Public Administration

Historical Context of Indian Administration


Administration in India can be traced as old as to the known history of the Indus Valley Civilisation which is about 5000 years old. It has one of the first evidence of India civilisation
and culture. But major development in this field happened during the Magadha, Mauryan and the Gupta Ages.

Major Characteristics of Mauryan and Gupta Administration

Kautilya’s Arthashastra written in Sanskrit from 321 to 296 B.C., is a political treatise on ancient Indian political. Arthashastra examines statecraft and put forth the theories and principles for effective governance. Kautilya was Minister under Chandragupta Maurya and thus gives an account of State administration and the rule of the Mauryan kings.

  • Arthshastra’s principles of Public Administration are as follows-
    • welfare orientation
    • unity of command
    • division of work
    • coordination
    • planning, budgeting and accounting
    • decentralisation
    • merit-based recruitment
    • paid civil service
    • hierarchy
    • delegation of authority
  • Mauryan administration had to perform two types of functions carried out by by organized and elaborate governmental machinery. They were-
    • maintenance of law and order, the security of property and person and defence against internal and external aggression
    • welfare services

The Mauryan king was all-powerful and everything was done in his name. The King was assisted
by the Council of Ministers(‘Parishad’) and the ‘Sabha’ of learned men. The administrative system was a close combination of military force and bureaucratic despotism. For effective governance, the Mauryan empire was divided into a 4 to 5 Provinces under the direct control of the central government through a Viceroy. The provinces, however, had “feudal-federal type” of the organisation but also had considerable autonomy. The provinces were further divided into districts and districts into villages with officials in charge at all levels. The city also had its own government with two separate courts for civil and criminal matters.

A unique feature of Mauryan administration was that the State not only performed the role of administration but also act as an agent of social transformation. A new class of officials, called ‘dharma maha mantras’ carried out the policy of moral regeneration of the people. Ashoka, one of the great Mauryan King, had set up a Ministry of Morals in this government.

Major Characteristics of Mughal Administration

  • The Mughals build up a ‘monolithic administration’, with greater centralization. The Mughal Emperor symbolized the state and was the source of all power and the fountain-head of justice.
  • The bureaucracy of the administrative machinery was unstable. It was not based on merit but depended on the whims and fancies of the king. Recruitment of top-level officials was majorly done on the basis of religion, caste, kin, heredity and personal loyalty to the king.
  • The primary duty of the officials was to maintain law and order against internal and external aggression and revenue collection.
  • Mughal bureaucracy was essentially military in character.
  • Officials were called Mansabdars and were classified into 33 grades. The grades rang from Commanders of 10 to those of 10,000 soldiers.

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