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Land Revenue in Madras, Excluding Malabar and South Canara.
Government demand at the end of the period to the same
1 Land cess first appears.
holdings, summary and expeditious methods were necessarily adopted. Individual cultivators were never allowed a chance of proving what total produce they obtained from their fields, what the expenses of their cultivation were, and what nett income remained to them. It was often assumed, in a general way, that one-third of the total produce should cover the cost of cultivation. It was assumed that 28s. covered the cost of cultivating an acre of good land, and 128. was all that was allowed for cultivating an acre of ordinary arenaceous sandy soil. Every cultivator in Madras knew, and Englishmen with any experience of the Province knew, that this was inadequate.”1
It was on such inaccurate calculations, made collectively for vast areas of the country, that the Government assessment was based. It was then proclaimed to the puzzled cultivator, who often found that the assessment really swept away the greater portion of the nett income from his field. But he had no right of appeal to any independent tribunal; he must either pay the assessed tax or quit his ancestral field.
But it was not the Madras cultivator alone who was puzzled. The successors of Sir Charles Wood, who had laid down the clear rule of 1864, were no less puzzled by the method in which it was ignored in practice. Lord Hobart, Governor of Madras, proposed in 1874 to close the settlement operations altogether, and to revert to a simpler method. And Sir Louis Mallet, Under Secretary. of State for India, recorded two long and suggestive minutes exposing the absolute want of any guiding prin
1 Mr. Bowden, a landlord of considerable experience, wrote on December 5, 1895, to the Collector of his District : “'The idea that the cost of cultivating an acre of poor land is less than the cost of cultivating a better class of land, is purely mythical.” Mr. Master wrote in his report on the Western Delta, paragraph 79: “I cannot ascertain that the outlay on the poorer soil is much smaller than the richer.” Mr. Meyer wrote: “The tendency to make the cultivation expenses roughly proportionate to the value of the land is one'of the weak points of the Settlement Department." And the Madras Board of Revenue, in their Resolution of December 6, 1900, paragraph 36, wrote : "Nor does it assert that the gradation of expenses in proportion to produce is absolutely accurate in all its details.”
ciple in the Madras operations. We will quote one significant passage from the first of these minutes.
SIR LOUIS MALLET'S MINUTE. “In a return to the House of Commons in 1857 on Indian Land Tenures, signed by Mr. John S. Mill, I find the following general statement : ‘Land throughout India is generally private property subject to the payment of revenue, the mode and system of assessment differing materially in various parts.
“On the occasion to which I have already referred, viz., the correspondence with Madras in 1856, the Court of Directors emphatically repudiated the doctrine of State proprietorship, and affirmed the principle that the assessment was revenue and not rent; the revenue being levied upon rent, as the most convenient and customary way of raising the necessary taxation, which in a self-contained country, possessed of vast undeveloped agricultural resources, is perhaps the soundest, simplest, and justest of all fiscal systems.
“Sir C. Wood, in 1864, reaffirmed this principle, but went beyond the Court by fixing the rate of assessment at 50 per cent. of the nett produce, fully recognising, however, that this was merely a general rule, and that in practice the greatest possible latitude must be given.
“The principle thus established appears to rest, then, upon a solid, scientific ground; but launched, as it necessarily was, in language and under circumstances which really almost reduced it to an abstract proposition, (for the application of the principle was entirely left to the judgment of the Settlement Officers, and the tasks given them altogether beyond the power of any human beings to discharge, except in the roughest manner), one cannot wonder that the whole administration has drifted into the chaos in which these papers show it now to be.
1 Dated February 3, 1875. The italics are our own.
“One is tempted to ask if rent/economic rent, pure and simple—is alone to be taxed; why, instead of the costly, cumbrous, capricious, and when all is said, most ineffectual settlement system, we cannot leave the assessments to take care of themselves, and take whatever percentage on the rental of the land we want, wherever we find it. I can only suppose that the answer would be, that in truth the 50 per cent. of the nett produce has been a mere paper instruction, a fiction which has had very little to do with the actual facts of the administration, and that in practice the rates levied have often absorbed the whole rental, and not infrequently, I suspect, encroached on profits also."
LAND SETTLEMENTS IN BOMBAY
The first general Land Settlement of Bombay, commenced in 1836, has been described in an early chapter of this work. It was conducted with considerate judgment by Sir George Wingate; and as it was concluded for thirty years, it gave the cultivators much relief after the frequent and severe assessments of preceding years. But its essential defect was that the assessment was left entirely at the discretion of the Survey Officer; and cultivators were not protected against undue enhancements at future revisions.
Before the expiry of the first thirty years' settlement, the question of a Permanent Settlement came up for the consideration of the Bombay Government. Colonel Baird Smith's proposal of 1861 was forwarded by Lord Canning to the Governor of Bombay. The Governor, while reject*ing the proposal, accepted the principle of basing the assessment on "a just and moderate proportion of the gross produce.” 1
PROPOSED PERMANENT SETTLEMENT. “It is a maxim of the Natives of this country that the perfection of financial administration may be measured by the extent to which an equitable land tax is made to contribute to the support of the State, and that the excellency of a Government may be estimated by the absence of direct and indirect taxation.
“2. I have never doubted the truth of this opinion, seeing that the Native feels that, in return for the payment
1 Minute dated March 3, 1862.