Lord Curzon : Reforms and the administrative measures

Sansar LochanModern1 Comment

Lord Curzon had visited India several times before his appointment as the governor-general of India in 1899. It was said that he knew more about India than any other man living at that time. Besides, he was a determined and industrious man. He, therefore, carried out large number of reform measures. But Curzon failed to understand the genuine problems and sentiments of the Indian people.

He ruled India as a Britisher whose primary-concern remained the safety of the British empire. Moreover, he believed in the superiority of the English race and therefore, in his behaviour, language and policies he ignored the welfare and feelings of the Indians. In turn, the Indians were provoked and did not fail to exhibit their deep resentment against his policies and views.

lord curzon reforms

Reforms of Lord Curzon

Curzon believed in a strong centralized government and powerful bureaucracy. He attempted both. Some of his measures succeeded and proved useful for the Indians while some others created widespread discontentment among them.

He carried out following measures :


In 1899, the British currency was declared legal tender in India and its ratio with the Indian rupee was fixed. A pound was declared equivalent to rupees fifteen. India, thus, was put on a gold standard. It benefited the Indian government and Curzon was able to reduce its debt. Curzon reduced the rate of salt-tax from two-and-a-half rupees per maund to one-and-a-third rupees per maund. He gave relief to income-tax payers. So far, all people whose yearly income was more than rupees five hundred paid the tax. He exempted all people below the income of rupees one thousand annually from this tax. Curzon supported the policy of financial decentralization. So far, the yearly savings of the provinces were taken over by the Central Government which left no inducement to the provinces for saving. He abolished this practice. The provinces were allowed to keep their savings for the next year. Besides, he gave additional grant to provinces for the development of education, agriculture, etc.


Curzon took several measures to improve the condition of the peasants. Some banks for the assistance of peasants were opened. In 1904, the Co-operative Credit Societies Act was passed to induce the people to form such societies for the purpose of deposits and loans. It was to save peasants from the clutches of the money-lenders who usually charged exorbitant rate of interest. In 1900, the Punjab Land Alienation Act was passed. It put restrictions on the transfer of lands of the peasants to money-lenders in cases of failure of payment of their debts, Curzon attempted to bring about improvement in revenue administration. He fixed three principles regarding it. One, the revenue was to be increased only gradually; second, every care was to be taken not to harm the agriculture while collecting the revenue; and, third, in case of drought or any other difficult situation, the peasants were to be helped immediately. On the basis of these principles, ‘Suspension and Remission Resolution’ was framed in 1905 for the guidance of provincial governments. By it, it was fixed that the collection of the revenue could be postponed in case one-half of the produce was damaged and lost by the cultivators and if it was felt that the peasants were not in a position to pay the revenue due to some natural calamity, they could be exempted from its payment. Besides, Curzon established an Imperial Agriculture Department under an Inspector-General. An Agriculture Research Institute was established at Pusa in Bengal for the same purpose.


Curzon appointed a Commission under the Chairmanship of Sir Colin Scott Moncrieff to suggest measures for bringing about improvement in the means of irrigation. The Commission suggested a scheme involving an expenditure of rupees four-and-a-half crores in the next twenty years. Curzon accepted recommendation, and canals were first constructed in Punjab. It helped in increased agricultural production.


When Curzon arrived in India, it was in a grip of terrible famine. Extensive territories in south, central and western India were affected by it. Curzon provided all possible relief to the affected people. All able-bodied persons were given work on payment while donations were given to others. The cultivators were exempted from the payment of revenue. Curzon himself supervised the relief measures. By 1900, it was over. But Curzon could not remain indifferent towards what had happened. He appointed a Commission under the chairmanship of Sir Antony Macdonell to probe into the causes of the famine and suggest preventive measures. The Commission suggested various measures for the development of agriculture, means of irrigation, famine-fund etc. It also suggested that the government should take all available help from private philanthropic associations and give assurance of help to the affected people in the very beginning of the famine with a view to boosting up their morale. The government accepted all suggestions of the Commission and kept them in view in implementing reform measures concerning agriculture, revenue, irrigation etc.


