candidates passing the test of fear are appointed as king's bodyguards and personal staff. And those who pass all the tests are appointed as councillors.

There were two courts according to the Arthashastra called the Dharmasthya ( civil cases court) where the matters are disposed off on basis of dharma,procedural law,conventions,royal decree ; and Kantakashodhana ( criminal cases court) where accused is convicted on basis of testimony and eye witness of spies,etc. Similar to today's times where there are separate courts having the subject matter jurisdiction of civil or criminal issues.

Agriculture was the mainstay and taxes on the goods produced as well as its imports and exports were the source of revenue and the expenditure focused on public administration,national defense,army,salaries of govt. officials. Agriculture plays an important role even today in our country.

Therefore,as one can see Kautilya's arthashastra deals with a proper strategy and system of centralised autocracy with a welfare objective in mind before performing any function by the king and his ministers.

i) Over charged with supervision - too much of checks and balances.
ii) Prominence on individuals instead of institutions.
iii) Fundamental mistrust of officials.

The Guptas carried forward the Mauryan legacy of administration in many respects.

1) Personnel Administration: A system of recruitment was there and job description as well. Salaries were clearly spelled out of ministers and government officials. It also stated a view of job permanency and increment in salary/position(promotion) if the official concerned provided extraordinary service. Personnel were to be transferred from time to time as per Kautilya because it would avoid corruption and misappropriation of government funds.
Removal and tenure of officials and ministers were at the pleasure of the King just like the Governor and Attorney General,etc. hold office at a term that specifies ' pleasure of the President'.

2) Public Administration: The King is the sole source of authority and appoints and dismisses personnel and divides the work of govt. into different ministries under several ministers and officials.  Kautilya stresses on the need for specialist and generalist personnel at different levels of administration with full accountability to the King,thus talks about division of labour and coordination between them for efficient administration. As discussed above there was a clear system of recruitment,pay,and terms and conditions of service very much resembling the modern State.
Modern state is more concerned about development whereas the Kautilyan model talks about collecting revenue and employing activities to help in expediting and ensuring revenue,so it talks mainly of control instead of development.
It talks about local self government  that very much resembles a precursor to the Modern State local self government model.

Kautilya's Arthashastra is more about political science that is how to conduct State affairs rather than focusing on the philosophy that underlies it. He is very practical in his approach with a strict focus on amorality(no moral principles or religious diktat) so that the King's rule & administration are neutral without offending anyone, and also on rationality and an organised as well as efficient way of running a system with a greta deal of focus on accoutability and honesty and vigilance.

 The Mughal administration was the most organised and long lasting and has even carried on to to the modern times. The reason for this stability was the long lasting more than 3 centuries rule of the Mughal sultanat. Akbar was the architect of this system since his grandfather and father Babur and Humayun respectively had their hands full with battles and socio-economic uncertainties leaving little time for administrative activities.

A very detailed,reliable and brilliant account of Akbar's empire,society and administration is given in the famous detailed document/text by Abul Fazl titled Ain-i-Akbari(Constitution Of Akbar).
The Mughal administration did carry forward a lot of the earlier traditions in political and administrative matters already existing in India as mentioned above but they upheld greater centralisation and a rigid structure without paying much interest to social services of health and welfare as also morals as compared to the Mauryan rulers. Their's was an islamic state and right from the principles of government,church policy,taxation rules,departmental arrangements to the titles of officials all was imported wholesale from the Perso-Arab crescent of khalifs of Iran and Egypt. However, even though the recruitment was mainly based on caste and kin they also did recognise merit and talent and did open up the civil services for Hindu people. It's source of revenue was taxation on land and agriculture and was highly urbanised. In the lower levels like of politics,village and lower levels of officials the Indian usage and customary practices were allowed whereas at the court/darbar and in higher official circles the foreign imported model of policy prevailed.

The sovereign was the king who was paternalistic and he had supreme authority over everything. He did have a number of ministers to help,advise and assist him in the discharge of his functions,out of which the more important were four - the Diwan who was in charge of revenue and finance,the Mir Bakshi at the head of the military department,the Mir Saman in charge of factories and stores, and the Sadr-us-Sudur who was the head of the ecclesiastical and judicial department.

Administration was based on coercion in the name of the King by the officials. The main functions of the officials were to maintain law and order,safeguard the King's interests from internal uprising and revolts,defend and extend boundaries of the empire and collect revenue and taxes.

