Wednesday, 13 February 2013

How Macaulay is still shaping modern India

As a member of Indian Administrative service  since 1980 , I  had been looking for a long time a book on Macaulay  , to know about the man who was  responsible , more than any one else , in the creation of Indian Civil Service,drafting of elegant Indian Penal Code , introduced English as a medium of education at grassroots.I am happy that I finally found the book I was looking for .Zareer Masani  has written this absolutely delightful and profound book on Macaulay (Macaulay:Pioneer of India's Modernization, 2012,Random House India:, 269 pages ,Hard cover).After reading  it , I love Macaulay , and I hate him at the same time .Born on October 25,1800 , he died on December28,1859.
                        A few things strike the reader as one progresses through the book ;
1.Macaulay was  always reading  books inluding classics and popular novels.His favourite author was Jane Austen.He rated Northanger Abbey higher than all the works of Dickens and Pliny put together.He had a daily reading session before breakfast. "Ï would rather be a poor man in a garret with plenty of books than a king who did not love reading.".
2.Macaulay never married .He loved his sisters , Margaret and Hannah.
3.Macaulay was a reviewer , essayist and writer.The Lays of Ancient Rome is one of his best remembered books..He was in constant communication with the editor of the Edinburgh Review.
4.He firmly believed in the education of the governed."To trade with civilized men is infinitely more profitable than to govern savages."
5.He was a Westernizer as against Orientalists.
6.If one person is to be named who was responsible for creation of  professional Indian Civil Service , recruited on the basis of an examination , it is undoubtedly Macaulay.
9.He regularly wrote his daily diary.
                           Macaulay was closely involved  in the drafting of The Charter Act of 1833.It effectively nationalized the East India Company and created government of British India(Governor -General -in -Council, based in Calcutta).This Council was accountable to the British Crown..Macaulay was nominated Law Member of the Governor-General's Council in August , 1833.
                         Macaulay ridiculed Indians and  Hindu Gods.He described Ganesh",ä fat man with a paunch like Daniel Lambert's(the fattest man in England), an elephant's head and trunk , a dozen hands , and a serpent's tail" And this is what he felt about Indian music:"the national music of India is most deplorably bad . . .Whether the boatmen or the bearers make the more horrible noise , whether the vocal or instrumental music be the worse , I cannot decide."
                  Macaulay unleashed his famous Education Minute in 1835(when he was about 35 years old) in which he advocated for the need  for English as opposed to Indian Vernacular languages.In this he set the objective of creating a class who may be interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern ;a class of persons, Indian in blood and colour, but English in taste, in opinions , in morals, and in intellect.Here is his much quoted dictum:"who can deny that a single shelf of a good European library was worth the whole literature of India and Arabia"."Public money was henceforth to be spent on imparting to the native population a knowledge of English literature and science through the medium of English language.
                             Macaulay was appointed President of Law Commission for framing a comprehensive Criminal Code for the British India .They prepared the draft of Penal code by 1837.But it was only in 1860 , 22 years after it was written  , that the India Penal Code was finally enacted into law .It came into operation in 1862.It was war of Independence(The Great Mutiny) of 1857 which brought out the urgent need for enacting the new Criminal Code.
                                       Macaulay was a member of the Parliamentary Select Committee which drafted the India Bill of 1853.Its most important provision was the recruitment by open and competitive examination of Indian Civil servants.After passing the Act in 1853, the government set up a special committee with Macaulay as Chairman  , to supervise the implementation of the new system of civil service exams.The first advertisements for the new exam appeared in the London Times in January , 1854.
                     Macaulay has made India the world's second largest English speaking country , second only to the United States of America.
                      Zareer Masani has done  rigorous research  and done full justice to Macaulay in this first biography of this very influential and outstanding shaper of modern India .The book is fascinating and reveals very lucidly how Macaulay is still shaping India , and will continue to shape India .His influence is for ever.