(Published in Garhwal Post)
These days are real run up days to the forthcoming general elections and while almost every subject seems to be being discussed primarily in terms of its vote-attracting capacity, to find a possible dismemberment of our Good Old Uttar Pradesh into no less than four parts, as one such a topic , at times appears a bit difficult to digest. Doesn’t it ?
The First Province
Almost every other day one reads erudite articles on the desirability and/or viability of four smaller States vis vis a bigger one, comparison between the United States of America with a population nearly one fourth of India but with more than twice the number of federating States, and so on. In passing, such pieces also allude to progress made by Uttarakhand after it parted company with its parent State and contrast the same with the deterioration Jharkhand has suffered since its parting hand-shake with Bihar. The permutations and combinations seem to be endless and this piece is not supposed to be yet another one of the same genre. It seems only the other day when we were a part of that Mother of a State, bigger than a country of the size of Pakistan, as one of the World Bank expert had once quipped during a Seminar in Lucknow. “ World Bank has realized,” this lady expert had confided with some of us during a break, “ that if the World Bank wishes to be acknowledged as a change-agent it had to demonstrate its change-making capabilities in a State of the size and complexity as Uttar Pradesh. If things change in Uttar Pradesh only then it is worth a mention, not otherwise.”
Like the proverbial Caste System of India, which has absorbed and consumed all reforming attempts at eliminating it but ultimately surrendering to its all conquering “touch”, Uttar Pradesh likewise seems to have had the last laugh ! That really flagged what Uttar Pradesh meant to India, and what India in turn really needed to pay attention to, in the first place. If today partitioning Uttar Pradesh into four parts seems to be the only solution left for addressing the multiple- challenges Uttar Pradesh poses to every one, this seems to beg the question why it is so, and how things have come to such a pass. Is it “Balkanization” of Uttar Pradesh, as some one has quipped ? Was Uttar Pradesh ever one single entity, was it a single homogenous whole ever ? Uttar Pradesh commenced its journey of being moulded as an administrative entity as an ‘outgrowth” of the biggest Presidency of the East India Company territories, the Bengal Presidency. Its piece-meal expansion, that is how it just grew and grew, adding disparate parts, some won from an enemy at war, some wrested by way of compensations for self-assumed protection provided to unwilling Nawabs, from time to time. While it never was meant to be an administrative innovation it ended up becoming the ever First Province, in the modern sense, of modern India. First, it was attempted as the Fourth Presidency, the Presidency of Agra ( 1834-36 ), it soon was downgraded to a Lt Governorship, cut in size and importance, and made the First Province – the North West Provinces, with its headquarters at Agra in 1836.
North Western Provinces ( June 1836 )
From 1793, when Raja of Benares handed over revenue administration of his Raj to the British Agent, introducing the new revenue administration commenced in Bengal, this ‘outgrowth’ first consumed first the fertile Ceded districts lying along the Ghagra ( 1801 ), Conquered districts from the Scindias (1803 ) and of course, experienced its closest shave in its confrontation with the Gorkhas ( 1815 ). Lord Moira’s Journal, published only after interest in Indian affairs again excited the English after the Great Sepoy upheaval in 1858, graphically tells us how this Gorkha War nearly cost them what was to later become the Jewel in the Crown. This accretion, the British Kumaon, in itself was to become another administrative innovation, the first Non –Regulation ‘Province’, even before creating the First Province ( the NWP ) in 1836. This period also gave the East India Company administration its first Native State, a Kingdom restored to its erstwhile Native ruler. Ironically, the genesis of Non-Regulation ‘provinces’ lay in sudden shortage of covenanted civil servants to administer the Regulation Provinces. British Kumaon became the first such Non-regulation ‘province’, where covenanted civil servants excelled, to be outshined by military personnel who opted to serve in civil capacity. It was in 1833 that with the renewal of Charter to the East India Company, the office of Governor General of India became effective, and the concept of Government of India came into existence. Before Lord Bentinck, the Governor General, left India in 1835, he had introduced a land settlement different from the old one, the Permanent Settlement of Bengal, a gift of Lord Cornwallis. The North West Province, in the main differed from the Bengal Presidency provinces of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa, in its land revenue system, in its periodical revenue settlements.
This new, modern land settlement, was the harbinger of the rights of land-holders, the sub-proprietors, which old Bengal never experienced. The conscientisation, triggered by the land revenue settlement perfected by Commissioner Mertinns Bird, produced a crop of officers, who later modernized the North Western Provinces, led and patronised by James Thomason, the founder of the Roorkee Engineering College. It was the same James Thomason, who ushered in the Vernacular schools, established the Tehsili schools, built irrigation canals.
Death of Raja Ranjit Singh, in 1839, and accession of the Kingdom of Punjab, opened the way towards the west, right through to annexation of the Sindh. This dominance of the Punjab, and thus the entire North India, along the Himalayan foothills, emboldened Lord Dalhousie, who annexed first Jhansi and later Oudh, and threw entire Rohilkhand and parts around Delhi into a chaos, lasting more than a year. Thus the next two decades, 1836 to 1858, found the province change its name to United Province of Agra & Oudh, and Lord Canning, the Governor General, shifting its headquarters from the Fort of Agra, to Allahabad. The United Provinces of Agra & Oudh, meant an amalgamation of yet another kind of administration, over and above the mix of Regulation and Non-regulation. The Oudh Chief Commissioner, maintained a separate identity, maintained a different code of governance. So, within a period of six decades, the United Provinces encompassed within its territories, a set of Rules called Regulations, another, Non-regulation tracts like Kumaon, Jhansie and Oudh, were Non-Regulation; and Oudh tracts continued to retain its peculiarities till the early 1870s, i.e. till the Chief Commissioner Oudh office was merged with that of the Governor of the Province. As late as in 1901, the United Provinces Code, was a testimony of a complex mix of administrative mechanism, which went by the name of the United Provinces of Agra and Oudh. As the name itself suggested, like the United Kingdom, the United Provinces, was united not only in name , but represented a mix of administrative mechanisms, harking back to their respective administrative past.
Those who have read G.R.C. William’s Memoirs of Dehradun and P. Whalley’s the Laws of Extra Regulation Tracts ( re published by this writer ) would recall that but for the complexity of laws and regulations, existing in these parts in post Mutiny period, these seminal works may not have seen the light of the day ! P. Whalley and GRC Williams were civil servants deputed to compile the position of laws and regulations which prevailed in these parts , right from the early East India Company days, and these publications were used to later bring out the Scheduled Districts Act, 1874; used right up to 1935, to provide protection and continuation to the laws enacted during the early days of introduction of the East India Company rule.