Every officer of State held a mansab ( official appointment of rank and profit and expected to supply certain number of troops for State military service),thus the bureaucracy was essentially monetary in character.  The officials ranged from Commanders of 10 to 10000 and were classified into 33 grades. Each grade carried a certain rate of pay,from which its holder was to provide a quota of horses,elephants,etc and the State service was neither hereditary nor was it specialised. Grading system is practiced even today in recruitment matters.

The pay was received in form of either cash or jagir for a temporary period from which he could collect revenue equivalent to his salary. Thus,the jagirs though having no hold over the land extracted revenue at their whims and fancies from the land.

The Army of the Mughal empire must be understood in terms of the Mansabdari system. And apart from that there were the knights who were called the gentleman troopers and owed exclusive allegiance to the King. The cavalry was the most important unit,the infantry was made up of townsmen and peasants and the artillery with guns and the Navy.
The corruption within the army where the soldiers payed more allegiance to the immediate boss rather than the king proved to be its undoing and thus could be easily overpowered by the Marathas during the time of Jahangir.

The Policing system of the Mughals was entrusted to village headman's and subordinates in villages and to Kotwals in cities and towns. And at the district level the faujdars took over. It was a precursor to modern policing system of India.

The administration at the Centre was personal and paternal and operated with a fair degree of efficiency as long as the King kept an eye and controlled effectively. The two highest officials were the Vakil and the Wazir of which the former was higher in position and functioned as the regent of the State and maintained over all charge of the same.
The Wazir was the head of the revenue department and was known as Wazir when he acted as a Prime Minister.

Chief Diwan supervised revenue collection and expenditure and was the head of the Government's administrative wing supervising work of all high officials. All provincial diwans and their subordinates reported to him and he signed and authorised all government transactions. A Musatufi audited the income and expenditure of the government and the Waqia Navis kept a record of all important farmers.

The Khan-i-Saman was the high steward of the royal expenditure and the Mir-i-Bakshi who was the paymaster General of the empire.

The Provincial or State Administration was also known as Subahs(for states/provinces) and was headed by the Subedar or the Governor. He was appointed by the King and was given a office insignia and instrument of instructions which defined the powers,functions and responsibilities. As executive head he was in charge of provincial administrative staff and ensured law and order there. He also handled local civil intelligence agencies and controlled the local zamindars and contained their political influence.

Provincial Diwan was appointed by the central diwan and was next in the line of importance after the Provincial governor. He appointed kiroris and tehsildars to extract revenue from the ryots in time. He also exercised audit functions and had full control over public expenditure. He was assisted in office by the Office Superintendent,head accountant,treasurer and clerk.

The provincial Bakshi performed the same function as the central bakshi.
The Sadr and Qazi were two officers at provincial level who were sometimes united in the same person but the Sadr was basically a civil judge but did not handle all civil cases and the Qazi was concerned with civil suits in general and also with criminal cases.

The Subah/Province was further divided into Sarkars which were of two types. One was ruled by officers appointed by the emperor and those under the tributary rajas. Each Sarkar was headed by Faujdar,he was the executive head who had policing and military functions and could surpass the provincial rulers to speak directly to the imperial government.

The Amalguzar was in charge of the revenue and the other head of the Sarkar. The Kotwal did the policing. The qazi performed the judicial duties. The Sarkars were further divided into parganas and the parganas further divided into Chaklas headed by officials called Chakladars. Qanungos kept the revenue records and the Bitikchi was the accountant and Potdar was the title of the treasurer.This was the hierarchy for a sound and efficient administration

Akbar kept the land revenue at 1/3 and Todar Mal brought in reforms as in a standard system of land revenue collection that included survey and measurement of land,classification of land based on its fertility and fixing the rates.

Justice was administered based on the Quranic Law as the Mughal state was a Muslim State. Fatwas were issued when required and ordinances by the emperor. The principles of equity were followed and the Emperor's interpretations only was allowed till the point it did not run contrary to the sacred laws.

Though many of Indian administrative and political features evolved post 1947 but there still are certain features that we can see as a legacy of the British times continuing for the sake of its efficient practices and no other better alternative to the same till now.

