List of various Reforms introduced by Warren Hastings

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In this article, we will give you a short note on the various reforms introduced by Warren Hastings. He came to India in 1772. He found that the Company, though enjoying the right of Diwani of the rich provinces of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa since 1765, had reached the state of financial bankruptcy and the Dual Government in Bengal had failed completely. Warren Hastings tried to improve the administration and partly succeeded. Therefore, the credit of laying down the foundation of the English administration in India squarely goes to him.

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The first two years of his governorship were primarily devoted to internal administration. Then some of his measures were substituted by the Council which was established by the Regulating Act. But after another two years, in 1776, he could assert himself against the wishes of the Council and, thus, got the opportunity of completing his scheme of reforms.

Reforms of Warren Hastings

The reforms which he brought about in different fields of administration were as follows:-

Abolition of Dual Government

When Warren Hastings came to India in 1772 as the Governor-General of the Company he came with specific orders from the Directors to abolish the Dual Government. He came to India with clear instructions by the Court of Directors that the naib (deputy) Diwans, Muhammad Reza Khand and Raja Shitab Ray, were to be removed from their offices and placed under trial and, henceforth, the Company had to stand forth as the Diwan. Hastings did the same soon after his arrival in India. Hastings took up the responsibility of civil justice also in the hands of the Company along with the direct charge of Diwani (the right of collecting the revenues).

Hastings realized that it was not desirable to keep the rights of Diwani and Nizamat (right of defence, peace and other and criminal justice) in separate hands. Therefore, he took away the right of Nizamat also from the hands of the Nawab. The Nawab of Bengal was granted a pension of rupees sixteen lacs annually for his personal expenses. Thus, the Dual Government in Bengal was abolished and the Company became the de jure as well as the de facto ruler of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa.

Revenue Administration

The Mughal Emperor granted the right of Diwani of the provinces of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa to the Company in 1765. In return, the Company agreed to pay rupees twenty six lacs annually to the Emperor and a fixed yearly amount to the Nawab of Bengal for meeting the expenses of Nizamat. Warren Hastings abolished the Dual Government in Bengal and assumed the direct responsibility of administering these provinces. Therefore, the revenue administration became the responsibility of the Company in 1772. Hastings introduced the following measures concerning the revenue administration.

  1. Each paragana was assessed for the purpose of revenue and the land was let out to the highest bidder for a term of five years.
  2. The bidders or the zamindars were asked to give clear pattas to the cultivators in which the revenue to be paid by them to the zamindars was specifically mentioned.
  3. The treasury was shifted from Murshidabad to Calcutta where it was placed under the charge of the Council of the Company.
  4. The supervisors, who were appointed in 1769, were given the title of collectors. They were given the direct responsibility of collecting the revenue. They had to remain in their respective districts. Naib Diwans were appointed in each district for the assistance of collectors. The districts were organized into six divisions, , Dacca, Burdwan, Calcutta, Murshidabad, Dinajpur and Patna. A revenue council was appointed in each division to supervise the revenue administration and justice concerning it. A deputy Diwani was appointed to help the revenue council in every division. Warren Hastings afterwards abolished the post of collector and his duties were also assigned to revenue council of the district.
  5. An Indian officer called Rai Raian was appointed to maintain the record of the revenue.
  6. An Accountant-General was also appointed.

In 1774, according to the orders of the Directors, annual agreement was made with the zamindars for the purpose of revenue. In 1780, Warren Hastings made some changes in the revenue administration. The revenue councils of the divisions were abolished. Instead, a revenue board, consisting of four members, was constituted. A Diwan was appointed for its assistance. The charge of the treasury was handed over to the Board. Every member of the Board received two percent of the collected revenue. Rai Raian was subordinated to the supreme council of the Company. The Indian Qanungos were reinstated and they were assigned all those rights which they enjoyed before.

The revenue reforms of Hastings suffered from certain serious defects. The land was assigned to the highest bidder while no agreement was made with them for the protection of the cultivators. The condition of giving pattas to the cultivators was not fulfilled by the zamindars. Mostly, the peasants were the sufferers on whom the final burden fell because the zamindars tried to extract maximum from them with a view to keeping as much as could be possible for themselves after paying the fixed amount to the Company. The second serious defect was that the revenue collectors had the right of dispensing justice as well. In such a case, justice was not possible for the cultivators. Besides, the English did not come in direct contact with the working of the revenue collection because they mostly depended on their Indian subordinates for it. Therefore, they failed to understand the defects of the revenue administration and were in no position to bring about any improvement therein. Yet, it is accepted that Hastings made the first serious attempt to improve the revenue system and, certainly, brought about some improvement.

