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Land Revenue Systems in British India

The different land settlements introduced by the British brought misery to the peasants.

Zamindari System

The Permanent Settlement or the Zamindari Settlement (1793) in Bengal and Bihar was introduced by Lord Cornwallis. According to this settlement the Zamindari got proprietary right on land and these rights became permanent. The cultivator who had enjoyed some rights was now reduced to the status of tenant on land. By this the Zamindars were entrusted with revenue collection and they had to pay ten-eleventh (10/11th) of the rental to the state. The rules regarding the payment of revenue were very rigid. Defaulters often lost claim over the land. But in future any increase in the rental of an estate could be kept for the zamindar himself. This settlement turned out to be very harmful for the peasant and also for some zamindars.Since the initial revenue demand by the British was very high a number of zamindars were unable to pay the revenue demanded by the British and as a result lost their land.

Mahalwari System

In 1822 a new kind of settlement called the Mahalwari System was introduced in the Gangetic valley the North -western provinces, parts of Central India and the Punjab. This revenue settlement was made village by village or estate by estate with local chiefs or hereditary collectors of a mahal .However in this system the amount of revenue was open to periodical revision. The government demand was also very high so it did not bring any benefit to the cultivators.

Ryotwari Settlement

The Ryotwari Settlement was introduced in parts of Madras and Bombay Presidencies. Under this system the British government fixed the revenue directly with the ryots or cultivators. But in most parts the land revenue fixed was very high. The government also had the right to increase the rate of revenue at will. Also the peasants could be dispossessed of their land if they failed to pay revenue in time. Thus the British revenue policies and the different land settlements introduced in India did not serve the interest of the peasants. They remained oppressed and exploited.

These intermediaries only enjoyed profits by renting or sub renting land. This was particularly the scenario of Bengal Presidency. Poor cultivators were burdened with heavy taxation. Their condition became miserable day by day. No welfare measures were adopted to give them relief.