Mountstuart Elphinstone.

Selections from the minutes and other official writings of the Honourable Mountstuart Elphinstone, governor of Bombay. With an introductory memoir online

. (page 21 of 41)
Online LibraryMountstuart ElphinstoneSelections from the minutes and other official writings of the Honourable Mountstuart Elphinstone, governor of Bombay. With an introductory memoir → online text (page 21 of 41)
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necessarily perpetuated ; but even where they all fell
into the hands of the Government, it still kept them up
in name, and sometimes even in practice. Thus one
man would sometimes collect the Sar Deshmukhi,


another the Jahagir dues, a third the Mokassa, a fourth
the Baabti, and a fifth the Sahotra, on the same village.
In this case the holder of the Jahagir would settle the
sum to be paid by the village, the Mokassadar would
send and collect his share from the Eayats ; but the
other claimants would allow the holder of the Jahagir to
collect the rest, and pay to each his share, the amount
of which each would ascertain from the village accounts.
But when there was a defalcation each endeavoured to
collect his own and throw the loss on his neighbour,
and a general struggle ensued, in which the Eayats were
sure to suffer from the violence of the combatants. In
addition to this distribution of the revenue, various
causes broke up the Parganas, and made the Mahratta
revenue divisions exceedingly scattered and inter-

Their gradations of authority departed as far from the
uniformity of the Mohammedans, as their divisions of
Mahratta of- tlic tcrrltorj^ lu gcncral each revenue
venue. divlslou was under an officer, who in a large

district was called Mamlatdar, and in a small one
Kamavisdar; under these Tarafdars or Karkuns, who
had charge of a considerable number of villages, and
under them Shekdars, who had four or five. The
nomination of the Mamlatdars rested with Government;
that of the inferior agents with the Mamlatdar. There
were, however, in every division permanent officers
called Darakdars, a^jpointed by Government, and
generally hereditary, whose signature was necessary to
all papers, and who were bound to give information of
all malpractices of the Mamlatdars. These officers
were the Divan, who was the deputy to the Mamlatdar,
the Fadnavis, or keeper of registers, the Potanavis, or
cash accountant, etc.

In some provinces, especially in remote ones, such


as Ivliandesli, Gujarat and the Karnat k, there was an

officer between the Mamlatdars and the Government,

who was called Sar Subhedar ; his powers and duties

varied. In the Karnatik he was answerable for the

revenue, and appointed his own Mamlatdars, but in

Khandesh he had only a general superintendence, every

Mamlatdar giving in his own accounts, and making his

payments direct to Government. The allowances of

these officers were not very clearly fixed ; before the

introduction of the farming system, a considerable

Mamlatdar had 5,000 or C, 000 rupees a year, generally

about one per cent on the revenue, besides an undefined

allowance for his expenses. He also made lar^fe „ ,

■■• _ '-> Maiiratta man-

unauthorized profits, often with the connivance "^^l "thr^Kc-

of Government. He was reckoned reasonable '"'""°'

if his whole profits did not exceed five per cent, on the

net revenue.

Every Mamlatdar on his appointment, or at the com-
mencement of the year, received from Government an
estimate of the revenue of his district, with a ,, ,

' Jsote — Cap-

list of all the authorized charges, including J;;f^4^_^^;j,^^°'^>

Sibandis, pensions, religious expenses, sala- };tter"''oT"''*Au^
ries, etc., etc. It was his duty to send in the ^'"^'^ ^'"''
balance to Government, and a proportion of it, generally
half, was paid immediately ; the rest was paid by instal-
ments, but always in advance. The Mamlatdar then
proceeded to his district, and moved about to superintend
his offices, and to redress grievances ; he kept a Vakil
at Puna to receive all orders, and answer all complaints.
Complaints are said to have been readily heard ; but as
all was done by the Prince or his Prime Minister, that
must have depended on their leisure and patience. At
the end of the year the Mamlatdar presented his
accounts of the collections, confirmed by the accounts
signed by the Zamindars, and the receipts and ex-


