The complex job of a Dewan - British India

Indian independence &

 The  Dewan, also known as Diwan,  was originally a Persian word  widely used in India  under the British crown. In  the Mogul empire, the Dewan served as the Chief Revenue officer of a province.  When most  vassal   states   gained   various   degrees   of self-determination and  autonomy, the finance minister  or chief minister and  leader of  many  princely states  especially  Muslim and also many Hindu came to be referred to as Dewan.   In  the  major Maratha kingdoms of  Baroda , Gwalior,  Indore (ruled by Holkar), and  Nagpur (ruled by Bhonsle, but not from the  Chhatrapati Shivaji family),  the highest  officer after the king was called the Dewan.
Statue of Sir Seshadri Aiyar,
 bove image:  Sir Seshadri Aiyar, the Dewan of Mysore for 18 consecutive years (1883 to 1901) was an illustrious administrator. He was a lawyer by profession. Regarded as the longest serving Devan of Mysore, he was instrumental in developing Bangalore city. The statue  in front of the State Central Library (also called Cubbon Library). unveiled by the then Viceroy and Governor General, Lord Charles Baron Hardinge of Penshurst on the November 20, 1913...........
Under the Raj  there were two types of territories - British India and the Native states or Princely States as per British Interpretation Act of  1889.  The term princely state specifically refers  to a semi-sovereign principality on the Indian subcontinent during the British Raj  that was  not  directly  governed  by  the British,  but rather by a local ruler under a form of indirect rule.  However, when there was a succession to the throne was a problem because the legal heir happened to be a minor or the ruler, in alliance  was himself  inefficient,  the British rulers would interfere and appoint an agent or a Dewan.  Dewan appointed to  the troubled  princely  states  would  run  the administration  till a suitable ruler from the ruling royal family was able to take care of the kingdom on his own.

Dewan V.P. Madhava Rao.
Under the British rule higher positions in the Administrative and executive fields  were occupied only by British civilians and in some places by British Army officers.  In those days it was difficult for Indian natives to aspire  for higher jobs in the British government.  In the early 19th century, the highest positions open to Indians were of subaltern in nature. However,  few high court judgeships were open to Indian and on non judicial side,  the highest post an Indian could think of was a sub Collector or Secretary to the board of revenue. The British rulers later allowed Indians to take up Dewanship to deal with the problem-ridden princely states.  Many Indians availed themselves  of this rare opportunity and served the Indian sates with distinction. Mention  may be  made of  such stalwarts as Sir. Madhava Rao, Sir. Dinakar Rao, Sir Slar Jung, Sir Seshadri Aiyar,  Sir. Seshyya Sastry (of Pudukottai smasthanam), Sir. C.P. Ramaswamy Aiyar,  Sir Ranga Charulu, Sir Srinivasa Ragahava Iyengar, et al. These luminaries served the states  efficiently,  despite various odds and won a lasting name for themselves in the respective princely states. 

The  administrative work of a Dewan in the troubled princely state was  a difficult one and his position a  complex one.  He must be  through with knowledge of fields related to his administrative work, quick and proper  decision making, friendly relations  with the royal family fair amount of resilience in matters related to people and above all a strong conviction of purpose, foresight and commitment  in the execution of his duties

The following are the hurdles the Dewan had to handle with care:

01. The person must have good sills in public relationship and has the ability to decipher the psychology of people he is dealing with. The foremost thing is he has to initially develop  a cordial relationship with his nearest officers  attache with his office and be friendly with the other members of the royal families. 

02. People of  the state will be under the impression the Dewan is vested with all regal power and authority. Hence,  he will hog the limelight more than the real ruler.

03. The Maharajah, being a mere head of the state and the Dewan has authority over many matters, the real credit goes to him and  for his administration.  

04. The ruler has to rely entirely on him and may become jealous  or develop animosity, if the Dewan is overbearing.

05. With real intention,  if the Dewan implements some useful welfare or civilian projects for the benefit of the state, all credits will go to him, creating a situation where the Maharajah's  skill will be subject to criticism.

06. Since the Dewan is appointed by the British Government, he is supposedly their  protege on one side,  and at the same time, the British will keep an eye on him and if, need be, warn the ruler of certain risks and advise him  not to be too close to him and be dependent on him.

07. The Dewan, being the administrative head on behalf of the ruler, has to use his discretionary powers carefully.  Because if  a big project, devised and executed by him, goes wrong he will be discredited. 

08.  The Dewan has to be watchful of those close relatives of Maharajah  or officers who want to displacthe Dewan or succeed  him to enjoy powers and all  the trappings that go with this powerful position.

09. The Dewan  has to take care of those relatives close to the ruler who might expect some monetary benefits from him by way of some favors such as certain contract works, etc.

10. More often than not, the Dewan will be subjected to severe criticism, slanderous remarks, disgusting rumors  and even nepotism by some members of the royal families  if their requests for concessions  in some financial matter are  rejected by the Dewan. He may be accused of being autocratic and arbitrary.

The eminent Indians who held the Dewanship on orders from the British Government invariably succeeded in their job. In spite of  several obstacles and difficult situations, they got a good name on their own and won the appreciation of the ruler and people of the state and the  Paramount Power.  

11. So, to take  the  troubled state forward out of  financial mess and leave it with surplus funds, the Dewan needs the full cooperation of the ruler and the senior officers close to him.  

Dewan  Seshayya Sastr was the builder of modern  Pudukotta  (Pudukottai), Tamil Nadu.  so was Sir Seshadri  Aiyar of  modern  Mysore (Karnataka). Like wise  Sir. Salar Jung and Sir. C. P. Ramaswamy Aiyar, as  Dewans,  introduced lots of reforms in the states of Hyderabad (now part of Telengana) and Travancore (now Kerala state)  respectively and ran the administration effectively. These administrators and  also others of exceptional ability are the  lasting examples for the present and succeeding generations of Indian statesmen  upon whose administrative skills and integrity modern India will firmly rely.