Thursday, April 28, 2011

MUGHAL LAND REVENUE SYSTEM


MUGHAL LAND REVENUE SYSTEM


INTRODUCTION

The central feature of the agrarian system under the Mughals was the alienation from the peasant of his surplus produce (produce over and above the subsistence level) in the form of land revenue which was the main source of state's income. Early British administrators regarded the land revenue as rent of the soil because they had a notion that the king was the owner of the land. Subsequent studies of Mughal India have shown that it was a tax on the crop and was thus different from the land revenue as conceived by the British. Abul Fazl in his Ain-i Akbari justifies the imposition of taxes by the state saying that these are the remuneration of sovereignty, paid in return for protection and justice.
The Persian term for land revenue during the Mughal rule was mal and mal wajib. Kharaj was not in regular use.

The process of land revenue collection has two stages:

(a) Assessment (tashkhis/jama)

(b) Actual collection (hasil).

Assessment was made to fix the state demand. On the basis of this demand, actual collection was done separately for kbarif and rabi crops.

METHODS OF LAND REVENUE ASSESSMENT

Under the Mughals assessment was separately made for kharif and rabi crops. After the assessment was over a written document called patta, qaul or paul-e-qarar was issued in which the amount or the rate of the revenue demand was mentioned. The assessee was in return supposed to give qabuliyat i.e. 'the "acceptance" of the obligation imposed upon him, stating when and how he would make the payments'.

We will discuss here a few commonly used methods:

1)
Ghalla Bakhshi (Crop-sharing): In some areas it was called bhaoli and batai. The
Ain-i Akbri notes three types of crop-sharing:

a) Division of crop at the threshing floor after the grain was obtained. This was done in the presence of both the parties in accordance with agreement.

b) Khet batai: The share was decided when the crop was still standing in the fields, and a division of the field was marked.

c) Lang batai: The crop was cut and stacked in heaps without separating grain and a division of crop in this form was made.

In Malikzada's Nigarnama-i Munshi ,crop sharing has been mentioned as the best method of revenue assessment and collection. Under this method, the peasants and the state shared the risks of the seasons equally. But as Abul Fazl says it was expensive from the viewpoint of the state since the latter had to employ a large number of watchmen, else there were chances of misappropriation before harvesting. When Aurangzeb introduced it in the Deccan, the cost of revenue collection doubled simply from the necessity of organizing a watch on the crops.

2)
Kankut/Dambandi The word kankut is derived from the words kan and kat. Kan denotes grain while kat means to estimate or appraisal. Similarly, dam means grain while bandi is fixing or detemining anything. It was a system where the grain yield (or productivity) was estimated. In kankut, at first, the field was measured either by means of a rope or by pacing. After this, the per bigha productivity from good, middling and bad Iands was estimated and the revenue demand was fixed accordingly.

3) Zabti: In Mughal India, it was the most important method of assersment. The origin of this practice is traced to Sher Shah. During Akbar'r reign, the system was revised a number of times before it took the final shape.

Sher Shah had established a rai or per bigha yield for lands which were under continuous cultivation (polaj), or those land which very rarely allowed to lie fallow (parauti). The rai was based on three rates, representing good, middling and low yields and one third of the sum of these was appropriated as land revenue. Akbar adopted Sher Shah's rai. Akbar introduced his so-called karori experiment and appointed karoris all aver North India in 1574-75. The entire jagir was converted into khalisan. On the basis of the information provided by the karoris regarding the actual produce, local prices, productivity, etc. in.1580. Akbar instituted a new system ain dhasals, where the average produce.of different crops as well as the average prices prevailing over the last ten years were calculated. One third of the average produce was the state's minimum share. Under karori experiment, measurement of all provinces took place. Bamboo rods with iron rings called tanab were used instead of hempen ropes. On the basis of productivity and prices prevailing in different regions they were divided for revenue purposes into dastur circles. The rates of assessment in cash for each crop in every dastur were decided, and the demand was f ixed accordingly. The main features of the zabti system as it finally came into operation under Akbar were:

i) measurement of land was essential

ii) Fixed cash revenue rates known as dastur for each crop.

iii) All the collection was made in cash.

From an administrative point of view, zabtl system had some merits:

i) measurement could always be rechecked;

ii) due to fixed dasturs, local officials could not use their discretion; and

iii) With fixing the permanent dasturs, the uncertainties and fluctuation in levying the land revenue demand were greatly reduced.

There were some limitations of this system also:

i)
 It could not be applied if the quality of the soil was not uniform;

ii) If the yield was uncertain, this method was disadvantageous to peasants because
risks were borne by them alone. Abul Fazal says, "If the peasant does not have the strength to bear zabti, the practice of taking a third of the crop as revenue is followed."

iii) This was an expensive method as a cess of one dam per bigha known as zabitana was given to meet the costs towards the maintenance of the measuring party;and

iv) Much fraud could be practiced in recording the measurement.

