Mackenzie, Sir Alexander

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Mackenzie, Sir Alexander (1842-1902) a civilian and Lieutenant Governor of Bengal from December 1895 to April 1898. Educated at Grammar School, Birmingham and Trinity College, Cambridge, Mackenzie arrived in Calcutta as an ICS member in December 1862. Before he became the Lt Governor of Bengal, Alexander Mackenzie held many high positions of administration including Home Secretary to the Government of India, 1882; Chief Commissioner of the Central Provinces, 1887; Chief Commissioner of Burma, 1890 and Member of the Supreme Council, 1895.

Sir Alexander Mackenzie was the Lt Governor of Bengal only for 28 months in all. During this period, he was on leave of absence in England for six months. His virtual two years of administration had witnessed nothing remarkable other than several natural calamities over which he had no control. The famine of 1896-97 was the principal event of his time. The successive failure of monsoon rains caused heavy damage to crops, and consequently Bengal was visited by a terrible famine to which thousands of peasants fell victims. The earthquake of 12 June 1897 had shaken the whole of Bengal, particularly eastern Bengal. Many long and wide fissures appeared throwing out vaporous water and sands. Kancha houses and pucca buildings were extensively damaged. Extensive damages were done to roads and highways, bridges and culverts. The operation of the Eastern Bengal State Railways remained suspended for a long time due to the damage done to its tracts and establishments. The total number of reported deaths was 135. An epidemic plague broke out in several district towns including the city of Calcutta in April 1898. A human calamity in the form of a Hindu-Muslim communal riot that broke out in Calcutta (30 June and 1 July 1897) on demolition of an alleged mosque by a Hindu zamindar was another tragedy of Mackenzie's administration.

In managing all these calamities, Mackenzie showed extraordinary abilities and was never blamed of any negligence whatsoever. He, however, incurred unpopularity with the Marwari community of Calcutta. It was because he banned the organised rain-gambling custom among them. Bets were made on the occurrence of rain within a certain time. Mackenzie suppressed it not on moral ground (the British loved lotteries and gambling), but because it led frequently to law and order problem for the Calcutta police. Mackenzie retired on the ground of ill health and left for home in 1898. He became chairman of the India Development Company, London. He died on 10 November 1902. [Sirajul Islam]