penditure in his own office, drawn up by the Fadnavis,
and signed by the other Darakdars. These were care-
fully revised, and, as from the mode of payment in
advance there was generally a balance in favour of the
Mamlatdar, all unauthorized charges were struck out of
it, and often reductions were made on account of sup-
posed embezzlements, without much proof or investiga-
tion. The admitted balance was carried on in account
from year to year, was sometimes compromised by
partial payments, by grants of annuities, etc., but was
seldom fully paid. On the other hand, all balances due
to the Government were exacted, though the Mamlatdar
was not bound to pay the sum inserted in his estimate,
if the receipts fell short of it. If the defalcation was
owing to corruption on his part, he was obliged to
refund ; and if to his negligence, he was removed from
his office. Though, in this adjustment of accounts, all
advantages appear to be on the side of the Government,
yet the Mamlatdars do not appear to have complained,
or to have suffered much in reality. They had probably
many w^ays of making money, which eluded the utmost
researches of the Government, especially as they could
generally find means to engage the Zamindars and
Darakdars on their side. The sources of their profit
were concealment of receipts (especially fees, fines, and
other undefined collections), false charges for remis-
sions, false musters, non-payment of pensions, and
other frauds in expenditure.

The grand source of their profit was an extra assess-
ment above the revenue, which was called Saudir
Warrid Patti. It was levied to pay expenses of the
district not provided for by Government, and naturally
afforded a great field for peculation ; one of the ^chief of
these expenses was calhul ]3arbar Kharcli, or Antasth.
This was originally applied secretly to bribe the


Ministers and auditors. By degrees their bribes became
established fees, and the account was audited like the
rest ; but as bribes were still required, another increase
of collection took place for this purpose, and as the
auditors and accountants did not search minutely into
these delicate transactions, the Mamlatdar generally
collected much more for himself than he did for his
patrons. It was said that it was chiefly the Govern-
ment that suffered by these frauds, and that the imposts
did not fall heavy on the Rayats. If this were so, it
was probably owing to the interest the Mamlatdars had
in the prosperity of their districts, from the long periods
for which they were allowed to hold them. Many men
held the same district for as long as fifty years.

The following was the manner in which the Mamlatdar
raised the revenue from his district. At the beginning
of the rains he sent for the Patil, and gave him ^ ,

'^ Land revenue.

a general assurance that he should take no
more than w^as usual ; the Patil giving a written
engagement, specifying the quantity of cultivated land,
the quantity of waste, and that granted at a just rent to
new settlers, and promising to realize the revenue. He
then went to his village, encouraged the Rayats to culti-
vate, procured them loans, or forbearance from former
creditors, promised to get them Takavi (or advances
from the Mamlatdar), and prevailed on them to under-
take the ploughing of new lands. Takavi was given
by the Mamlatdar, not by the Government ; it was
payable in two or three years with interest, and
security was given by the Patil, or several of the Rayats.
About the end of one year, when the principal
harvest was nearly ready to be cut, the Mamlatdar
moved out into his district, and was attended by the
Patils of villages, wdtli their Kulkarnis, who laid
before him the papers already enumerated. The whole