Zabti system
was adopted only in the core regions of the Empire. The main provinces covered under zabti were Delhi, Allahabad, Awadh, Agra, Lahore and
Multan. Even in these provinces, other methods of assessment were also practiced, depending on the circumstances of the area.

Revenue farming

Ijara syrtem or revenue farming war another feature of the revenue system of that time. Though, as a rule Mughals disapproved of this practice, in actual fact certain villages were sometimes farmed out. Generally, these villages, when peasant did not have resources available for undertaking cultivation or where owing to some calamity cultivation could not be done, were farmed out on ijara. The revenue officials or their relatives were not supposed to take land on ijara . It was expected that revenue farmers would not extract more than the stipulatedl land revenue from the peasants. But this was hardly the case in actual practice.

The practice of ijara, it seems, could not have been very common in the zabti provinces, Gujarat and the Mughal Dakhin. In the khalisa lands also this practice was very rare. However, in the jagir lands it became a common feature. Revenue assignees (jagirdars) farmed out their assignments in lieu of a lump sum payment, generally to the highest bidders.
Sometimes jagirdars sub-assigned part of their Jagirs to his subordinate/troopers.
During the 18th century
ijara system became a common form of revenue assessment and collection.

MODE OF PAYMENT

The practice of collecting land revenue in cash was in use in some regions even as early as the 13th century. In the Mughal period, the peasant under zabti system had to pay revenue in cash. No provision is on record for allowing a commutation of cash into kind in any circumstances. However, under crop-sharing and hankut, commutation into cash was permitted at market prices. Cash nexus was firmly established in almost every part of the Empire.

COLLECTION OF LAND REVENUE

Under ghalla bakhshi, the state's share was seized directly from the field. In other systems, the state collected its share at the time of harvest. Abul Fazl maintains that "Collection shou!d begin for rabi from holi and for kharif from Dashehra. The officials should not delay it for another crop”

In the kharif season, the harvesting of different crops was done at different times and the revenue was accordingly to be collected in three stages depending on the type of crops. Thus, under kharif the revenue could only be collected in instalments.The rabi harvest was all gathered within a very short period. The authorities tried to collect revenue before the harvest was cut and removed from the fields. By the end of the 17th century, the authorities in desperation started preventing the peasants from reaping their fields until they had paid their revenue. Irfan Habib comments:
"It shows how oppressive it was to demand the revenue from the peasant before the harvest, when he would have absolutely nothing left. The practice was at the same time the work of a well developed money economy, for it would have been impossible to attempt it unless the officials expected that the peasants would pay up by pledging their crops before hand to grain merchants or moneylenders".

Usually, the revenue was deposited in the treasury through the 'amil' or revenue collector. Akbar encouraged the peasants to pay directly, Todar Ma1 recommended that the peasants of trusted villages, within the time limit, could deposit their revenue in the treasury themselves and could obtain receipt. The village accountant, patwari made endorsement in his register to establish the amount paid. Irfan Habib considers there regulations as precautionary measures on the part of administration to avoid fraud and embezzlement.

RELIEF MEASURES

Abbas Khan in the Tarikh-i-Sher Shahi writes, "Sher Shah declared that concessions could be permitted at assessment time, but never at that of collection". Aurangzeb in his farman to Muhqmmad Hashim kararori, instructed that no remissions were to be allowed once the crop had been cut.

Whatever be the method of revenue assessment, there was some provision for relief in the care of bad harvests. In ghallaa bakhshi and kankut, state's share would rise and fall depending upon the current harvest. In zabti, relief was given by excluding the area designated nabud from assessment.
In practice, it was not possible to collect the entire amount, and there was always a balance which was to be collected next year. It also seems to have been a common practice to demand the arrears, owed by peasants who had fled or died, from their neighbors. Aurangzeb issued a hasb ul hukm in A.D. 1674-75 to check this practice in khalisa and jagir lands, arguing that no peasant could be held responsible for arrears contracted by others.

Taqavi (strength giving) loans were granted to enable the peasants to buy seeds and cattle. Abul Fazl writes, "the amalguzar should assist the empty handed peasants by advancing them loans". Todar Ma1 had suggested that taqavi should be given to cultivators who were in distressed circumstances and did not have seeds or cattle. These loans were interest-free, normally to be repaid at the time of harvest. These were advanced through the chaudhris and muqaddams. Abul Fazl says that the loans
should be recovered slowly.New wells were dug up and old ones were repaired for extension and improvement of cultivation.

