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“And finally, with the view of affording the fullest information on this important subject, detailed figured statements should be furnished, exhibiting the source and amount of every item of revenue hitherto derived froin land of every description, whether Government or alienated, comprised within the limits of the villages for which an assessment is proposed.
“The information thus collected and exhibited, with that obtained by local inquiries into the past history of
the district, will generally enable us to trace the causes · which have affected its past condition; and a knowledge
of these, aided by a comparison of the capabilities of the district with those of others in its neighbourhood, will lead to a satisfactory conclusion regarding the amount of assessment to be imposed.”1
It will be perceived at once from these elaborate rules how much was left to the discretion and judgment of the Settlement Officer in determining the district demand from the past history and circumstances of the district and its villages. The utmost latitude for moderation was left to a considerate officer, and of severity to an inconsiderate officer. And the fortunes of a hundred thousand tillers depended, not on fixed and customary rates, but on the different judgments of different officers. More than this, an assessinent based on the past history of a district must necessarily rise after an era of prosperity; and any permanent improvement in the condition of the peasantry was impossible under a system which thus laid an increasing and deadening tax on prosperous agriculture.
This weak point in the method of assessment did not escape the Government of Bombay. The Governor of Bombay, in his Minute of November 16, 1847, remarked : “I cannot but admit that, at present, we are entirely dependent on the judgment of our Superintendents; and so we must remain until our Revenue Commissioners do something more than make their offices the channels of
1 Joint Report, paragraphs 69, 70, 74, 75, and 76.
communication between the Superintendents and ourselves.” But the Revenue Commissioners themselves were powerless in the matter. The Hon. Mr. Read, Member of the Bombay Council, in his Minute of May 16, 1848, very pertinently remarked : “I concur in the Honourable the President's appreciation of what must be left to the judgment of the Superintendents of Survey. We must indeed be almost wholly dependent upon them, for I do not think that we can hope for Revenue Commissioners who can do more than exercise a very general supervision over their operations. Few Revenue Commissioners possess the knowledge, and none could devote the time necessary for a minute scrutiny into them.”
It is creditable to Wingate that he exercised his irresponsible powers with moderation, tact, and humanity; that his guess-work in making assessment was performed with care and assiduity; and that his Settlement relieved the peasantry of the Deccan from that misrule and oppression from which they had suffered for twenty years. The name of Sir George Wingate is remembered in Bombay, as the name of Sir Thomas Munro in Madras, and of Robert Merttins Bird in Northern India, not because their work was free from grave faults, but because they succeeded, on the whole, in introducing some order where chaos and disorder had prevailed, and in building up systems which have lasted to our day.
The financial results of land assessments by British administrators in Bombay can be best exhibited by figures. The limits of British territory remained virtually unchanged in this province from the acquisition of the Peshwa's dominions in 1817-18, to the survey and settlement of Wingate, commenced in 1836. And yet the land revenue was increased immediately after the conquest.
In other words, the Land Revenue of the province, including the coriquered dominions, was more than doubled within four years from the conquest.
Wingate's settlement, commenced in 1836, was virtually completed by 1872, and showed an increase in the Land Revenue (excluding Poona and a few other places then under a revised settlement), from £1,534,000 to £2,032,000, or an increase of 32 per cent. Figures for the different districts are given below.?
1 Compiled from Bombay Administration Report, 1872-73, pp. 49 and 50. Er is taken as equivalent to 10 rupees.
• CHAPTER V
LAND SETTLEMENTS IN MADRAS
A Ryotwari Settlement, i.e., a Settlement of the land revenue with the cultivators of the soil, was made by Captain Read and Thomas Munro in the districts of • Baramahal, when the East India Company first acquired those districts in 1792, and was gradually extended to other parts of the province of Madras. The first assessments were severe and oppressive. The State demanded about one-half the estimated produce of the fields, a demand which was more than the whole economic rental of the country. Thomas Munro perceived this, and in 1807 proposed to reduce the assessment to a third of the produce. The Government of Madras admitted the justice of the proposal, but could not give effect to it, for the Directors of the Company pressed for money. Orders were received from England for an additional annual remittance of a million sterling, accompanied by a threat that the Directors would take the question of reducing the establishments in their own hands in case of disobedience. The Madras peasantry, therefore, obtained no relief.
Between 1808 and 1818 the Madras Board of Revenue urged the wise plan of recognising the Village Communities of the Prowince. They suggested that Land Revenue Settlements should be concluded with these bodies according to the ancient custom of India. And they proved from experience that Village Settlement had succeeded wherever it was tried, and that Settlement with individual tenants had failed. But representative Village Communities had no place in the scheme of the
Company's absolute government; the Directors decided to deal with the cultivators individually, without any intermediate bodies. The ancient Village Communities of Madras declined from that date.
Sir Thomas Munro was Governor of Madras from 1820 to 1827, and within this period the Ryotwari Settlement was introduced into all parts of the Province where a Permanent Settlement of the land revenue had not already been effected with Zemindars. Munro succeeded in reducing the Government assessment to the extent he had recommended before; and his considerate measures and his untiring supervision remedied many evils.
But even the reduced demand of Sir Thomas Munro was found to be oppressive. One-third of the produce of the field represented the entire economic rent in many villages and fields. It was demanded in a fixed sum in money, irrespective of the annual yield or the prevailing prices. And it was realised, not through village elders and village corporations, but through the low-paid agents of the State, who added to the miseries of the cultivators by their cruelty and their corruption. And when Sir Thomas Munro, who had organised everything and supervised everything, was removed from the scene by the hand of death, the difficulties of the system were felt more severely than ever. For thirty years the Province of Madras became a scene of oppression and agricultural distress unparalleled even in India in that age.
The Revenue Collectors themselves witnessed the universal misery by which they were surrounded, and some extracts from their Reports ? will illustrate the condition of the people.
Cuddapa District. The Collector wrote to the Board of Revenue in 1828: “The Ryots are more in the hands of the merchants than perhaps you are prepared to hear.
noted from S. 8. Raghava-Iyangar's Memorandum of the Progress of . the Madras Presidency (1893), pp. 27-32.