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raised to is. 4d., and then fixed at that value. And as taxes in India are collected in rupees, the process meant an increase of taxation all round. Budgets henceforth showed a surplus. The cultivators of India had the first claim of relief from that surplus. The cesses on land, which had been imposed in addition to the land revenue since 1871, required to be withdrawn. There has been no such repeal; the cultivators have obtained no relief.
There are two main principles by which the people of India judge the administration of their rulers. They demand, and rightly demand, a wider Representation and a larger share in the administration of their own concerns. And they ask, and rightly ask, for Retrenchment and a reduction in the burdens on the people. Recent administration has failed in both these principles. It has restricted Self-Government; and it has increased public expenditure and added to the taxation on the people.
The year 1903 began with a Proclamation of the coronation of King Edward VII., made at the Delhi Darbar with unseasonable ostentation and expense, at a time when India was in the fourth year of a continuous famine. The year ended with Darbars in Persia, and an expedition to Tibet. Is it possible that the cost of these last acts, undertaken to extend British power in Asia, shall be charged to the revenues of India ?
LAND ADMINISTRATION IN NORTHERN INDIA
The principles of Land Assessment in Bengal, Northern India, and the Punjab, had been settled under the administration of the East India Company. And measures had been adopted in the early years of the Crown Government to settle the relations between landlords and tenants, and to extend protection to the cultivators of the soil. The history of the last quarter of a century is therefore a history of smaller measures, and of the further development and extension of principles already laid down.
BENGAL. In Bengal the Rent Act of 1859 had given security of rent and tenure to the tillers of the soil. But the cultivators of the Western districts (Behar) had not derived the same benefit from the measure as their more quick-witted brethren of the Eastern districts. The experience of twenty years suggested the necessity of a further measure, to protect them from the unjust demands of their landlords. Lord Ripon's Government undertook this useful task; and the burden of the work fell on Antony Macdonnell, who was then Revenue Secretary of Bengal.
It is needless to narrate the long discussions which were held before the proposed measure took shape. The Government gave a full and even respectful hearing to the objections of landlords. Committees were held in districts and divisions to consider and revise the proposed remedies. The draft of the Bill was modified and recast
from time to time. And it was ultimately passed by Lord Dufferin, after Lord Ripon's departure from India. The Tenancy Act, as passed in 1885, gave the needed protection to cultivators without infringing in any way. on the just rights of landlords. The two main objects of the new law were to extend the right of occupancy to settled cultivators, and to extend adequate protection to non-occupancy cultivators.
The beneficial results of the Permanent Settlement of 1793, which limited the State-demand from landlords, and the Rent Acts of 1859 and 1885, which limited the landlord's demand from tenants, are obvious in every part of Bengal at the present day. There is an educated and influential class of landlords, who have identified themselves with the British Rule, and have always given loyal help in the cause of good administration. There is a strong and intelligent middle class, holding tenures of various degrees under the landlords, and forming the strongest elehiant in a progressive society. And there is a resourceful peasantry, able to defend their rights, and able also to resist the first effects of a drought and a failure of crops. The rents are light; the cultivators are not under the thraldom of money-lenders; and British administrators can view with a just pride a province where their moderation has insured agricultural prosperity to a nation.
The following figures, which we quote from a recent official document, represent the proportion of rent to the produce of the soil in fourteen districts, representative of the different parts of Bengal.
It will be seen that in no district is the rental as high as one-fifth of the produce. As the Bengal Government remarks: “The figures in this table indicate with sufficient clearness that rents in Bengal amount, on the average, to little more than 11 per cent. of the gross produce of
1 Letter of the Bengal Government to the India Government, dated June 24, 1901.
the land." This pleasing assurance of the Bengal Government contrasts painfully with the disclosure made by the Famine Commission of 1900, that the Land Revenue levied by the State in Gujrat is 20 per cent. of the produce. The Land Revenue ought to be half the rental under the rule of 1864, and not double the rental. The State ought to be more considerate than private landlords, not more exacting and harsh.
NORTHERN INDIA. A healthy change was introduced in the method of assessing the Land Revenue. The basis of assessment, as has been explained in a previous chapter, was formerly an estimated rental—an approximate guess of what the lands were likely to yield. A more sensible rule was subsequently adopted of taking the actual rental as the basis. This was made quite clear by the rules issued by the Revenue Board in 1887, from which we make the following extracts:
"The assessment of the revenue in each village is to be based, as far as possible, on the actual rentals recorded in village rent rolls, corrected where necessary.”
“The Settlement Officer is not at liberty to add to these rent rolls any estimate on account of a prospective rise in rents or prospective increase in cultivation.”
It is, therefore, clearly the object of the Government, at the present time, to limit the Land Revenue in Northern India to one-half of the actual rental which landlords obtain from their tenants. It is a matter for regret that this clear rule has not been adhered to, even in Settlements which have been completed after 1890.
A distinguished and public - spirited landlord of Northern India, the Hon, Nihal Chand, Rai Bahadur, Member of the Legislative Council of the Province, has done public service in bringing this fact to notice in his Notes on the Land Revenue Policy, published in 1903. And it is necessary to cite some facts from this publication, if only to point out the reforms which are still needed in the actual operation of the rules.
Basis of Assessment. The actual rental of estates is the basis of assessing the Land Revenue. But the Revenue Board issued a circular, so recently as 1901, directing that where the rents are inadequate, the Settlement Officer should reject the recorded rental, and base his assessment on an estimated rental. The effect of such a rule is obvious. Where the landlords are disposed to be lenient to cultivators, the rule is a reminder to them to screw up their rents. In Bengal, where the Land Revenue is permanently settled, and the State is not interested in raising rents, every Legislative Act, passed within the last half-century, has had the object of securing a moderate rental, and the leniency of the landlord is encouraged by the administration. In Northern India, on the other, hand, where the State bases its Land Revenue on the rental, the leniency of the landlord is chastised, and he is called upon either to screw up his rents or to pay more than one-half of what he receives.
1 Rule quoted in the Hon. Nihal Chand's Notes, p. II.