Lord Ripon was Viceroy of India from 1880 to 1884. Gladstone, after coming into power, chooses Ripon and sent him to India as a Viceroy. Therefore, Ripon was the representative of Gladstone. He had a strong belief in the laisse-fair, virtues of peace, and self-government.
Lord Ripon had a different perspective towards India than other Viceroys. Gladstone explained his policy towards India:
“Our title to be in India depends on a first condition, that our being there is profitable to the Indian natives; and on a second condition, that we can make them see and understand it to profitable”
Reforms brought by Lord Ripon in India
The First Factory Act, 1881
In 1875, a committee was appointed to examine the conditions of factory work in the country. This committee brought some important changes in the factories.
And in 1881, Lord Ripon passed the First Factory Act. This act prohibited the employment of children under the age of seven. The number of working hours are limited for children below twelve. It also required that dangerous machinery should be fenced.
This act provided one hour of rest during the working period and four days’ leave in a month for the workers. Inspectors were also appointed to supervise the implementation of these measures.
This was the first time when the British Government tried to improve the working conditions of laborers in factories.
Financial Decentralization, 1882
Lord Mayo introduced the policy of financial decentralization, which was followed by Lord Ripon. Lord Ripon decided to increase the financial responsibilities of the provinces.
The sources of revenue were divided into three classes: Imperial, Provincial, and Divided.
- Imperial Heads: Revenue from Customs, Posts, and Telegraphs, Railways, Opium, Salt, Mint, Military Receipts, Land Revenue, etc. were included in the imperial head. The Central Government was expected to meet the expenses of central administration out of this revenue.
- Provincial Heads: Revenue from Jails, Medical slices, Printing, Roads, General Administration, etc. were included in the provincial heads. As the income from provincial heads was insufficient for provincial expenses, a part of Land revenue was allocated to the provinces.
- Divided Heads: The revenue from Excise, Stamps, Forests, Registration, etc. was divided in equal proportion among the Central and Provincial Governments. The system of Divided Heads begun by Ripon remained operative till it was changed by the Reforms of 1919.
Repeal of Vernacular Press Act
Lord Lytton had imposed restrictions upon the newspapers published in Indian languages by the Vernacular Press Act. Vernacular newspapers were not allowed to publish anything likely to cause dissatisfaction among the people against the government.
In 1882, Lord Ripon repealed the Vernacular Press Act. It allowed equal freedom to the Indian Press. The repeal of this Act made Ripon popular in India and also he got the unending gratitude of the people of India.
>>> Read about History of Newspaper in India
Local Self Government (Resolution of 1882)
In 1882, Lord Ripon introduced the Local Self Government. This scheme developed the Municipal institutions, which had been growing up in the country ever since India was occupied by the British Crown.
Local Self-Government was given to the rural and urban bodies and the elective people received some wider rights. It was not enacted by any act. It was a resolution passed in 1882.
Hunter Education Commission 1882-83
In 1882, Lord Ripon appointed the Hunter Commission under the leadership of William Wilson Hunter.
William Wilson Hunter was the statistician, a compiler, and a member of the Indian Civil Service, who later became Vice President of Royal Asiatic Society.
The Hunter Commission brought out the default of the primary and secondary education in the country. The commission recommended that: the responsibility for Primary Education must be given to the Local Boards and Municipal Boards.
The major recommendations were as follows:
- The government should take proper care to increase primary education.
- There should be literary and vocational training in secondary education.
- The commission brought out inadequate facilities available for female education in the country.
The recommendations were partly executed and there was a slow growth in the number of secondary schools in the country.
Ilbert Bill, 1884
This bill aimed to abolish the racial prejudice from the Indian Penal Code. Ripon had offered an amendment for existing laws in the country and to allow Indian judges and magistrates the jurisdiction to try British offenders in criminal cases at the District level. It was never happened before.
Europeans living in India looked it as a Humiliation. This bill faced intense opposition and was withdrawn in 1884.
The amended bill had the provisions that the Europeans would be given on European and Indian District Magistrates and Sessions Judges alike.
However, a defendant would in all cases have the right to claim trial by a jury of which at least half the members must be European. Thus, this enactment held that Europeans criminals would be heard only by the Indian Judges “helped by the European Judges”.
The passage of this bill opened the eyes of the Indians and deepened hatred between the British and Indians. The result was wider nationalism and establishment of Indian National Congress in the 1885.
The amended Ilbert Bill was passed on 25 January 1884, as the Criminal Procedure Code Amendment Act 1884. It came into force on May 1, 1884.