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declarations. But when the time came for giving effect to them, the Government coolly cast them to the winds, and sought to obtain increases not warranted by a rise in prices. In the Revision Settlements of the Trichinopoly, Godavari, and Krishna Districts, the soils in the Deltaic tracts have been reclassified, and the Ryots' improvements deliberately taxed in such reclassification. The actual work of classification is practically done by a low paid agency. In the case of individual holdings, the enhancements went up to 200 or 300 per cent., and even more.” 1
As in Bombay, so in Madras, this uncertainty in the assessment militates against all improvements, and is a bar to all agricultural prosperity. What is wanted in Madras, as in Bombay, is some effective provision to limit the Land Tax to one-half the nett produce in every village and every field, and to limit enhancements of the tax to specific and definite grounds like increase in prices, or in cultivation.
The trend of land legislation in the Central Provinces and the Punjab, in Bombay and in Madras, has in recent years been sadly different from that of the earlier decades. In the early years of the Crown administration, and under the rule of Canning and of Lawrence, the one object which animated the Government was to assure the position of the cultivator, to make his tenant-right valuable, to inspire him with a feeling of self-reliance and strength, and to make him a substantial if not a prosperous member of the community in which he lived. The Bengal Rent Act of Lord Canning, the Oudh and Punjab Rent Acts of Lord Lawrence, the Settlement of the Central Provinces made in 1863, all had this one common object: to make agriculture prosperous, and to identify the interests of the Government with the interests of the landed and cultivating classes.
But recent land administration seems to aim at a 1 Land Problems in India, Natesan & Co., Madras ; pages 103 and 104.
different object, to secure for the State a firmer grip on the produce of the soil, to whittle away both landlord right and tenant right, and to make an agricultural nation more dependent on the unfettered will of the Executive Officer.
The power of the Revenue Officer and the Settlement Officer has been made more absolute by legislation. The period of Settlements has been cut down from thirty years to twenty years in the Punjab and the Central Provinces. Cultivators in the same Provinces have been restrained from alienating their own holdings. The Government has taken the power of withdrawing the right of transfer in Bombay. The Government settles rents between landlords and tenants in the Central Provinces. The rule of limiting the State-demand to half the nett rent is, in practice, disregarded in Bombay and in Madras. The rule of limiting State enhancements to the specific and definite ground of a rise in prices has been withdrawn. And a compulsory waterrate, which was condemned by Argyll and Lawrence, has been imposed in Madras, and is consolidated with the land assessment..
LAND RESOLUTIONS OF RIPON AND CURZON
THE uncertainty of Land Assessments, and the harassment caused by the revaluation of lands in Settlement Operations, were evils which successive Viceroys endeavoured and desired to remedy. Lord Mayo was of opinion that, when the quality of the soil and the quantity of the produce were once ascertained, there should be no further alterations in assessment except on the ground of fluctuations in prices. Lord Northbrook was also in favour of a self-regulating system of assessments, and was not in favour of repeating valuations at each fresh Settlement. The question was finally taken up by Lord Ripon. In his despatch of October 17, 1882, he desired to eliminate from future settlements the elements of uncertainty and inquisitorial inquiry. His object was to give the agriculturist an assurance of permanence and security, whilst not depriving the State of the power of enhancement of the revenue on “ defined conditions.” The reader will perceive that this was a compromise between the two opposite principles which had been held for twenty years by Indian administrators.
Men like Canning and Lawrence had held that the Land Revenue should be fixed for ever, leaving to the people of the country all future increase in the profits of agriculture. Other administrators had held that the State should claim an indefinite increase of revenue from the increasing profits from agriculture. Lord Ripon's masterly scheme met the views of both schools. He left the door open for a continuous increase of the Land Revenue with the increase of prices. At the same time, he offered to the cultivators what was virtually a Permanent Settlement of the Land Revenue as represented in produce.
To Settlement Officers Lord Ripon virtually said: You shall have a legitimate increase in the Land Revenue if there is an increase in the prices of crops. To the cultivators he said : You are secure henceforth from all uncertainty and all harassing inquiries; the Land Tax you pay shall not be an enhanced share of your produce.
Lord Ripon addressed the Governments of Madras and Bombay, offering this scheme for their acceptance. The Government of Madras accepted the proposal that in districts where the Land Revenue had been adequately assessed, i.e. in districts which had been duly surveyed and settled, the element of price alone would be considered in future settlements. The Government of Bombay demurred to the proposal.
After a considerable correspondence, the matter came up before the Secretary of State for India for final decision in 1885. He had disapproved of the scheme of a Permanent Settlement of the Land Revenue for India only two years before. It was hoped that the acceptance of Lord Ripon's scheme would at least give some security to the people against arbitrary and uncer. tain enhancements of the Land Revenue. It was hoped that after the bitter experience of a quarter of a century, the Crown Administration would at last give the harassed cultivators of India some pledge, some intelligible rule, to determine demands of the State. It was believed that the difficult problem would accept its final solution in the masterly compromise that Lord Ripon had made.
The action of the Secretary of State for India destroyed all these hopes. He looked to the interests of the Indian Land Revenue, not to the welfare of the Indian cultivators. He would frame no definite rule; he would give no pledge. “Some of the principal administrative difficulties which now exist in India,” he recorded
in reply to Sir Alfred Lyall, “ arise in a measure from such pledges having been given on former occasions." He did not perceive that the greatest of all “ administrative difficulties" in India was the wretched poverty of the cultivators; and that no progress, no improvement, no accumulation of agricultural wealth was possible without some definite rule or pledge given to the people.
Accepting the principle that it was desirable to simplify procedure and avoid unnecessary harassment to the people, the Secretary of State laid down the following rules :
(1) The idea of a Permanent Settlement is abandoned.
(2) The State shall claim its share in the unearned increment of the value of land.
(3) Rise in prices is one of the indications and measures of this increment.
(4) Revision Settlements should be made less arbitrary, uncertain, and troublesome to the people in the future.
(5) Modifications should be made in the assessment rules, and enhancement of revenue should be made mainly on increase in the value of land."
These elaborate instructions, excellent in their way, fixed no definite or intelligible rule by which the cultivators of India could measure their liabilities, or Settlement Officers could limit their enhancements. Settlements therefore went on as before; enhancements of the Land Revenue were made on grounds which the cultivators did not understand and could not contest. And how little the new rules of 1885 added to the prosperity and the
· Despatch dated January 8, 1885, referred to in Madras Revenue Board's Resolution, dated December 6, 1900. The original papers connected with Lord Ripon's proposals of 1882, and the Secretary of State's decision of 1885, have never been published. They contain a mass of valuable proposals, including those of Sir Alfred Lyall, regarding the Land Question in India, and their publication in the shape of a Blue Book is urgently needed as a help to reforms in Land Administration in India.