GOVERNMENT OF INDIA ACT 1858: BACKGROUND, OBJECTIVES, PROVISIONS, FAILURE

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GOVERNMENT OF INDIA ACT 1858

THE REVOLT OF 1857: THE BROADER MANIFESTATION OF EMERGING MASS NATIONALISM IN INDIA 🇮🇳

The present article attempts to analyze the background, objectives, provisions, and the reasons for the failure of the Government of India Act 1858.

BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES OF GOVERNMENT OF INDIA ACT 1858:

In the aftermath of the Revolt of 1857, the British Imperial Government was sensitized to growing mass outrage in India and therefore, the colonial administration intended to prohibit the massive upheaval in near future. On the evaluation of immediate causes of the Mutiny of 1857, they observed that the regressive policies launched under Company rule was the reason for anger amongst Indians and therefore, they enacted the Government of India Act 1858 just after the end of the war for consolidating its hegemony in India and completely rescinding East India Company.
Under this enactment, the complete transference of the Company’s power in India to the British Parliamentary Government took place and therefore, it signified the beginning of the direct rule of the British Crown in India that was called the British Raj.

PROVISIONS OF GOVERNMENT OF INDIA ACT 1858:

Government of India Act 1858

The Government of India Act 1858 was the first legislative reform act implemented by the  British Government in India and the provisions laid out were as follows:
  • Introduction of Department System: Under this act, the pre-existing dual system of political governance designed under the Pitts India Act was completely abolished with the liquidation of the Board of Control and Court of Directors and a new political-administrative system was constructed that was called the Department System. In this system, the topmost hierarchal position was conferred to the British Parliament who responded to by the Secretary of State for India, a member of the British Cabinet who vested extensive authority and control over the Indian Administration.
  • The Secretary of State for India was assisted by a 15-membered committee calleth d Council of India who will function as an advisory body.  In addition to this, the Governor-General of India was titled Viceroy of India who will be the direct representative of the British Crown in India. He will supervise, administer and control the provincial governments in India. The Viceroy will be responsible to the Secretary of State. 
  • The diagrammatic representation of the new political system of governance with hierarchy under Government of India Act 1858
    The diagrammatic representation of the new political system of governance with hierarchy under the  Government of India Act 1858
  • POINTS TO REMEMBER:
  • First Viceroy and Last Governor-General of India: Lord Canning
  • First Secretary of State for India: Edward Henry Stanley
  • The prime objective of this act was to create an answerable and accountable government and therefore, the direct rule of the British Government provided better regulations than the East India Company’s rule. Hence, it’s also known as An Act for the Better Government of India.”  

FAILURE OF GOVERNMENT OF INDIA ACT 1858:

The Government of India Act, 1858 captured all components of ascertaining a credible government in India but even such reliable provisions couldn’t enhance the sociopolitical conditions greatly. Instead, it annihilated India more than initial because the superiority over Indian revenue and policies subsisted entirely in the hands of the f Secretary of State for India who utilized India as he desired. Although he could be sued for his actions, due to high levels of illiteracy, people had no idea if they can take actions or not. Overall, the Government of India Act 1858 proved to a failure.
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Gaurav Rathi

An enthusiastic Delhiite, Gaurav Rathi is pursuing B.A. English Hons. in Delhi University. Rather than reading history, he likes re-inventing and re-approaching history and while not researching and writing blogs, he is reading novels or celebrating life with family and friends.

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