country lias been surveyed, and each field classed
and assessed according to its circumstances and quality.
The northern districts were surveyed by Mallik Umbar,
and the southern by the Adil Shahi Kings, besides
partial and imperfect attempts at surveys by the Mali-
rattas. The assessment fixed by those monarchs is
called the Tankha. The whole amount thus assessed
was never actually realized in some villages, while in
others a greater revenue may have been collected. This
gave rise to another rate, being the highest ever paid,
which is called the Kamil or Hemaul, and which is
considered more applicable to practical purposes than
the Tankha ; that of the last year, or of any recent year,
is called the Wasul or Akar. All these rates are con-
tained in the Kulkarni's papers, with the other par-
ticulars mentioned before, which ought to give a full
view of the state of the inhabitants and cultivation. The
Mamlatdar was enabled, by the intimate knowledge of
the village possessed by his Shekdars, to judge of the
accuracy of these sta.tements, and he proceeded to settle
the revenue of the ensuing season, on a consideration of
the amount paid in former years, combined with a
regard to the actual state of things. The Patil repre-
sented any ground there was for relaxation, in the terms
in which he expected the support of the Deshmukhi and
Despandc ; all hereditary officers being considered as
connected with the Eayats. The Patil was likewise
accompanied by some of the principal Eayats, especially
of the Mirasdars, who were witnesses to his proceed-
ings, and who also assisted him with their opinions.
These discussions generally ended in a second more
particular agreement, on which the Patil interchanged
with the Mamlatdar an engagement fixing the revenue; ;
tliiit of tlie Mamlatdar was called the Jamabandi
Pati, and that of the Patil, Kabul Katba. ^Jlic


Patils had generally settled with the Rayats the share
which each was to bear before he came to make tlie
settlements, and if anything unexpected was proposed,
so as to derange the distribution agreed on, he returned
to his village to consult the llayats anew. When the
Patil continued obstinately to reject the terms ofiiered
by the Mamlatdar, a special officer was sent to the spot
to examine the fields, and if no other means succeeded
in effecting an adjustment, the Mamlatdar would offer
what seems to have been the original principle in all
settlements, namely, for Government to take half, and
leave half to the cultivator. This plan was termed
Bhattye. It is generally adopted in the Konkan, but
seldom resorted to above the Ghats, until the final
settlement was made ; the crops in many parts of the
country were kept in charge of Havildars on behalf of
Government, who allowed them to be carried off as soon
as the settlement was completed. In the country im-
mediately round Puna, however, and in that now under
Satara, this custom was not observed.

When the time for paying arrived, a Sibandi was
sent by the Shekdar to assist the Patil. The Miiar
summoned the Rayats, who paid their rent to the Patil
in the presence of the Potadar, who assayed and
stamped the money, and of the Kulkarni, who granted
a receipt. When all was collected the Patil sent it by
the Mliar, with a letter to the Deshmukhi, and anotlier
to the Kamavisdar, under charge of the Chaugulla, and
received a receipt from the Mamlatdar. If a Puiyat
refused, or was unable to pay his revenue, the Sibandi
pressed him for it, confined him in the village chouki,
exposed him to the sun, put a heavy stone on his head,
and prevented his eating and drinking until he paid.
If this did not succeed, he was carried to the Mamlatdar,
his cattle were sold, and himself thrown into prison,



or into irons. This i*i2:orous treatment was seldom
necessary for the regular revenue; it was more
employed in exacting extraordinary taxes, and under
the farming system the practice of it was frequent and
severe. If a whole village resisted, these severities fell
on the Patil ; but previous to that extremity a horse-
man was billeted on the village, or a fine levied to
induce it to submit. The payments were by three
instalments, corresponding with the seasons of the
Eabi, Tusar. and Kharif crops ; there was frequently
another at the end of the year, to recover all out-
standing balances.

The above relates to the reo-ular rent or tax on the
land, for it msiy be considered as rent with regard to
the Upris, and as a tax with regard to the Mirasdars
(it is called by the natives, Ayin Jama, or proper
collections). Another regular source of revenue, levied
partly on the Eayats and partly on the other inhabitants,
is that termed by the Mahrattas, Savai
Jama (or extra collections) ; these taxes
vary considerably in different districts, and even in
different villages. The following list, though not
complete, gives an idea of their nature. The first fall
chiefly or entirely on the cultivators, Dakab Pati : a
tax of one year's revenue in ten, on the lands of the
Dcshmukhi and Despande ; Hak Cliouthai, a fourth
of tlie fees, levied every year ; Mliar Mharki, a
particular tax, on the Inams of the Mhars ; Miras
Pati, an additional tax, once in three years, on
Mirasdars : Inam Fijavi, a payment of Inamdars,
of a third of the Government share of their lands
yearly ; Inam Pati, an occasional tax, imposed in
times of exigency on Inamdars; Pandi Gunna, an
additional levy,'equal to twelve per cent, on the Tankha,
once in twelve years ; Vir Hunda, an extra tax on