Under the charter ( official paper) of the British crown the East India Company came to India with the sole objective of making profit through commercial exchanges. The established factories here and for their protection set up a small base of soldiers. They started looking for monopolising their profits in India as her market and resources were unmatched. This led to the initial tussle with Bengal Nawab and the event of Battle of Plassey paved the way for the same. The company officials convinced the company directors that if they interfered and got a say in local policy making in india then it would lead to a lot of profit and surplus.

Lord Cornwallis developed the Civil Services Code and so he is aptly known as the Father Of Modern Civil Services. He regularised and specified the office of the District Collector and estabilished the office of the District judge. This helped the company achieve a well organised personnel administration through which control over territories/provinces in India could become more comprehensive.

Lord Wellesley's rule period saw the emergence of the office of the Chief Secretary(1799). The doctrine of Subsidiary Alliance was an aggressive policy that resulted in the active interest of company officials in political and administrative affairs of local kingdoms governed by local Rajas. The early 1800s could be seen as an era where company officials focused all their strategies in gaining interference rights in political,commercial and military policies of local kingdoms for their profit.

The office of the Commissioner and sectional arrangement in the Secretariat saw the light of the day under Lord Bentick's rule. Under the Charter Act of 1833,the Governor General of Bengal was appointed as the Governor General of India and policy formulation was centralised for all territories under the company at the council of the Governor General Of India(Head of the British Administration In India). Also there was an estabilishment of communication between the Governor general's office which was the headquarter and its various field units and formal units of organisation. 1844 established 4 departments of Finance, Home, Foreign and Military as well as a little later on under Lord Dalhousie the setting up pf Post and Telegraph Services,Railways and Public Work Departments. The Doctrine Of lapse theory of Dalhousie very blatantly spelled out the objective of the company in India as to have absolute control over the policy process in Indian  States.
Thus all these establishments and policies helped the English to set up a strong base in India along with rights of revenue by means of strong organisational infrastructures and institutions,and interference in legislation and policy making even in the remotest of areas.

The Revolt of 1857 then shook up this system and that led to the end of the British East India Company's rule in India. The govt of India Act 1858 passed in the British parliament led to the company's dissolution and all powers transferred to the British Crown which then created an India Office in India and a Secretary Of State post was established with Indian governance and policy formulation matters. the Governor General was converted to Viceroy General of India(chief administrator of the British Crown in India) who implemented the policies devised by the India office which actually only had the role of passing on orders of the British Parliament. Military was reorganised and more higher caste officials were appointed at the higher levels and lower level occupied by lower caste as well as Europeans held the titular positions in the army. All this was done to avoid another mutiny so that communication is minimum considering the caste biasedness prevalent in India.

So,in short the British East India Company paved the way for the British government to enter. As soon as the Company outlived its utility,it was removed and the British govt. directly entered the Indian domain.

Impey devised a civil procedure code and Macaulay devised the Indian Penal Code,Contract Act and Indian Council Act.The enactment of the Criminal procedure Code by the British Parliament in the 1860's brought immense joy to the local rajas and people as they thought that now all the English officers would function under a code of conduct and there will be uniformity in treatment. There was also formulation of Arms act,Vernacular press act,Relationship codes,Transfer rights,etc. Thus, this era of late 1800's could be seen as one that was dedicated to establishing a legal environment for the smooth functioning of the British officials as they felt that no rules and regulations earlier led to the situation of disarray and sepoy mutiny/revolt.

There was also the demand of indianisation of the Civil services that was first totally occupied by Europeans and was causing a lot of discontent among Indians and Indian associations. Thus,for this purpose the Aitchison Commission recommended the induction of 25% Indians into the ICS,but this only remained on paper.The Islington Commission was appointed in 1912 and its repirt,submitted in 1915 recommended a scheme of 2 entry paths to the civil services. One was for insuring induction of natives of India through competitive exams and the other exam for superior ICS and Home services preliminary exam to be conducted in England was open to all. The Civil services was under the control of the Secretary Of State.

The Govt. Of India Act in 1919, created the All India Services replacing the imperial civil services format. This act also advocated the setting up of Public Service Commissions in India. The provincial civil services were under the control of the provincial governments.

