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LORD WILLIAM BENTINCK (1828-1835)
LORD WILLIAM BENTINCK (1828-1835) Lord William Bentinck assumed the office of the Governor- General in 1828 . Born in 1774 he commenced his career as a soldier and later at the young age of twenty two he became a Member of Parliament. He was appointed the Governor of Madras in 1803. He supported Sir Thomas Munroe on revenue administration. The Vellore Mutiny of 1806 had resulted in Bentinck's recall . However, his appointment again to the higher office as Governor-General shows his real greatness. . As Governor-General, Bentinck had initiated an era of progress and reforms. He was undoubtedly the first Governor- General of British India who acted on the dictum that "the welfare of the subject peoples was a main, perhaps the primary, duty of the British in India"
Policy Towards Indian States William Bentinck adopted a policy of non-intervention and non- aggression with Indian states. If at all he interfered in the affairs of the Indian states, it was only to end any form of misgovernment and never to annex any territory.
Mysore In Mysore, Hindu rule under Krishnaraja Ill was restored by Wellesley. In the beginning, the young Raja functioned well along with his able minister Puranaiya. Later, when the young raja assumed full control of the government he proved incompetent The peasantry of the state suffered from many grievances. There was no redressal. Consequently, a revolt of the peasants broke out in 1830 and it was suppressed with the help of an army from Madras. Nonetheless, the British authorities took over the administration of Mysore State and placed it under the control of a commissioner. The Raja was given a pension.
Relations with Ranjit Singh Lord William Bentinck was the first Governor-General to visualise a Russian threat to India. Hence, he was eager to negotiate friendly relations both with the ruler of Punjab, Maharajah Ranjit Singh and also with the Amirs of Sind. . His earnest desire was that Afghanistan should be made a buffer state between India and any possible invader. . As an initial measure, an exchange of gifts took place between Lahore, the capital of Punjab and Calcutta, the seat of Governor-General. It was then followed by the meeting of Bentinck and Ranjit Singh o . The Governor-General was successful in winning the friendship of Ranjit Singh and the Indus Navigation Treaty was concluded between them. This treaty opened up the Sutlej for navigation. In addition, a commercial treaty was negotiated with Ranjit Singh. A similar treaty was also concluded with the Amirs of Sind.
Charter Act of 1833 Some important features . The English East India Company ceased to be a commercial agency in India. In other words, it would function hereafter as the political agent for the Crown. The Governor-General of Fort William was hereafter called 'the Governor- General of India'. Thus, Bentinck was the first Governor-General of India' ALaw Member was appointed to the Governor-General's Council. T. B. Macaulay was the first Law Member of the Governor- General-in-Council . The Act categorically stated 'that no native of India, nor any natural born subject of His Majesty, should be disabled from holding any place, office, or employment, by reason of his religion, place of birth, descent or colour". It was this enactment which laid the foundation for the Indianisation of public services. 03
Financial Reforms When Bentinck assumed the Governor-Generalship in 1828, the financial position of the Company was poor. The exchequer was very weak. The state budget showed a deficit of one million rupees. It became necessary on the part of the Governor-General to take effective steps to improve the financial condition. . He reduced the salaries and allowances of all officers and additional staff were removed. In the military department, he abolished the system of double batta. (Batta was an allowance to troops on active service.) By these financial reforms at the time of his departure, he left the treasury with a surplus of Rs.1.5 millions.
Administrative Reforms In the judicial department he abolished the provincial courts of appeal established by Cornwallis. They were largely responsible for the huge arrears of cases. This step was readily accepted by the Directors since it cut down their expenditure. . Another good measure of Bentinck was the introduction of local languages in the lower courts and English in the higher courts in the place of Persian. He launched the revenue settlements of the North West Province under the control of R.M. Bird. This settlement was for a period of 30 years and it was made either with the tillers of the soil, or with the landowners.
Abolition of Sati . The practice of sati, the age old custom of burning of widows alive on the funeral pyre of their husbands was prevalent in India from ancient times. This inhuman social custom was very common in northern India more particularly in Bengal. B entinck was greatly distressed when he received a report of 800 cases of sati in a single year and that from Bengal. He determined to abolish this practice which he considered an offence against natural justice. Therefore, he became a crusader against it and promulgated his Regulation XVlI on 4 December 1829 prohibiting the practice of sati. . Those who practiced sati were made liable for punishment by law courts as accessories to the crime. The Regulation was extended to the Madras and Bombay Presidencies in 1830
Female Infanticide Female infanticide was one of the horrible and heartless deeds committed even by civilized people. . This practice killing female infants was very much prevalent in places like Rajputana, Punjab, Malwa and Cutch. Bentinck took effective steps to prevent the ritual of child sacrifice at Saugar Island in Bengal. . He not only prohibited female infanticide but declared them as punishable crime
After Bentick After William Bentinck, Lord Auckland (1836-42) became Governor-General. The First Afghan War (1836-42) was fought during his administration. Due to his failure in Afghanistan he was recalled in 1842. Lord Ellenborough succeeded him and ended the Afghan War. He also annexed the Sindh. His successor, Lord Hardinge (1844-48) fought the first Anglo-Sikh War (1845-46) and concluded the Treaty of Lahore.