Q.1. Read the following passage carefully and answer the questions that follow: Buchanan described the ways in which the Jotedars of Dinajpur in North Bengal resisted being disciplined by the Zamindar and undermined his power: The Jotedars who cultivate large portions of lands are very refractory. They know that the Zamindars have no power over them. They pay only a few rupees on account of their revenue and then fall in balance almost every Kist (instalment), they hold more lands than they were entitled to by their Pottahs (deeds of contract). Should the Zamindar’s Officers in consequences, summon them to the Cutchery and detain them for one or two hours with a view to reprimand them, they immediately go and complain at the Fauzdarry Thana (Police Station) for imprisonment and at the Munsiff’s (a Judicial officer at the lower court) Cutcherry for being dishonoured and while the causes continue unsettled, they instigate the petty Ryots not to pay their revenue consequently.
(i) Mention the various ways in which the Jotedars of Dinajpur resisted the authority of Zamindars.
(ii) Describe the ways in which the Jotedars undermine the power of Zamindars.
(iii) Mention how the Zamindars reprimanded the defiant Jotedars.
Ans. (i) The Jotedars resisted the authority of Zamindars in the following ways:
(a) They paid only few rupees as revenue and then fell in balance for almost every instalment.
(b) They held more land than what was given to them as Pottahs.
(c) In case of summoning, they approached the Police Station against Zamindar.
(ii) The Jotedars undermined the power of Zamindars by having more money power and thus had more influence over the villagers. They instigated Ryots not to pay revenue in case they had any grievances against the Zamindars.
(iii) Zamindars reprimanded them by taking them to Cutchery and keeping them for longer hours.
Q.2. “After introducing the Permanent Settlement in Bengal, the Zamindars regularly failed to pay the land revenue demand”. Examine the causes and consequences of it.
Ans. The British introduced the system of Permanent Settlement in Bengal. They thought that the fixed revenue would imbibe a sense of security and assured returns on their investments and improve the Estates among Zamindars. But the Zamindars regularly failed to pay the revenue, which resulted in accumulation of unpaid balances.
The Zamindars failed to make regular payments of revenue due to various reasons. Initially, the rate of revenue was very high and was fixed. The East India Company had thought that it would never be able to claim a share in the increased income from land if at any stage, the prices rose or the cultivation expanded. The Company also argued that the burden on the Zamindars would slowly come down with increase in agricultural production and the prices of agricultural products.
The amount of revenue was fixed during the period of economic depression. This demand was fixed in the 1790s, a time when the agricultural produce was less and the Ryots found it difficult to pay their dues to the Zamindars. As such, the Zamindars were unable to pay the revenue to the East India Company. Since the revenue was fixed and had to be paid punctually even if the harvest was not good, there was the enforcement of Sunset law. If any Zamindar did not make the payment before the sunset on the specific day, his Estate was auctioned.
The Permanent Settlement had reduced the power of the Zamindars to collect rent from Ryot. Though the Company recognised the Zamindars as important, it wanted to control and regulate them, subdue their authority and restrict their autonomy. The Zamindar’s troops were disbanded, custom duties abolished and their Cutcheries (courts) brought under the supervision of the collector of the Company. They also lost the power to organise local justice and local power.
Over time, collector became important. Rent collection was a perennial problem. Sometimes, bad harvest and low prices were the reasons for not paying the dues, else Ryots intentionally delayed payments. Rich Ryots and village Headman were happy to see the Zamindars in trouble and Zamindars could not exert their powers over them.
Q. 3.Examine the main aspects of the Fifth Report which was submitted to the British Parliament in 1813.
Ans. The Fifth Report was the report on the administration and activities of the East India Company in India that was submitted to the British Parliament in 1813. It was the fifth in the series of the report submitted on the administration and activities of the East India Company in India. It ran into 1002 pages of which 800 pages were petition of Zamindars and Ryots, reports of collectors, statistical tables on revenue returns and notes on the revenue and judicial administration of Bengal and Madras written by officials.
From the time the Company established its rule in Bengal in the mid 1760s, its activities were closely watched and debated in England. There were many in England who were opposed the monopoly that the East India Company had over trade with India and China, who wanted the revocation of the Royal Charter that gave the Company this monopoly. Moreover, the private traders wanted a share in Indian trade and the British Industries were keen to open up the Indian market for British manufacturers. Many political groups argued that the conquest of Bengal was benefiting only the East India Company but not the British National.
Information about Company’s misrule and maladministration was hotly debated in Britain and incidents of the greed and corruption of Company officials were widely publicised in the Press. The British Parliament passed a series of Acts in late 18th century to regulate the rulers of the Company in India. The Acts forced the Company to produce regular reports on the administration of India and appointed committees to enquire into the affairs of the Company. The Fifth Report was one such report produced by a selected committee. Thus, it became the basis of intense Parliamentary affairs on the nature of the East India Company’s rule in India for more than a century.
Though the evidence is invaluable, we need to remember who wrote the reports and for whom. The recent researches show that the Fifth Report exaggerated the collapse of Zamindari system and overestimated the lands that Zamindars lost. Even when Zamindaris were auctioned, Zamindars were not displaced, given the indigenous methods they used to retain their Zamindaris.
