The aim of introducing history lessons in a mix of comic + bullet point sequences is not to reinvent the wheel. We know that most of you would anyway go through the regular history books but here’s an attempt to reinforce the essentials and make things interesting.
A lot had happened before Warren Hastings arrived at the scene in India (or shall we say, Fort William in Bengal). He was not the first governor under the company’s rule (that was Robert Clive) but he was one of the most imposing figures in our entire pre-independence history after East India Company started expanding in size.
Quick trivia: EIC used to have agents till before. Think of EIC as a private company in Britain along with many many other companies. These guys would show up in a Mughal court and with all the diplomatic wisdom intact and ask for tiny-miny concessions, financial discounts etc etc. all in the good faith of trade and commerce! One such guy, Job Charnock in 1690, purchased the city of Kalikatta which then became Calcutta (english swag!) and he fortified it with Fort William.
Okay, so what did Warren Hastings walk into?
- Well, the Battle of Plassey (1757) & Buxar (1764) had already sealed the fate of Indians – gone into the hands of the East India Company’s rule till about 1858 when British Crown said, “It’s time to hand this country over to us guys! You have botched it up enough.”
- But there was another mess up which had happened somewhere around 1773, when because of Company’s inept revenue management (Robert clive is to be blamed for that) & the infamous Bengal famine, they went into losses and was on a brink of bankruptcy!
- And this is where the first major constitutional change came in the company’s history and Warren Hastings was made the first governor general of Fort William after this major act was introduced.
The Regulating Act of 1773
- The British parliament bailed the fledgling company out of debt but instituted a *regulation of sorts* so that such inept revenue, justice and administrative mismanagement is not repeated again!
- The Gov of Bengal was made Gov General of Bengal. He was assisted by 4 people.
this 4+1 becomes the executive council (later called the govt of India).
- Now, this executive council in later acts will be supported by a legislative council. And these will grow big in course of time and form present days Parliament and Council of Ministers. After all we inherited a lot of stuff from these firangis only, right!
Was Warren Hastings any good?
- He was a badass in the sense that he fought many wars & had very elevated imperialistic tendencies. He looked like a guy in full sway of the white man’s burden. You know that term right?
- But he did a lot of good in terms of administrative policies and was a stickler for justice.
- He removed nawabs and zamindars from the corrupt & prejudiced judicial decision making.
- Every district now had a civil court under the Collector and a criminal court under an Indian judge. He also instituted higher courts and a Supreme court was set up in Calcutta (via the Regulating Act 1773).
- He also abolished the system of dastaks, or free passes and regulated the internal trade. He enforced uniform tariffs and instituted a uniform system of pre-postage stamps.
You know, you will be able to appreciate some of these systems which evolved since the time and are carried in the present day India. Of course there were more additions and subtractions over time and we who has what part to play in later stages!
In comes the Pitt’s Act of 1784 and here’s where things change a bit
We see the British Govt further tightening their grip on company matters.
They establish the Board Of Control (BOC). The BOC had 6 members including the Secretary Of State (Morley of Morley Minto, etc).
We don’t want to sweep you with the technicalities but what essentially happens now is that British government adds one more layer between the company’s director and itself.
In the next chapter of this series, we will read more about this Pitt’s Act and see what happens next.
PS: Feel free to ask questions or add important information down in the comments which can make this initiative more engaging.