Montagu-Chelmsford Report

Montagu-Chelmsford Report appeared in the summer of 1918, aiming at introducing partial responsible government in the provinces of British India. In view of the magnificent war services of the people of India, the Lucknow communal concordat of 1916, and the increasing pressure of the Indian nationalists to remedy the inadequacy of the reforms of 1909, the secretary of state for india, Edwin Montagu (1917-1922) made a momentous declaration in the House of Commons on 20 August 1917 stating that the policy of the British government was to increase the number of Indians in every branch of the administration, and the gradual development of self-governing institutions with a view to the progressive realisation of responsible government in India as an integral part of the British Empire.

In pursuance of the policy laid down in the announcement, Montagu toured India in the winter of 1917-18 in companywith Lord Chelmsford, the viceroy of India (1916-1921). The result of the tour and exchange of views appeared in the summer of 1918 in the shape of a report usually called the Montagu-Chelmsford Report, which was considered to be the first comprehensive study on the whole problem of Indian government. The recommendations of the report were faithfully embodied in the Government of India Act of 1919, which introduced partial responsible government in the provinces.

Although the report frankly admitted the backwardness of the vast majority of the Indian people, it held the opinion that indirect election to the provincial legislature must give place to direct election on as wide a franchise as might prove practicable. It urged the political intelligentsia to devote themselves to the immense task of educating their country as a whole to the new political life and especially to breaking down the social and communal barriers which obstructed its development. After a thorough review of the Hindu-Muslim schism that made parliamentary government as understood in England unworkable in India, it favored, as a practical solution, the continuation of separate electorates introduced by the Act of 1909.

On the administrative side, the most important feature of the scheme was the adoption of the principle of 'dyarchy' by which the functions of the government were divided vertically between 'reserved' and 'transferred' departments. The 'reserved' departments were to be administered by the governor in council responsible to the Crown, while the 'transferred' departments were to be administered by the governor acting on the advice of ministers who were elected members of the legislature and were amenable to the control of that body. Main departments transferred to the ministers were agriculture, industries, public works (excluding irrigation), local self-government, public health and education. The 'dyarchy' principle remained in force till its replacement by the Government of India Act, 1935 that was implemented in 1937. [Enayetur Rahim]