Montegu Chelmsford Reforms in India

What is Montagu-Chelmsford Reform in 1918? Main features and Drawbacks

British adopted various reforms to tackle circumstances and apply dominance over Indians. One of such reforms is the Montagu-Chelmsford reform. Edwin Samuel Montagu, the Secretary of State of India and Lord Chelmsford, Viceroy of India made some provision for the administration of India as their own will in 1917.

Later, in July 1918, the government announced some constitutional reforms of these provisions, these are known as Montagu-Chelmsford or Montagu Reforms. British always denied Indians and tried not to take Indians to be part of the administration, but Indians were stubborn to their demands. So, did, the government which had to take policy changes several times.

Important features of Montagu-Chelmsford reforms

Both the executive and legislative process of admiration were widely revamped. Some of the important changes were:

Introduction of Dyarchy

  1. The rule of dyarchy was introduced: One by the Executive councillors and the other by popular ministers. Governor was responsible for executive matters and he was head of these types of matters.
  2. For better administration, all the subjects were divided into two broad categories: (i) Reserved and (ii) Transferred. Law and order, finance, land revenue, irrigation etc. are under the reserved list and education, health, local government, industry, agriculture, excise, etc. were in the transferred list.
  3. Governor would administer the reserved subjects through his executive council of bureaucrats and elected ministers among the nominated list would administer subjects under transferred subjects. To maintain popularity no-confidence motion was introduced, if any minister lost in the no-confidence motion by a legislator, he had to resign.
  4. The secretary-general of India and governor-general of India could interfere both in the reserved and transferred list but in a restricted manner.
  5. In the case of constitutional failure, the governor could take over the administration of reserved as well as transferred subjects.
  6. Executive councillor had the power to administer reserved subjects but they could not get into the legislature.
  7. The governor-general had the power to restore, discard the cuts in grants, certify bill rejected by central legislators.
  8. Among the member of the viceroy’s executive council of eight, three were from Indians.
  9. The actual power laid in the governor-general including reserved subjects. Actually, there existed two types of administration at the same time; Central and Provincial.

Introduction of Bicameral Legislature

  1. For the first time, the Bicameral Legislature was introduced. It has two houses; 1. Lower House and 2. Upper house. 145 members would be in the lower house of Central Legislative Assembly out of them, 41 nominated, 104 elected, 52 General, 30 Muslims, 2 Sikhs and 20 specials.
  2. The upper house consisted of 60 members, of which, 26 nominated, 34 elected, 20 general, 10 Muslims, 3 Europeans, 1 Sikhs.
  3. The legislator had the power to take participate in debate,  ask questions, pass adjourned motions. Still, 75% of the budget was out of voteable.
  4. The tenure of members of the central legislative assembly or lower house was 3 years while for the Council of states or upper house it was 5 years.

Drawbacks of Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms

  1. First and foremost, the division of the subject into two lists was not satisfactory. At the level of provinces, the division of subjects and the working of two parallel admiration was not functional.
  2. Most conflicts between ministers and bureaucrats were around financial matters.  Sometimes bureaucrats didn’t consult with ministers and the governor overruled ministers’ opinions.
  3. The allocation of seats was not on population but on the importance of provinces on various matters, for example, Mumbai had more importance because it commercially yielded and Punjab was an important military place.

Response of Congress on Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms

Congress express disappointment and said they are biased and unsatisfactory as the involvement of Indians were very less and demanded local self-government.

B.G Tilak termed it as “unworthy and disappointing – a sunless down.” Many said even Annie Basant found the reforms unworthy of England to offer and India to accept.  

View and comments about the Montagu-Chelmsford reforms

  1. M.K. Gandhi said, “ The Montagu Reforms… were only a method of further draining India of her wealth end of prolonging her servitude.”
  2. Subhas Chanda Bose said – “The Government of India act forged fresh letters for the people”. Based on Montagu-Chelmsford reforms Government of India act 1919 was introduced.”
  3. According to Lord Curzon, “When the Cabinet used the expression ‘ultimate self-government they probably contemplated and intervening period of 500 years.
  4. Dr. Rutherford and British member of parliament commented – “Never in the history of the world was such as hoax perpetrated upon a great people as England perpetrated upon India when in return for India’s invaluable service during the War, we gave to the Indian nation such a discreditable, disgraceful, undemocratic, tyrannical constitution.”

Read Also: Why there was a rise of nationalism in India after the First World War?

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