Effects of the Revenue Settlements on the Agrarian Society

Effects of the Revenue Settlements on the Agrarian Society:

The main motive force behind the introduction of the Zamindari, Mahalwari and Ryotwari systems of revenue by the British was to augment the revenue of the Government. The old revenue system which revolved around the Zamindar came to an end. A new class of Zamindars emerged who was bound by strong ties of interest to the ruling power. The Zamindars became the owners of the land and the cultivators became only the rent-paying tenants and subject to eviction. Under the Mahalwari and Ryotwari systems, although ryots theoretically became the owners of the land, their right on land was doubtful. The tenant remained in perpetual fear of the Zamindar, the lambardar the tax collector.

Moreover, many of the zamindars being unable to become punctual tax collectors leased their lands. The permanent settlement had prohibited the Zamindars from giving any lease more than 12 years. But the restriction was abolished in 1812 and sub-infeudation was carried to the further limit. The fragmentation of land led to the growth of uneconomic holdings. Many of the zamindars were sympathetic to their tenants and granted takavi loans to the latter. But the pressure of new revenue demand made it impossible for them to continue the practice. Henceforth a new class- money-lenders or mahajans- appeared in the countryside and the poor peasants fell into their clutches. The peasant had to lose his land to the moneylender when he failed to return the money with interest. By the middle of the nineteenth century, the Mahajan became as important as the landlord. The Mahalwari or Ryotwari system improved the position of the ryots by making them the owners of the land, but for all practical purposes, their right on lands was uncertain and undefined.

The decline of indigenous industries led people to fall back upon agriculture for their livelihood. With primitive tools in the hands of the peasants for cultivation and the governments making no efforts to improve agriculture, rapid degeneration of agriculture became visible. As the British influence widened over large areas, a corresponding improvement of agriculture had not taken place.

The most important result of the new revenue settlements was the creation of a new form of private property that benefitted the government. The land was now saleable and mortgagable. “The British by making land a commodity that could be freely bought and sold introduced a fundamental change in the existing land systems of the country. The stability and the continuity of the Indian villages were shaken. In fact, the entire structure of rural society began to break up”.

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