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And local taxes on the soil, which were insignificant in 1863, had risen to 12} per cent. on the Land Revenue in addition to that revenue.
FAMINES OF 1897 AND 1900. No serious famine had revisited the Central Provinces under British Rule. But the impoverishment of the people paves the way for famines. A failure of crops is a serious calamity in an agricultural country under all circumstances; but the effects of a famine become ten times more fatal if the people have no resources and no savings. The famine of 1897 was the most serious and fatal ever known in the Central Provinces. Districts were devastated. Cultivated lands became jungle. Large masses of the people were swept away. Both cultivation and population decreased. A question was then asked in the House of Commons by Mr. Samuel Smith, M.P., if the operation of the New Settlement would be postponed until the famine was over. Lord George Hamilton declined to postpone the Settlement Operations.
But the hand of nature is stronger than the hand of man. A fresh famine desolated the unhappy Provinces in 1900. The new Settlement with its enhanced revenue demand became impossible. The Government was forced to suspend its operation. Abatements were made in Sagor, Damoh, Jabalpur, Seoni, Narsinghpur, Hoshangabad, and Nimar. Abatements were in progress in Betul, Wardha, Bhandara, Balaghat, and Raipur in 1902. An impossible Land Revenue had to be reduced after the Province had been devastated by two famines.
The people of the Province demand, not merely temporary abatements, but permanent reforms. No new measures are required; it is only necessary to go back to the principles of 1863. All departures from those principles have proved disastrous; they have weakened the landed classes and impoverished the peasantry. Settle-.
ments should be made for thirty years, as they are made in Northern India, Bombay, and Madras. The Land Revenue should be limited to one-half the actual rental, as it is limited in the Provinces of Agra, Oudh, and the Punjab. Additional cesses imposed on the soil since 1871 should be abolished. The cultivators should have the same rights in their holdings and the same protection against enhancements as are assured to cultivators in Bengal and Northern India under Tenancy Acts. And strengthened by such protection, they should be left to settle their rents with their landlords without the intervention of Settlement Officers. The intervention of the State in settling the rent of each field has, in effect, added to the rental, and impoverished the population.
Rigid RULES AND THEIR OPERATION. No task, more unsuitable for the State, can well be imagined than to intervene and settle the rent which each tiller should pay to his landlord, and no task has been worse performed. The rules for fixing the rent are so complicated that they are neither properly understood nor properly worked. Poorly instructed and poorly paid Patels
1 The complexity of the rules may be imagined from the following extracts from the Introduction to the Central Provinces Settlement Code issued in 1891:
“The first step in working this system is to ascertain the various classes of land. ... The next step is to determine the relative value of each class expressed in the number of soil units per acre. ... A scale of factors having been framed showing the number of soil units of each land class compared with other classes, the number of soil units in each holding or village is calculated by multiplying the area of each soil class by the factor of the class. Thus, for instance, if 150 acres of land fall into three soil-classes, the factors for which are 32 for A, 16 for B, and 4 for C, the areas being respectively 50, 75, and 25 acres, the number of soil units will be
A 50 x 32= 1600
2900 "If the existing rental payment was 275 rupees, its incidence per soil unit would be =1.5 anna."
“Coming now to the second class of arguments used in rent enhanceand Patwaris, getting three shillings to six shillings a week, are expected to work according to these impossible inductive and deductive rules! As a matter of fact, they vaguely imagine that the Government wants an increase in rental, and they secure one. Two or three Assistant Settlement Officers in a District cannot efficiently check the work of Patels and Patwaris over thousands of square miles. The fixing of the rent is therefore often a poor guess work, and the mistakes are against the cultivator. And the cultivator has no independent Land Court to appeal to against the finding of the official paid three to six shillings a week.
The mistakes which are most frequently made in fixing and enhancing rents are known universally in the Central Provinces. In the first place the classification of lands is often wrong, and Patels have a habit of placing on a higher class lands which really fall under a lower class. In the second place, the crop experiments, by which the productiveness of the different classes of soil is judged, are often misleading; no adequate allowance is made for dryage and loss in harvesting. In the third place, much cultivable land is left uncultivated owing to the want of seed grain, want of bullocks, or the general poverty of the cultivator. All such land is, however, included by Government Officers in fixing the rental; and the landlord has to realise rents for lands which tenants cannot cultivate, or to pay revenue for lands for ment, those obtained deductively from considerations based on the rise in prices, let it be supposed that prices would justify an enhancement of 33 per cent. on rents paid at a former settlement, whereas a comparison of the rental paid then and now, effected by contrasting the rate per acre in cultivation at both periods, shows that rents, considered in the aggregate, have risen by 10 per cent. only, a further enhancement of 23 on the original rental, or of 20 per cent. on the rental as it stands, is justified. The soil-unit system offers a means of distributing this enhancement equitably."
"In the hands of inductive reasoning, the system is then an instru. ment for arriving at the amount of an enhancement; it serves also as a means for fairly distributing an enhancement arrived at by deductive reasoning, as it reduces every Ryot's holding to, so to speak, a common denominator."
which he gets no rent. In the fourth place, it is proved in the case of minor's estates, which the State administers for those minors, that State Officers are themselves unable to realise the rents they have fixed by something like 10 per cent. Private landlords necessarily bear a heavier loss. Fifthly, the instalments of the Government demand are not judiciously fixed. A large instalment is demanded in February in order to complete the collection within the financial year. Landlords press their tenants for rent in January in order to pay the revenue in February. The crops are not yet harvested in January, and the tenants have to mortgage standing crops, much under their fair value, to money-lenders in order to pay rents. Sixthly and lastly, while the law of Bengal empowers the Government to sell an estate in default of payment of revenue, the law of the Central Provinces empowers revenue officers to arrest a landlord and send him to prison for default. Such severity, unknown in the revenue laws of Bengal, is a stain on the administration of the Central Provinces.
TENANCY ACT OF 1898 AND NEEDED REFORMS.
A consolidating and amending Rent Act, passed in 1898, has not improved the position of the tenant. It provides that the rent of ordinary tenants shall be fixed by Settlement Officers for seven years. And provisions have been made restricting the alienation of home-farm lands by landlords, and the transfer of their right by occupancy and ordinary tenants. Such restrictions are unknown to Bengal laws, and they have the economic effect of lessening the marketable value of properties. It is not by such measures that the Central Provinces can regain their prosperity after the recent calamities. It is by more liberal measures, and by going back to the healthy principles of 1863, that the agricultural population of the Province can become strong, resourceful, selfreliant, and prosperous.
1 In the inquiries which I personally made in the Central Provinces in March 1903, I was informed in one District that nearly a fourth of the assessed land was left uncultivated that year. Rents could not be realised for most of these lands, but the revenue had to be paid.