LAND REVENUE ADMINISTRATION

We get ample information about the revenue machinery for khalisa lands. But our information for Jagir administration is quite scanty. Since Jagirdars were transferred after every two or three years they had no knowledge of revenue paying capacity of the people and local customs. So we find three types of officials:

a) Officials and agents of jagirdars;

b) Permanent local officials many of whom were hereditary. They were generally not affected by the frequent transfers of the Jagirdars, and

C) Imperial officials to help and control the Jagirdars

At the rural level, there were many revenue officials

i
) karori: In 1574-75, the office of karori was created. Describing his duties, Abul Fazl says that he was incharge of both assessment and collection of the revenue. An important change took place during Shah Jahan's reign. Now amins were appointed in every mahal and they were given the work of assessment. After this change, karori (or amil) remained concerned chiefly with collection of revenue which amin had assessed.

The karori was appointed by the diwan of the province. He was expected to look after the interests of the peasantry. The accounts of the actual collection of the karoris and their agents were audited with the help of the village patwari's papers.

ii) Amin: The next important revenue official was amin. As we have already mentioned, that the office of amin was created during Shah Jahan's reign. His main function was to assess the revenue. He, too, was appointed by the diwan.He was responsible jointly with the karori and faujdar for the safe transit of the collected revenue. The faujdar of the province kept a vigilant eye on the activities of amin and karori . He also used to recommend their promotion.

iii) Qanungo: He was the local revenue official of the pargana, and generally belonged to one of the accountant castes. It was a hereditary post, but an imperial order was essential for the nomination of each new person.

Nigarnama-i Munsbi
 holds qanungoo responsible for malpractices because "they have no fear of being transferred or deposed." But a qanungoo could be removed by an imperial order if he indulged in malpractices, or on account of negligence of duty. He was supposed.to maintain records conarning revenue receipts, area statistics, local revenue rates.and practice and customs of the pargana. It was generally believed that if a qaaungo was asked to produce the revenue records for the previous hundred years, he should be able to do so.

The Jagjrdar's agents were generally unfamiliar with the locality; they usually depended heavily on the information supplied to them by the qanungos.

The qanungoo was paid 1% of the total revenue as remuneration, but Akbar started paying them salary.

iv) Chaudhari: He was also important revenue official like the qanungo. In most
cases he was the leading zamindar of the locality. He was mainly concerned with the collection. He also stood surety for the lesser. Zamindars.

The Chaudhari distributed and stood surety for the repayment of the taqavi loans.He was a countercheck on qanungo.

From Dastur-ul amal alammgiri it appears that the allowance to the Chaudhari was not very substantial. But it is possible that he held extensive revenue free (inam) lands.
v) Shiqqdar: Under Sher Shah, he was the incharge of revenue collection and maintained law and order. In Akbar's later period, he seems to be a subordinate official under the karori . Abul Fazl mentions that in case of an emergency, the shiqqdar could give the necessary sanction for disbursement which was to be duly reported to the court. He was also responsible for thefts that occurred in his jurisdiction.



vi) Muqaddam and Patwari: The muqaddam and patwari were village level officials.
The former was the village headman. In lieu of his services; he was allowed 2.5 percent of.the total revenue collected by him.,The patwari was to. . maintain records of the village land, the holdings of the individual cultivators, variety of crops grown and details about fallow land. The names of the cultivators were entered in his bahi (ledger). On the basis of information contained in these bahis, the bitikchi used to prepare necessary papers and records according to which assessment and collection was carried out.

In each pargana, there were two other officials-the foujdar or khazandar (the treasurer), and karkun or bitikchi (the accountant). Under Sher Shah, there wen two karkuns, one for keeping the records in Hindi and the other in Persian. But in A.D. 1583-84 Persian was made the sole language for accounts.

The fauJdar represented the military or policy power of the imperial government.
One of his main duties was to help the jagirdar or amil in collecting revenue from the zortalab (refractory) zamindars and peasants.

There were
waqai naivs, sawanih nigar (news writers), etc., whose duty was to report the cases of irregularities and oppression to the centre.

Conclusion

The land revenue was the main source of the state's income. The British administrators regarded it as rent of the soil, and thought that the owner of the land was the king, but subsequent studies have shown that it.was a tax on the crop rather than on land.
The salient features of the Mughal land revenue system may be summarised as follows :

a) The magnitute of land-revenue demand varied from region to region;

b) A number of methods were used to assess the land revenue demand. Though zabti was the most important method of revenue assessment, other methods, like , ghalla bakhshi, and kankut were also prevalent.

c) The special feature was that in most cases (at least in the. zabti provinces), revenue was realized in cash, thereby giving impetus to monetization and market economy.

d) Relief was provided at the time of natural calamity. The state used to give concessions in the form of nabud, and advanced loans called taqavi, and,

e) A large number of officials were associated with the administration of land revenue. Some of the important functionaries were karori, amin, qanungo,
  chaudhuri, shiqqdar, fotadar, bitikchi, diwm, faujdar, waqai navis sawanih nigar, etc.

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