(Last Updated on : 17/02/2020)
Edward Robert Lytton Bulwer-Lytton or Lord Lytton was the first Earl of Lytton. Lord Lytton was a nominee of the conservative Government
of Benjamin Disraeli, who was entrusted with the charge of developments in central Asia. Though Lord Lytton refused to accept the post of viceroy initially, he was later made to accept the office of Viceroy of India
. Lytton, though did not have any idea about the Indian administrative set up, yet he was a diplomat who served the British
foreign office in many capacities. He was appointed the Governor of Bengal at a very crucial time when the colonial government was determined to implement the Government of India Act of 1919
and the Indian National Congress
was determined to get this unacceptable Act annulled. However Lytton's rule in India constituted an important epoch in political history of British India
Policies under Lord Lytton
Free trade was flourished among the ruling class of industrially advanced England during the 19th century. The new cotton
mills emerging in India during that time, posed a threat to the free trade of the British. In order to prevent the prosperity of the Indian trade
, the conservative Government levied import duties on the cotton goods of India. However the import duties levied on the cotton goods of India, greatly affected the financial condition of India. Lord Salisbury, the Secretary of State for India passed a resolution seeking to repeal the import duties on the cotton goods. Notwithstanding the poor financial condition caused by the famine in India, Lord Lytton abolished the import duties on twenty-nine articles. In 1879, the duties on the coarser kind of cotton goods were removed. The viceroy had to use his constitutional powers to overrule the majority of Council. Lord Salisbury, the secretary of State approved the Viceroy's action, although the Indian Council was equally divided. Thus under Lord Lytton, the claims of Indian administration
were subordinated to the necessities of English politics.
Repressive Financial Reforms by Lord Lytton
The policy of financial decentralization initiated during the period of Lord Mayo
was still in continuation. Under Lord Lytton, the Provincial government was given the control of expenditure upon all ordinary provincial services including the land revenue
, excise, stamp, law
and justice, general administration etc. For the discharge of the newly transferred services, the provincial governors were not given any increase in their fixed grants but handed over some specified sources of revenue from the respective provinces. According to the financial reforms adopted by Lytton, it was provided that any surplus above the estimated income was to be shared equally with the Central Government. It was presumed that the system would give the provinces an effective inducement to develop the revenue resources collected in the provinces. This system in this way improved the financial condition of the government as a whole. Measures were also adopted to equalize the rates of salt duties in the British provinces. Moreover he also negotiated with the Indian Princes
to surrender their rights of manufacture of salt in return of compensation. Thus the inter-state salt
smuggling came to an end and the salt duties began to yield more revenue to the government. Thus the financial reforms of Lord Lytton undoubtedly strengthened the financial condition of the central government in India.
Great Famine during Lyttons tenure
A severe famine
ravaged India during the 1876-78. Lord Lytton was still the viceroy of India at that time. The areas worst affected were Bombay
and some parts of Central India
. Many villages
were deserted and large tracts of area went out of cultivation. Though the Government of India adopted steps to help the famine stricken areas, yet it was half-hearted and thus the measures went unsuccessful. The famine machinery was inadequate and ineffective. In 1878, a Famine Commission was appointed under the presidency
of Richard Strachey to enquire the causes of the famine and to grant the famine relief. The Commission provided all able bodied people with employment on the basis of daily wage. Moreover it approached for the creation of the Famine Fund in every province. The commission also recommended the construction of railway and the irrigation projects. In this way the Indian government under Lord Lytton laid the subsequent famine policy.
The Grand Durbar
The British parliament
passed the Royal Titles Act investing Queen Victoria
with the title of Kaiser-I-hind or the Queen Empress of India. A grand Durbar
was held at Delhi on 1st January 1877 to announce the Queen's assumption of title. Unfortunately the Durbar was held during the time when several parts of India were stricken with famine. The government of Lytton spent a million, when millions of Indians were dying in poverty and starvation. This induced hatred among the Indians against the government of Lytton. The historians
have opined that the Durbar marked the beginning of the movement, which imbibed in the educated Indians with the idea of obtaining a rightful place in the Empire
. The educated Indians began to assert themselves. It was after that vast assemblage of 1877 that S.N Bannerjee
thought of organizing an association of the Indians to voice out their grievance. Thus the policies adopted by the government of Lord Lytton indirectly awakened the nationalist tendencies in India.