Q.4. Read the following passage carefully and answer the questions that follow:
A Newspaper Report
The following report titled ‘The Ryot and the Moneylender’, appeared in the Native Opinion (6 June, 1876) and was quoted in report of the Native Newspapers of Bombay. They (the Ryots) first place spies on the boundaries of their villages to see if any Government officers come and to give timely intimation of their arrival to the offenders. They assemble in a body and go to houses of their creditors, and demand from them a surrender of their bonds and other documents, and threaten them in case of refusal with assault and plunder. If any government officer happens to be approaching the villages where the above was taking place, the spies give intimation to the offenders and the latter disperse in time. i. Describe how Ryots took control over the moneylenders ? ii. Explain the measures taken by the Ryots to save themselves. iii. Explain why Ryots resorted to robbing the moneylenders.
Ans. i. Since the Ryots were more in number, they took control over moneylenders by the representation of larger numbers. They used to demand the moneylenders to surrender the bonds and threatened them of assault and plunder.
ii. The Ryots had their spies stationed at the outskirts of village who would inform the Ryots of arrival of any British officials. In case the officials were approaching the place where the agitation against moneylenders was taking place, the spies would inform them beforehand and the Ryots would disperse before the officials arrival.
iii. Ryots resorted to robbing the moneylenders because they were under extreme pressure of paying the rent, even though the price of cotton was very low. Since, they were not paying the dues, the moneylenders refused to give them further loans and even if they gave, moneylenders charged high interest rates and resorted to fraudulent practices.
Q.5. Examine the land revenue system that was introduced in Bombay Deccan. How did the Peasants fall into the debt-trap of the moneylenders? Explain.
Ans. Land Revenue System – The revenue system that was introduced in the Bombay Deccan came to be known as the Ryotwari Settlement. According to the Ricardian theory, a landowner should have a claim only to the average rent that prevailed at a given time. When the land yielded more than this ‘average rent’, the landowner had a surplus that the State need tax. If the tax was not levied, cultivators were likely to turn into rentiers and their surplus income was unlikely to be used productively for the land.
Many British officials in India thought that the history of Bengal confirmed Ricardo’s theory. Zamindars seemed to have turned into rentiers leasing out land and living on the rental incomes. It was, therefore, necessary to have a different system. The revenue system that was introduced came to be known as Ryotwar Settlement where the revenue was directly settled with the Ryot unlike the Bengal system.
The average income from different types of soil was estimated, the revenue-paying capacity of the Ryot was determined and then a proportion was fixed as the share of the State. The land was resurveyed every 30 years and the revenue increases. Therefore, the revenue demand was no longer permanent. Peasants fell into debt-trap – The first revenue settlement in the Bombay Deccan was made during the 1820s.
The revenue was high and peasants deserted their villages and migrated to new villages. In areas of poor soil and fluctuating rainfall, the problem was particularly acute. When rains failed and harvests were poor, peasants found it impossible to pay the revenue. However, the collectors-in-charge of revenue collection were keen on demonstrating their efficiency and pleasing their superiors.
So, they went about extracting payment with almost severity. When someone failed to pay, his crops were seized and a fine was imposed on the whole village. By 1830s, the problem became more severe. Prices of agricultural products fell sharply after 1832 and did not recover for over a decade and a half. At the same time, the countryside was devastated by a famine that struck in the years 1832-34.
Unpaid balances of revenue mounted. Inevitably, they were forced to borrow from moneylender. But once a loan was taken, the amount was not paid and peasants’ dependence on moneylenders increased. They even needed money to take care of their everyday needs.
Q.6. Write a note on Deccan Riots Commission. What role is played by official reports of East India Company in reconstructing the history of Colonial India?
Ans. When the revolt spread in the Deccan, the Government of Bombay was initially unwilling to see it as anything serious. But the Government of India, worried by the memory of 1857, pressurised the Government of Bombay to set up a commission to investigate into the causes of the riots. The commission produced a report that was presented to the British Parliament in 1878.
This report, referred to as the Deccan Riots Report, provides historians with a range of sources for the study of the riot. The commission held enquiries in the districts where the riots spread, recorded statements of Ryots, Sahukars and eyewitnesses, compiled statistical data on revenue rates, prices and interest rates in different regions, and collated the reports sent by District Collectors. 4 By looking at such sources we have to remember that they are official sources and reflect official concerns and interpretations of events. The Deccan Riots Commission, for instance, was specifically asked to judge whether the level of government revenue demand was the cause of the revolt.
After presenting all the evidence, the Commission reported that the government demand was not the cause of peasant anger. It was the moneylenders who were to blame. This argument is found very frequently in Colonial records. This shows that there was a persistent reluctance on the part of the Colonial government to admit that popular discontent was ever on account of government action. Official reports, thus, are invaluable sources for the reconstruction of history But they have to be always read with care and juxtaposed with evidence culled from newspapers, unofficial accounts, legal records and, other sources.