Lee Commission and the Royal Commission on superior civil services specially recommended for the establishment of central services. Subordinate services were advocated for removal from the classification of civil services and transferred to the regional levels for conducting exams and filling up of positions only by Indians. So,basically it was a system to prevent Indians from entering the higher civil services as everybody could not afford to go to England for training and exam purpose and the lower levels were more approachable and attainable by the Indians.Also English as a compulsory language offered little scope of success for non-westernised Indians.On the recommendation of the Lee Commission,the first Public Service Commission was setup at Allahabad in 1925. The Lee Commission recommended a 40-40 percent of Europeans and Indians to fill up the superior ICS and the rest 20% to be filled up with promotions from the provincial Indian sub ordinate services. thus he advocated 60% Indians. This led to the Britishers losing interest in joining the services as they feared a monopoly of Indians and so the number of Indians in the services increased gradually.The Govt. Of India Act 1935 provided for the setting up of federal Public service commissions and also recommended for similar institutions at the state levels. This was the realisation of giving the All India Service an Indian flavour and towards the Indianisation of Civil Services.

Portfolio system was introduced in the Central Secretariat under Lord canning and arrangement of departments under Lord Mayo,Lord Lytton and Lord Ripon. Tenure arrangement was introduced under the Secretariat staffing scheme of Lord Curzon in 1905.

A special mention needs to be made here of the administrative systems/features passed on:
Judicial administration system of the Mughal period still exists in Indian administration.

After the battle of Buxar ended with the treaty of Allahabad,the company obtained "Diwani" rights from Shah Alam II and was legally authorised to issue dastaks in the name of the King thus paving the way for the company officials to enter revenue assessments and collection duties.

This very event began the evolution of the system of district arrangement that we see today. The District Collector's office was established in 1772 and it played a leading role in stabilising the company's hold over the revenue at local levels. 1780 saw the establishment of a Revenue Board created as the apex advisory body for suggesting scheme of Land Revenue Settlement. This is where we see the shift of the company majorly from commercial activities to administrative control in india. The revenue Board's recommendations culminated into : Permanenet Settlement Act in Bengal,Orissa and areas of Assam, Ryotwari arrangement in Presidencies of Maharashtra and Bombay, Mahalwari system in areas under the control of North India.

This term originated during British rule. Lord Ripon is called the father of local self government in India but was unable to push for major reforms. They lacked autonomy and gradually declined by way of establishment of local civil and criminal courts,revenue and police organisations,increased communication, and starting of the Ryotwari system where peasants paid directly and individually instead of collectively or under the zamindar.Panchayats maintained the local social order according to the socio-political norms prevailing.

The Montague Chelmsford reform in 1919 made it a transferred subject under the dyarchy that led to the establishment of a number of panchayats in all villages to have a proper and efficient local self government/administration as well as revenue collection for the British but was still under the total control of the District collector and red tapism and corruption plagued it and funds crunch was always there as a deliberate attempt by the British to stranglehold the provincial Indian governments from having control over them and so had to depend on the centre/British government for everything.

So, the local self government though had control over certain aspects but in the others it was just a pawn of the British government for their colonial benefits.

IGNOU notes refer - http://www.scribd.com/doc/39746705/IGNOU-s-Public-Administration-material-Part-2-Indian-Administration


Click on ' JOIN THIS SITE ' to get instant updates on new posts on this blog. And also for 'INTERACTIONS AND DISCUSSIONS' regarding this blog's posts 'JOIN ITS FACEBOOK COMMUNITY/GROUP' that is mentioned on the right hand side of this page.

The next post on this blog will cover:

Philosophical and Constitutional framework
of government:
Salient features and value premises; Constitutionalism;
Political culture; Bureaucracy
and democracy; Bureaucracy and


  1. Thanks for the post event staffing agency You should take part in a contest for one of the best blogs on the web. I will recommend this site!

    1. Your valuable feedback is much appreciated. Apart from the blogger's efforts to ensure continued dissemination of this blog's handy information to the evergrowing pool of genuine seekers for the abovementioned,a special mention should be made here that it is also the learned readers' vigorous efforts and recommendations that would, and in fact is, helping in promoting the cause. Therefore,keep the scientific temper and craving for knowledge alive in order to espouse the cause and pass it on to others as well for furthering the goodwill and percolate the ocean of knowledge into everyones lives.That would subserve the basic essence and goal of this blog. Keep the great work going.

  2. i searched on this internet thanks for sharing this informationevent staffing agency

  3. Hi this is definitely one stop solution for learning overview of chanakya's neeti especially from public ad point of view. thank you v much!