Judicial Administration

Warren Hastings succeeded better in matters relating to justice. He introduced the following reforms:

  1. Two courts, the one for civil and the other for criminal cases, were established in every district.
  2. Two High Courts, the one Sadar Diwani Adalat and the other Sadar Faujdari Adalat, were established at Calcutta.
  3. The appeals of the district courts were sent to Sadar Adalats for final judgments.
  4. The civil cases were decided on the basis of community laws, e., in case of the Hindus, Hindu law and in case of the Muslims, Muslim law was applied. The criminal cases were decided according to Muslim law.
  5. The judges were paid fixed salaries and they were prohibited from taking presents so that they might remain just.

Besides, the following rules were framed for smooth working of justice,

All proceedings were to be recorded in courts of every kind; a time limit was fixed for all litigations; and, severe financial penalties were abolished from law.

The judicial reforms of Hastings, though imperfect, were certainly beneficial. Therefore, it has been said that “Hastings attempted to establish a just judiciary administration in India.”

A Supreme Court was also established at Calcutta after the passing of the Regulating Act in 1774. But, it was the Act of the British parliament. Its jurisdiction, relations with the Sadar Nizamat Adalat and the Sadar Diwani Adalat and the laws on which it had to decide the case were, however, not defined. So, instead of bringing about improvement, it adversely affected the judicial administration in Bengal, at least for some time to come.

Trade Reforms by Warren Hastings

Warren Hastings brought out certain reforms to facilitate trade in Bengal, such as:

  1. Dastaks or free passes under which the goods of the Company and its servants were exempted from dues were abolished.
  2. All minor custom houses were abolished. Custom houses were maintained only at five places, viz., Calcutta, Hugli, Murshidabad, Patna and Dhaka (formerly known as Dacca).
  3. The Company kept to itself the monopoly of trade over salt, betel nut and tobacco. These three articles were exempted from tax. A duty of 2½ percentage was charged on all other articles of both Indians and Europeans, including the English.

The trade reforms of Warren Hastings proved successful. Hastings also issued orders to the agents of the Company not to force the workers against their will or to receive personal share.

Warren Hastings, thus, attempted to bring about improvement in the administration of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa. Hunter remarked: “Hastings firmly laid the foundation of civil administration, on which the super-structure was raised by Cornwallis.” It is a partial truth as the reforms of Warren Hastings were just the beginning of the administrative measures of the English and did not affect much the common people.

Points to remember

  1. Warren Hastings carried out reforms in several fields of administration.
  2. He abolished “Dual Government” in Bengal, assumed direct responsibility of Diwani and took away the right of Nizamat as well from the hands of the Nawab.
  3. Initially, concerning revenue, he let out the land for the highest bidder for five years; asked the landlords to give pattas to the cultivators; transferred the treasury from Murshidabad to Culcutta; gave the Supervisors, henceforth called collectors, the direct responsibility of collecting the revenue; appointed naib Diwans to assist the collectors : organized the districts into six divisions; appointed revenue council and a deputy Diwan in each division; deputed the responsibility of maintaining the revenue records to Rai Raian; and, appointed an Accountant General.
  4. In 1774, the Directors directed that settlement with the landlords should be done annually.
  5. In 1780, Warren Hastings replaced the revenue councils of the divisions by revenue boards and Diwans.
  6. The revenue reforms of Warren Hastings suffered from certain serious defects, g., the system of giving lands to highest bidders without fixing the revenue to be paid by the cultivators resulted in their exploitation and justice was not possible for the peasants when revenue collectors and the right of dispensing justice as well.
  7. Concerning judiciary, Hastings established separate courts for civil and criminal cases in every district, constituted Sadar Diwan Adalat and the Sadar Faujdari Adalat at Calcutta, introduced community laws for dispensing justice and paid fixed salaries to the judges.
  8. In 1774, a Supreme Court was also established at Calcutta but it was by the order of the Directors.
  9. Concerning trade, Hastings abolished the use of free passes, while custom-houses were left to function only in five cities.
  10. The reforms of Warren Hastings, though suffering from certain defects, proved to be advantageous.

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

Tags : PDF for UPSC exam notes.

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Write a note on the various reforms introduced by Warren Hastings.

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