In the beginning of the rule of Curzon a large part of South-West India was affected by the Plague. The government took all possible measures to control it and to that end took the help of the army. The Indians, however, resented certain actions of the government, particularly the entry of soldiers in homes to search patients was regarded as dishonour to their families. Bal Gangadhar Tilak, the national leader protested these severe measures. Two plague officers were murdered during that period. The government took severe measures against the revolutionaries and B. G. Tilak was imprisoned and deported to Mandalay.

Reform in Secretariat

Curzon framed facilitated the taking of quick decisions and med many rules which quick disposal of routine affairs. He also directed the departmental heads to discuss matters of mutual concern personally among themselves.

Attempt to reduce the powers of Presidency Governors

The Presidency governors enjoyed little more powers as compared to the governors of other provinces and, sometimes, took decisions without the approval of the governor-general. Curzon believed in centralization of administration. Therefore, he suggested to the Home Government to withdraw the special privileges of the Presidency Government and bring them at par with other governors. But the Home Government rejected his proposal and the Presidency governors continued to enjoy the privileges.


The police department suffered from serious organisational defects. There were no arrangements for the training of the police and constables and their officers. There existed no Criminal Investigation Department (C.I.D.) by that time. The police constables and the officers were low paid as well. Curzon appointed a Commission under the Chairmanship of Sir Andrew Frazer to suggest measures for improving the police organisation. The Commission suggested that junior police officials should not be promoted to high official positions. The senior officials were to be taken by direct recruitment. It suggested that training schools should be opened for the training of constables and officers; the strength of the police force should be increased in all provinces; policemen should be allowed to visit the villages for making inquiries and their salaries should be increased. It also suggested that a Central Criminal Intelligence Department should be created at the centre. Curzon accepted all the recommendations of the Commission and implemented them.


Curzon decided to improve railway facilities in India and also to make the Railway profitable to the government. He appointed a Railway Commission under the chairmanship of Mr. Robertson in 1901. The Commission submitted its report after two years. Its recommendations were accepted by Curzon. The Railway lines were increased, the Railway department was abolished and the management of the Railways was taken away from the hands of the Public Works Department and handed over to a Railway Board consisting of three members. The Department of Railway was organised on commercial basis, profit being its primary motive.


In 1902, Lord Kitchener came to India as the Commander-in-Chief. He carried out much needed reforms in the army. The Indian Army was divided into two commands —the Northern Command and the Southern Command. There were to be three brigades in every division of the army. Among three brigades, two were of the Indian battalions and one of the English battalion. An officers’ training college was opened at Quetta. The Military cantonments were kept near the Railway stations so as to facilitate the movements of the army and its supplies. Factories were established in India to produce guns, gunpowder and rifles. The army was equipped with the latest weapons. The salaries of the soldiers and their officers were enhanced. Besides, to increase the efficiency of the soldiers, every battalion was subjected to a severe test called ‘the Kitchener Test.’ These measures certainly increased efficiency of the army.


Curzon attempted to increase the efficiency of Judiciary. The number of judges of the Calcutta High Court was increased, the salaries of the judges of the High Courts and subordinate courts were enhanced and the Indian Code of Civil Procedure was revised.

Calcutta Corporation Act, 1899

The Calcutta Corporation Act was passed in 1899. By it, the number of elected members in it was reduced and the number of nominated officials was increased. It defeated the purpose of local self-government. Twenty-eight members of the Corporation resigned in protest and it, therefore, became a government department — the English and the Anglo-Indians having the majority in it.

Monument Act, 1904

The Act established an Archaeological Department under a director. It was assigned the responsibility of repair, restoration and protection of historical monuments. Lord Curzon asked the native rulers to take similar measures 1n their respective states. He also urged the provincial governments to open museums for the safe preservation of rare objects.


