What were the differences among the major land revenue systems in British India ie Zamindari, Ryotwari and Mahalwari?
For UPSC, Land Revenue Systems in British India is always a hot topic for Prelims and Mains.
As per the new syllabus ‘land reforms in India’ is specifically mentioned for GS Mains, and the relevance just got multiplied.
Now let’s have a quick look at the different methods of land revenue collection systems that existed in India.
Land Revenue Systems Before British Rule
Tax from the land was a major source of revenue for the kings and emperors from ancient times. But the ownership pattern of land had witnessed changes over centuries.
During Kingship, the land was divided into Jagirs, Jagirs were alloted to Jagirdars, these Jagirdars split the land they got and allocated to sub-ordinate Zamindars.
Zamindars made peasants cultivate the land, in return collected part of their revenue as tax.
Land Revenue Systems in British India :
Three major systems of land revenue collection existed in India. They were – Zamindari, Ryotwari and Mahalwari.
1. Zamindari System (Permanent Land Revenue Settlement)
- Zamindari System was introduced by Cornwallis in 1793 through the Permanent Settlement Act.
- It was introduced in the provinces of Bengal, Bihar, Orissa and Varanasi.
- Also known as Permanent Settlement System.
- Zamindars were recognized as the owner of the lands. Zamindars were given the rights to collect the rent from the peasants.
- While the zamindars became the owners of the land, the actual farmers became tenants.
- The tax was to be paid even at the time of poor yield.
- The tax was to be paid in cash. Before introducing this system, the tax could be paid in kind.
- 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.
2. Ryotwari System
- Ryotwari System was introduced by Thomas Munro in 1820.
- This was the primary land revenue system in South India.
- Major areas of introduction include Madras, Bombay, parts of Assam and Coorg provinces of British India.
- In Ryotwari System the ownership rights were handed over to the peasants. British Government collected taxes directly from the peasants.
- The revenue rates of the Ryotwari System were 50% where the lands were dry and 60% in irrigated land.
- Though ownership of land was vested with the farmers, excessive tax impoverished them. Furthermore, the tax rates were frequently increased.
3. Mahalwari System
- Mahalwari system was introduced in 1822 by Holt Mackenzie. Later, the system was reformed during the period of William Bentick (1833).
- This was the primary land revenue system in North-West India.
- It was introduced in Central Province, North-West Frontier, Agra, Punjab, Gangetic Valley, etc of British India.
- In this system, the land was divided into Mahals. Each Mahal comprises one or more villages.
- The entire village (Mahal) was considered as a single unit for tax collection.
- The village headman or villages committee was assigned the responsibility to collect tax.
- Ownership rights were vested with the peasants.
- The tax rate was excessive in this system too.
- The Mahalwari system had many provisions of both the Zamindari System and Ryotwari System.
Problems created by the British Land Revenue Policies
The land revenue policies implemented by the British affected the agricultural sector.
When the farmers were unable to pay tax in the form of money before the deadline, they had to take a loan from moneylenders at a high rate of interest. The loans were obtained by mortgaging
agricultural land. The agricultural land of the farmers, who could not pay back the loan and interest, was seized by the money lenders.
Land Reforms in India After Independence
Zamindari Abolition Act was passed by UP, Tamil Nadu, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, etc. Surplus lands were confiscated from zamindars.
Later Land Ceilings Act was passed by different states, fixing an upper limit for private landholdings.