Reforms of Lord Dalhousie (1848-1856) in India

Lord Dalhousie was an imperialist as well as an efficient administrator. By adopting the policy of empire-expansion, he increased the extent of the British Empire in India and the company became the supreme power of India.

Various Reforms made by Lord Dalhousie

In order to organize and modernize the vast empire, he brought unnecessary reforms in every part of the administration and tried to make the British Empire stable and strong. Dalhousie adopted the policy of reform to make the British rule in India accountable to the people and increase the authority of the British. Dalhousie is also called ‘the builder of modern India’.

1. Administrative Reforms of Dalhousie

Dalhousie’s reign lasted for eight years. He did many important works towards reforming the Indian administration. For the first time in 1854, a separate lieutenant-governor was appointed for the Bengal province. The commissioners were directly responsible to the governor-general. Arrangements were made to organize the various departments of the Central Government and control them by the Governor-General. The provincial government was responsible to the Governor-General and his council. Under the provincial government, there was peace and order, collecting taxes and deciding criminal cases. Public welfare work was placed under the central government. In the provincial governments, arrangements were made to run the work by at least the officials. The chief officer of the district had to perform the works related to administration, revenue and police departments. There were no fixed laws before the District Collectors or Commissioners. Normally they worked under the orders of the Governor-General. Dalhousie’s main objective was to consolidate the authority of the central government.

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2. Military reforms of Dalhousie

At the time of Dalhousie, the British Empire expanded from Bengal to Punjab and Sindh. There was administrative difficulty in controlling Punjab, Sindh or North-Western provinces from Bengal. The British wanted to establish an empire in Asia. Therefore, it became necessary to organize the soldiers from the point of view of expansion of empire and peace and order. The permanent center of the Calcutta soldiers was shifted to Shimla. Shimla was a hilly state and a suitable place for the British from the point of view of military security and climate. Calcutta

The artillery was removed from it and brought to Meerut. The deployment of a large number of Indian soldiers could pose a threat to the British Empire. Therefore, Dalhousie wanted to increase the number of British or European soldiers by reducing the number of Indian soldiers. The number of Indian soldiers was reduced. But despite the decrease, the number of Indian soldiers in 1856 was 2,33,000, while the number of European soldiers was only 45,000. Dalhousie wanted to have more European soldiers than Indian soldiers. According to Dalhousie’s proposal, three new regiments of British soldiers were prepared. Dalhousie opposed the sending of the European Regiment from India to China and Persia. A new army was formed in Punjab. Gurkhas were recruited into the Company’s army. Gurkha soldiers were encouraged to join the Company’s army. Gorkha soldiers proved more useful to the British in 1857.

3. Establishment of railway, telegraph and postal department

The establishment of railways, telegraph and postal departments was necessary for the security of the Company’s extensive empire in India. Dalhousie first paid attention to the development of means of transport. He got the Grand Trunk Road rebuilt and started the system of sending rail and telegraph. The means of communication were developed keeping in mind the security of the company. But, its far-reaching result was beneficial for the people of India. Dalhousie first started the work of construction of a new railway. The work of construction of railways was given on contract to the British. The work of laying railway lines from Bombay to Thana, Calcutta to Raniganj and Madras had started at the time of Dalhousie.

Dalhousie established the Indian postal system in 1852 AD. Before Dalhousie the postal-telegraph system was very faulty. The rate of postage was different in different regions. More tax was collected from the general public by the postal workers. But Dalhousie brought uniformity in the postage rate by passing the ‘Post Office Act’ in 1854. In any part of India, postage could not be collected for more than two paise till half a tola. A Director-General was appointed for the postal department and post offices were established in different places. , Like the postal telegraph department was also established. About 4000 miles of wire system was established to connect Peshawar, Calcutta, Bombay, Madras and other major cities. A telegram was arranged from Rangoon to Mandalay in Burma.

The British rulers benefited from the postal and railway system. The British Empire became more strong due to the convenience of transport and transport. The British Empire was protected by the use of scientific means and the common man also got convenience. It became easy to send news from one corner of India to another.

4. Establishment of Public Service Department

The management of the civil service-building department was earlier under the Sainik Board. Dalhousie established a separate public service-building department. The Chief Engineer was the head of the Public Service-Construction Department. Adequate funds were sanctioned to this department and the responsibility of works like roads, bridges, canals, education etc. was entrusted. Hundreds of engineers were appointed to assist the Chief Engineer. Engineering colleges were established in Roorkee, Madras, Bombay and Calcutta. The Grand Trunk Road was rebuilt. Dalhousie had started the work of removing the canal from the Ganges river. Many canals were built in Punjab. In this way, Dalhousie increased the responsibility of the government by establishing the Public Service-Building Department and started the work of public welfare. Agriculture benefited from the construction of canals.

5. Commercial reforms

Dalhousie supported the free trade policy. He made all the ports of India free for trade. The ports of Karachi, Bombay and Calcutta were expanded and improved. Light pillars were built in these ports. Arrangements were made to move more and more ships to and from the port. Dalhousie encouraged the cultivation of tea, cotton etc. Arrangements were made to send raw materials from India to England and finished goods from England started being sent to India. The British benefited more from the progress in trade.

6. Social reform under Lord Dalhousie

Dalhousie also did social reform work. The Indians who had converted to Christianity earlier, did not get any share in the ancestral property. But in 1850, Dalhousie made a law and secured the right on the ancestral property to the Hindus who accepted Christianity. Widow marriage was given legal recognition in 1855. Discontent spread in India as a result of interference in social and religious life and Dalhousie’s social reform sowed the seeds of the revolution of 1857 AD.

7. Educational reforms

For the education system in India, a committee was established by the Government of England, whose head was Charles Wood. In 1854 AD, the report of Charles Wood was prepared. On the basis of Wood’s report, universities were established in Calcutta, Bombay and Madras in 1857. Many colleges were affiliated to these universities. The main work of the university was examination-conduct. Degree and Intermediate education was given in colleges. Below the colleges were the vernacular and high schools. Education in the school was given in the provincial languages ​​and in the colleges the medium of instruction was the English language. Government grants were also given to non-governmental organizations. One government school was established in each district. The Director General of Education was the manager of the Education Department, under whom several inspectors lived. The promotion of education inculcated the feeling of nationalism, unity and independence among Indians.


The goal of Dalhousie’s reform plan was to fulfill the security and interests of the British Empire. He made the British Empire the supreme power through reforms. The income of the government increased. Responsible governance system was started. A new nationality emerged in India as a result of the development of means of transport and transportation. The establishment of political unity became possible. Directly, Dalhousie’s reforms proved beneficial for the British Empire. Dalhousie had dissatisfied the Indians by neglecting public sentiment, religious customs and tradition. Behind the work of public welfare also, the welfare of Britain and the British was the main basis of Dalhousie’s policy. It is true that Indians also benefited from Dalhousie’s reform plan later. Therefore, in this context, Dalhousie is called the ‘builder of modern India’.

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