Permanent Settlement Of Land Revenue Of Bengal, 1793 - British Economic Impact In India UPSC Notes | EduRev

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PERMANENT SETTLEMENT OF LAND REVENUE OF BENGAL, 1793

  • The settlement was made with the zamindars who were given proprietary rights over land with the condition that in case of a defalcation, a part of their land could be disposed of by the State to realise its dues.
  • The State being relieved of all ownership rights, it could not claim any feudal dues such as the succession fee.
  • The rates fixed with the zamindars were double the rates that obtained in 1765, on the plea that the permanent settlement would not entitle the State to any share in the future increase of production and prosperity.
  • All judicial powers were taken away from the zamindars.
  • They were made free in their relations with the ryots on the condition that they would give them pattas. If a zamindar violated a patta given to his ryot, the latter had the right to go to a court of law against him.
  • The permanent system thus introduced had its merits as well as demerits. Among the merits one nay count:
  • That the system introduced by Cornwallis was no hasty measure. The matter had been discussed in the time of Hastings; it had been discussed among the Directors and the Parliament. Pitt, the Prime Minister, Dundas the President of the Board of Control and many other statesmen of the time gave their blessings to it.
  • As a result of this system the income of the State was considerably increased, as the rates fixed were double the rates that obtained in 1765.
  • Yet the expenditure involved in periodical settlements, and on the army of officials constantly kept busy in the revenue matters, was now considerably cut down.
  • The Company officers could now sit calmly in contentment, for cultivation or no cultivation the tax once fixed had to be paid and the Company was sure of its annual income, and of the time it would accrue and be realised.
  • The Company in India was short in supply of experienced and trained officers. The permanent settlement relieved a large number of them to be available for other duties, and the Company could now give serious attention to the administrative reforms in the country.
  • The zamindars, whether they, had any locus standi or not, were at the time the only people who counted in the society. The ryots had no voice, and an organised class of intellectuals had yet to take its birth. If the zamindars were mollified the whole people were calm, and the British could hope for peace to reign the whole length and breadth of the country. But if they were dissatisfied, they could arouse the common man, and make it difficult for the British to rule. They had developed a position which just could not be ignored. By making a settlement with them on permanent lines the British created in the country a class of people who for their very existence depended on them and therefore formed a loyal section of the society which could stand by them through thick and thin.
  • Prior to the Permanent Settlement there was no stability in the agricultural profession. Already in 1772 there had been a lot of dislocation when land was farmed out for five years to the highest bidders and many hereditary zamindars were sent adrift into the streets. Thereafter, yearly settlements left everybody guessing as to what would come next. Nobody was sure of his future and therefore there was discontentment, disaffection and lack of concentration on the job. These evils were now removed.
  • Periodical settlements dampened the spirit of reforms. For the moment an increase in production was shown, it would come to the notice of the appraising officials and in the next settlement a major part of it would be mopped up. The zamindars the farmers and ryots everybody was afraid of applying his mind to the land. Now when the rates were permanently fixed, the increase in production was expected to remain with those who worked. It gave them inducement to work and to invest in the improvement of land.
  • The State interference into the private lives of the zamindars at times such as of new successions when a succession fee would have to be paid was stopped.
  • If the State could not participate in the increasing prosperity of those who worked hard on the land for the State rates were fixed once for all it could benefit indirectly through entertainment taxes and the taxes on other economic activities such as trade which were bound to develop with the devel opment of the agricultural produce.