Vernacular Press Act under Lord Lytton
The unpopular policies of Lord Lytton and the growing apathy of the Government towards the suffering of the people drove discontent among the common Indian mass. In the Bombay Presidency
, the agrarian riots were followed by gang robberies and attacks on the moneylenders. The common discontent came to surface and the government policies began to be openly criticized in the vernacular press. The government of Lytton got alarmed with the seditious activities of the Vernacular Press. Hence he decided to repress the freedom of Press. In March 1878, the Vernacular Press Act
was put into practice. The Act IX of 1878 empowered a magistrate to call upon the printer and the publisher of all the vernacular newspaper to sign an agreement. According to the agreement, the vernacular press would not publish anything, which was likely to excite a feeling of disaffection in the common mass against the government. The Agreement also proposed that the vernacular newspapers
also did not publish anything that could give rise to antipathy between the persons of various races, caste
among Her Majesty's subjects. It was also declared that the reoccurrence of the same offence would be punished. No appeal against the magistrate's action could be approached in the Court of law. In this way Lord Lytton suppressed the freedom of the Press
in order to continue the policies of repression and oppression of the British Government
Arms Act of Lord Lytton
Indian Arms Act was the important landmark event under the category of the repressive administrative policies of Lord Lytton. The Arms Act XI of 1878 declared that the keeping, bearing and trafficking in arms without a license would be considered as a criminal offence. The penalties for the contravention of Act were imprisonment for a term, which may extend to three years with fine. However in case of concealment or an attempt of concealments of a term it would result into imprisonment of seven years with an amount of fine. The worst feature of the Arms Act passed by Lord Lytton was the racial discrimination introduced within the law. Europeans, Anglo-Indians
and some categories of the government officials were however exempted from the operational jurisdiction of this act.
Statutory Civil Services under Lord Lytton
The Charter Act of 1833 had declared all offices in India were open to merit irrespective of the nationality and color. Again the Charter Act of 1853
had provided for the holding of competitive examinations in London for the recruitment to the higher services under the British. In 1864, Satyendranath Tagore, brother of Rabindranath Tagore
, was the first Indian to qualify for the Civil Service
examination. However Lord Lytton proposed a straightforward course of closing the Civil Services to the Indians. Nevertheless, the Home Authorities in England did not favourably grant the idea of Lytton. Lord Cranbrooke, the secretary of state thought of creating a legislation to separate the black from the white. Lytton then proposed the plan of the Statutory Civil Service
in 1878-79. According to the rules laid by the Statutory Civil Services, the Government of India could employ some aristocratic Indians to the Statutory Civil Service on the recommendations of the provincial governments, subject to the confirmation of the secretary of State. The Act of 1879, also proposed that the number of such appointments would not exceed one sixth of the total appointments made to the Covenanted services.
The Statutory Civil Service did not have the same status and salary like the Covenanted services. For this, it did not prove popular among the Indian subjects and had to be abolished eight years later. The Secretary of state did not agree to Lytton's proposal of closing the Covenanted Service to the Indians. However the steps were adopted to discourage or prevent Indians from competing by reducing the statutory Civil Service age limit of the examination from 21 to19 years.
Second Afghan War under Lord Lyttons Tenure
Lytton was concerned with India-Afghanistan relations. At the time of his appointment, Russian influence was growing in Afghanistan. Lytton was given orders to counteract it or to secure a strong frontier by force. When negotiations failed to persuade Afghanistan from expelling the Russians, Lytton resorted to force, precipitating the Second Afghan War
of 1878–80. Apart from the unpopular policies of Lord Lytton, the worst event of the reign of Lord Lytton was the Second Afghan War. Lytton provoked a senseless war with the Afghans with a view to establish a "scientific frontier" towards the northwest. However the adventure proved failure. Lytton was undoubtedly a man of ideas. It was Lytton who for the first time dreamt of forming a separate Northwestern Frontiers province under the direct supervision of the Central Government. Lytton's plan for the formation of the Privy Council of the Indian Princes was subsequently endorsed by the Montford scheme of reforms. However the reign of Lytton in India was a period of repression and oppression. Thus, Lord Lytton was judged as a failure ruler in India.