Land Revenue System explained in simple words

I am the Zamindar of my village.

I can tell you what it is.

Our title is Deshmukh, while neighbouring villages’ zamindars are Mirzas, Chaudarys, Reddys, Goudars, thakurs, waderas etc. And usually we marry among these families only, so that we have other villages also under us.

My Grandfathers and Great Grand fathers inherited a lot of wealth. We had like 5000 acres of land or even more in our village.

 My great-great-great Grandfather was a king they say, who lost the king status under British rule, while some say he was always an independent ruler of our village area. So I am not sure what he was.

My dad tells me that we used to own all the lands in our village, and if somebody wanted a piece of land to cultivate agricultural produce or to build a house for themselves, we used to take rent from them. We used to call it with different names, for convenience lets just say tax.

If somebody other than us had land we used to forcefully acquire from them. Basically all the ownership rights were with us and ipso facto everyone had to be our tenants or peasants.

We never involved ourselves in cultivation (Absentee landlords) , it was always just about collecting the tax. Be there be a famine, flood or whatever we used to collect money from peasants. But there were some over-smart peasants who didn’t cooperate in farming, as the land wasn’t theirs, or they deliberately cultivated less, but we used to make sure by hook or crook they worked for us (forced labor – Begari)

From all the tax collected, we used to give some share to British it was called ‘Peshkash’ and rest kept with us and built lavish palaces using precious marbles, teak wood, and what not.

Sometime later, bloody British got greedy , as from us i.e Zamindars they could only get constant income and this fellow called Thomas Munro in a bid to earn more money changed the system and took some land from us and distributed it to peasants, so that if they cultivated the land, they can earn some money  by selling the produce and thereby British could collect tax directly from peasants. (Ryotwari System , Ryot means farmer.)

However this was not successful for various reasons. As we wouldn’t (old zamindars) let them sell the produce or we didn’t help farmers when there was famine. And since we were only made to collect revenue, we used to take bribe and made sure not much money reached British. But still the pain was we didn’t have the same large chunks of lands which we had earlier, now it was reduced.

Later on, the cunning the British were, they introduced a new Governor to the scene, and he was none other than Warren Hastings, he found the loop holes of earlier method, and changed this to Mahalwari system(i.e.,grouped some villages together based on size and called them Mahals) that we were eating up the revenue collected, so he fixed a revenue, and some more lands from us were given to peasants to cultivate and asked us to collect the fixed amount of revenue but he missed a trick here, in the greed to earn more money he fixed a high revenue and thus new system was also flawed and didn’t last long.

It was back to where we were. We enjoyed our status again. But we had further lesser lands.

It went on till Independence. And post Independence Govt brought a new thing called Land reforms to save peasants and abolished Zamindari System. In these reforms, land was taken from us and was distributed to other farmers. We couldn’t give up the land so we wanted to go to Supreme Court for justice, but this Govt didn’t leave that option to us, they placed these Land reforms in the so called 9th Schedule which was prevented from Judicial  review. Even Supreme court couldn’t hear our petition. We had no other choice but to give up our lands.

However we retained as much as we can by transferring some the lands to our relatives.

Finally we have now like 450 acres of land, and we still continue to be rich and have some villages under our control. And still some people work under us as bonded labor. Govt is trying to find out all this out, but not able to.

P.S: I am not any Zamindar nor my family was, I am just another middle class student, but I wanted to learn about this Land revenue systems, so I involved myself in the story and learnt. Hope you’re able to understand now what the three systems of Land Revenue were. 

Some factual information about Zamindari System.

Zamindari System

  • Zamindari System was introduced by Cornwallis in 1793 through Permanent Settlement Act in provinces of Bengal, Bihar, Orissa and Varanasi.
  • The realized amount would be divided into 11 parts. 1/11 of the share belongs to Zamindars and 10/11 of the share belongs to East India Company.

Ryotwari System

  • Ryotwari System was introduced by Thomas Munro in 1820 in Madras, Bombay, parts of Assam and Coorg provinces of British India.
  • The revenue rates of Ryotwari System were 50% where the lands were dry and 60% in irrigated land.

Mahalwari System

  • Mahalwari system was introduced in 1833 during the period of William Bentick in Central Province, North-West Frontier, Agra, Punjab, Gangetic Valley, etc of British India.
  • The villages committee was held responsible for collection of the taxes.

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