The two century old British rule had a major influence on Indian Administration. On the one hand, India moved from a feudal state to a colony and after independence to a fully democratic country, on the other some of the old systems and prejudices continued unabated during and after the British rule.
The major impact of British rule can be seen in the development of institutions especially democratic institutions at the national level, even though they were developed by the Imperial rulers for their own benefit. Major areas of Indian Administration which have been heavily influenced by the decade’s British rule can be categorized as follows.
1. Parliamentary form of government
2. Civil Services
3. District Administration
4. Local Self Government
5. Independent Judiciary
6. Federal form of government
India was introduced to the parliamentary form of government that was practiced in Britain at that point of time. Morley Minto Reforms (1909), Government of India Act (1919) and above all Government of India Act (1935) acted as guiding principles for our Constitution.
But the major difference was that whatever the legislations passed by the colonial rulers were related to cosmetic changes in the Indian Administration with the real power concentrated in their own domains.
After independence, a major changed took place in the system with real transformation of the society into a democratic one. Now parliament represents the true will of the people and reflects their ambitions and desires.
The Civil Services was introduced by the Britishers to govern a vast country like India as they have realized the fact that India cannot be governed properly unless it is backed by a strong and efficient civil service. They made sure that those who enter into civil service reflected the concerns of the imperial rulers and not that of ordinary people.
They deliberately kept these officials away from ordinary citizens and made sure that they always protected the imperial interests. But after independence, steps were taken to make sure that the term ‘civil service’ truly reflects its name with the officials expected to be civilized in their dealings and also have service orientation towards the people.
District administration was one of the major contributions of Britishers to Indian Administration. Even after independence we continued with the same system with District Collector being the fulcrum of district administration in India. Till the passage of 73rd and 74th Amendments, he was the real power centre at the district level. After the passage of the bills, a major change took place with the district collector expected to play the role of facilitator in administration at the district level.
Local Self Governments existed in India even before the arrival of British, but were given a statutory status by the British government. But its functioning was not up to the mark because of the centralizing tendencies of British administration. But the passage of 73rd and 74th Amendments brought significant changes in the working of local self governments providing them with real autonomy and independence.
Rule of Law and judicial independence was introduced for the first time in India by the colonial rulers but only in certain areas and fields. Actual implementation took place only after India gained full independence from the colonial masters. Constitution provided much needed independence to judiciary and ensured stricter implementation of Rule of Law.
Another aspect of British rule which had a major impact on Indian Administration was the federal form of government. Before the arrival of British, during the reign of Mughals, India was a unitary state with centralization of power in the hands of few individuals.
But the Britishers had introduced federalism, centre-state relations for the first time in Indian Administration. It continued after independence with the Constitution providing sanctity to the administrative arrangement between the centre and states.
To conclude, it must be said that British rule had a major influence on the structure and functioning of Indian Administration but key changes took place only after independence to make them effective for the citizens of the country. British rule always treated people as subjected to be governed but not as citizens to be empowered.
That is the reason why British rule was always characterized by suspicion towards ordinary citizens, high levels of secrecy, complete aloofness and alienation from people and above all the ivory-tower approach of officials.
The above traits were inherited completely by Indian administrators after independence and after six decades of independence we are still struggling to change the entrenched attitude, snobbish behaviour and dictatorial outlook of our administrators.
Under the British rule, Indian administration passed through a phase of rigorous experimentation and continued innovations. Some of the features of the Mughal administration were adopted and adapted by the British rulers in India.
The contemporary Indian administrative system has been built on its British heritage. All India services, civil services recruitment, administrative training, the secretariat system, office procedures, management of districts, revenue administration, police system, budgeting, accounting, auditing and a number of other structural and functional areas of Indian administration have their roots in the British rule.