In 1901, Curzon called an education conference at Simla. There was only one non-official representative in the Conference and no Indian. After the Conference, a University Commission under the Chairmanship of Thomas Raleigh was appointed in 1902. Initially only one Indian was its member. Afterwards, Gurudas Banerjee, a Judge of Calcutta High Court was also included in it. On the basis of the report of the Commission, the Indian Universities Act was passed in 1904, Gurudas Banerjee had given his dissent-note in the report and the Indian public despised the Act. But Curzon did not bother about anybody. His aim was to bring the Universities under the supervision of the government and the Act served that purpose. The number of the members of the Senates of the Universities was reduced. The number of nominated members in the Senates was increased and provincial education officers were also assigned seats on them. The period of membership of the Senate was also reduced to five years. Thus, the representative character of the officials of the Universities was lost. Henceforth, the Senates were to be dominated by the government officials. Besides, the government was authorised to change, amend and even reject the proposals of the Senate. The government, on its own, could also frame rules and regulations concerning functioning of the Universities. The colleges were subjected to inspections and were placed under strict watch by the government through the Universities. The officialization of the Universities was very much resented by the educated Indians. It was felt that the government desired to check the growth of independent ideas and therefore, had brought the Universities under its tight control.

The Partition of Bengal, 1905

The partition of Bengal in 1905 was one measure which created deep discontentment among the Indians.

Read more about this partition here : Bengal Partition

Points to remember

  1. Curzon carried out reforms in several fields of administration with primary motives of centralizing the administration and safeguarding the British empire in India though some of these measures benefited Indians as well.
  2. Curzon declared the British currency as legal tender in India; pound was declared equivalent to rupees fifteen; salt tax was reduced from 25, rupees per maund to 4/3 rupees per maund; people below the annual income of rupees one thousand were exempted from income-tax; allowed provinces to keep their savings for the next year with the object of inducing them to save; and, gave additional grants to provinces for the development of education, agriculture, etc.
  3. With a view to improving the condition of peasants, Curzon opened some banks, passed the Punjab Land Alienation Act in 1900 and the Cooperative Credit Societies Act in 1904, framed the ‘Suspension and Remissions Resolution’ in 1905, established an Imperial Agriculture Department and established an Agriculture Research Institute at Pusa in Bengal.
  4. On the recommendation of a Commission under the Chairmanship of Sir Colin Scot Monsrieff, Lord Curzon decided to construct several canals for the purpose of irrigation and began that work in Punjab.
  5. Lord Curzon faced a terrible famine in India on his arrival and provided all possible relief to the people.
  6. Besides, a Commission was appointed under the Chairmanship of Sir Antony Macdonell and Curzon kept alt its suggestions in mind while implementing reform measures concerning agriculture, revenue, irrigation etc.
  7. Curzon took serious measures to check the Plague which had affected a large part or South-West India so much so that these measures offended the Indians and two plague officers were murdered.
  8. Curzon framed many rules which facilitated the taking of quick decisions and quick disposal of routine affairs in the Secretariat.
  9. Lord Curzon pleaded to withdraw the special privileges of the Presidency governors but his request was rejected by the Home Government.
  10. On the recommendation of a Railway Commission under the Mr. Robertson, Curzon increased railway lines, created a Railway Board and department of Railways was organised on commercial basis.
  11. Several measures were carried out by the then Commander-in-Chief Lord Kitchener to increase the efficiency of the army.
  12. Lord Curzon increased the number of judges of Calcutta High Court, enhanced the salaries of the judges of the High Courts and subordinate courts and revised the Indian Code of Civil Procedure.
  13. Curzon passed the Calcutta Corporation Act in 1899 which reduced the number of elected members in the Corporation and virtually made it a government department.
  14. The Monument Act, 1904 established an archaeological department for the protection of historical monuments.
  15. On the recommendation of a University Commission under Thomas Raleigh, the Indian Universities Act was passed in 1904 which brought Universities under the supervision of the government.
  16. In 1905, the province of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa was divided into two parts which was protested by the Indians and led to the Swadeshi movement under the guidance of S. N. Banerjee.
  17. Some reforms of Curzon benefited Indians but certain others created widespread resentment in India so that he has been regarded as one of the most unpopular governor-general of India.

Source used : NCERT, Tamil Nadu Board, IGNOU Modern History, NIOS textbooks. Wikipedia notes for UPSC exam.

Tags : PDF for UPSC exam short notes on Lord Curzon administrative policies/measures.

Questions for UPSC mains :

Describe the administrative measures of Lord Curzon.


Review the reforms of Lord Curzon and account for his unpopularity in India.

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