Facts To Be Remembered

  • Lord William Bentinck recorded in 1834, “The misery hardly finds a parallel in the history of commerce. The bones of the cotton weavers are bleaching the plains of India.”
  • In his book, Poverty and the Un-British rule in India, Dadabhai Naoroji tried to quantify the magnitude of the drain but also sought to demonstrate that the poverty of Indians was the direct consequence of the draining of wealth from India by the Britishers.
  • “It is not the pitiless operation of economic laws but it is the thoughtless and pitiless action of the British policy, it is the pitiless eating of India’s substances in India and further pitiless drain of England. In short, it is the pitiless perversion of economic laws by the sad bleeding to which India is subjected that is destroying.”—Dadabhai Naoroji
  • ‘Home charges’ were amounts remitted to England for ‘services rendered’ in India.
  • Dadni merchants, were employed as paid agents to render exclusive service to the company.
  • In 1853 when the cotton textile factories were started in India, the Manchester Chamber of Commerce appealed to the Government of India to identify itself with “the cause of civilization, justice and Christianity.”
  • John Sullivan, President of the Board of Revenue, Madras, remarked, “our system acts very much like a sponge, drawing up all good things from the banks of the Ganges and squeezing them on the banks of the Thames”.
  • “The armour of the isolated self-sufficient village was pierced by the steel, rail, and its life blood ebbed away”—D.H. Buchanan.
  • The system was introduced all over the State and it gave it uniformity. The judicial po- wers were taken away from the zamindars and this brought about a two-fold advantage. Whereas— on the one and, it left zamindars free to apply themselves to agriculture, on the other hand, it introduced an efficiency in the system of justice when it was transferred into the hands of those who were trained for this job.
  • Lastly, its supporters said if the system showed a bias towards the zamindars it did not completely overlook the interests of the ryots. The zamindars had to grant them pattas and if they encroached upon their rights, the ryots could straightway go to a court of law and fight for their protection.

The advantages of the Permanent System, thus, were varied and many. But it had darker side as well:

  • The settlement was not made with the real proprietors of the land and the position of a zamindar was not in every case clearly defined. In the initial stages therefore there was a lot of litigation against the Government and amongst the people themselves which ruined many a family.
  • The rates fixed were high. Those who could not pay had to see their lands snatched away and sold off by the State. In this way many were dispossessed of their hereditary profession.
  • Those who could withstand the pressure of the State demand at the earliest stage by dint of hard work and industry later on grew rich, deserted their villages and settled in the cities as absentee landlords, a class of parasites who lived on land but who never looked after it.
  • The absentee landlords appointed their agents who collected rent from the ryots and this brought about subfeudation and created a class of intermediaries another set of parasites who increased the burden on the ryots through all sorts of legal and illegal exactions.
  • The pattas were not always granted by the zamindars to the ryots and where they were granted they were never properly followed. The law permitted the ryots to go to a court of law for their protection against the zamindars but it gave them neither the means to do so nor the contacts which the zamindars enjoyed and could manipulate at will.
  • Settlement was made with zamindars who were mere revenue farmers. The ryots real owners of the land became homeless in their own homes. Such justice was never heard of before.

Ryoatwari Settlement

  • In the ryotwari areas of Madras and Bombay presidencies the mistake made in Bengal of creating a class of landlords was avoided and settlements were made either with individual cultivators or collectively with the village bodies consisting of cultivating proprietors. Reed and Munro recommended that settlement should be made directly with the actual cultivators.
  • The settlement under the Ryotwari system was not made permanent. It was revised periodically after 20 to 30 years when the revenue demand was usually raised.
  • The proprietor could mortgage, sell or transfer these rights to anyone he pleased.
  • In most areas the land revenue fixed was exorbitant; for instance, in Madras the Government claim was fixed as high as 45 to 55 per cent of the gross production. The Government retained the right to enhance land revenue at will.

Mahalwari System

  • It was introduced in the Gangetic Valley, the North-West provinces, parts of Central India, and the Punjab.
  • The revenue settlement was to be made village by village or estate by landlords. In the Punjab a modified Mahalwari System as the village system was introduced.
  • The condition of the agriculturalist were very bad. Sir William Hunter observed in 1880 that 40 millions of population go through life on insufficient food, and Sir Charles Elliot wrote  in 1887 that “half of our agricultural population never know from year’s end to year’s end what it is to have their hunger fully satisfied.”
  • A country-wide economic enquiry ordered by Lord Dufferin in 1887 to “ascertain the truth behind the general assertion that the greater proportion of the population of India suffer from a daily insufficiency of food”, confirmed the correctness of the views expressed by Hunter and Elliot.
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