lands watered from wells. Other taxes were on traders
alone. These were Moliterfa, a tax on shop-keepers,
varying with their means : in fact, an income-tax ;
Baloti, a tax on the twelve village servants. These,
too, are sometimes included in the Ayin Jama, and
in some places the Moliterfa forms a distinct head by
itself ; Bazar Baithak, a tax on stalls at fairs ; Kumbhar
Kam, on the earth dug up by the potters. The follow-
ing might fall indiscriminately on both classes ; Gliar
Pati, or Amber Sari, a house-tax levied from all but
Brahmins and village officers. Batcliappani, a fee
on the annual examination of weights and measures;
Tag, a similar fee on examining the scales used for
bulky articles ; Dekka, or the right to beat a drum on
particular religious and other occasions ; Kheridi Jins
(or purveyance), the right to purchase articles at a
certain rate ; this was generally commuted for a money
payment : Lagna Tikka, a tax on marriages : Paut
Dauma, a particular tax on the marriage of widows :
Mahis Pati, a tax on buffaloes : Bakre Pati, a tax on
sheep. There were also occasional contributions in
kind, called Fur Furmanesh, such as bullocks' hides,
charcoal, hemp, rope, ghee, etc., which were often
commuted for fixed money payments ; many other sums
were paid in commutation for service. All these collec-
tions were made by the Patil in small villages, though
in towns there was a separate officer to levy those most
connected with the land. Government had other
sources of revenue included in the Savai Jama in
each village, besides those enumerated. The principal
were as follows : Khamawis, Gunehgari, or Kund
Furshi, as fines and forfeitures ; Baitul Mai (Escheats)
amount (profit from deposits and temporary sequestra-
tions) ; Wancharai, paid by cattle grazing on Govern-
ment lands ; Glias Kattani, or grass cut on Government


lands ; Devastlian Dnblii, derived from offerings to
idols ; Kharbuzwarri, on melon-gardens on the beds
of rivers. Besides all this, and besides the Gaum
Kharch, or village expenses, there were taxes to defray
the Mehel Sandir Warrid, district expenses not already
provided for by Government, in which were included
many personal expenses of the Mamlatdars, and a large
fund for embezzlement and corruption for himself and
the courtiers who befriended him.

In addition to all these exactions, there were
occasional impositions on extraordinary emergencies,
Extraordinary whlch wBrc Called Jastl Pati, and Yeksali
impositions. Pati. If tlicsc happened to be continued
for several years they ceased to be considered as
occasional impositions, and fell into the regular
Savai Jama ; but until the introduction of the
farming sj^stem, they are said to have been as rare as
the occasions which furnished the pretext for them.

The changes introduced by that system may be

described without much difficulty. They were in fact

™ , . rather aggravations of the evils of the ancient

The farming c5

system, gygtem, tliau auy complete innovations. The
office of Mamlatdar, instead of being c(mferred as a
favour on a person of experience and probity, who
could be punished by removal if his conduct did not
give satisfaction, was put up to auction among the
Peshwa's attendants, who were encouraged to bid high,
and sometimes disgraced if they showed a reluctance to
enter on this sort of speculation. Next year the same
oi)eration was renewed, and the district was generally
transferred to a higher bidder. The Mamlatdar, thus
constituted, had no time for inquiry, and no motive for
forbearance ; he let his district out at an enhanced rate
to under-farmers, who repeated the operation until it
reached the Patils. If one of these officers farmed his


own village, he became absolute master of everyone in
it. No complaints were listened to, and the Mamlatdar,
who was formerly a check on the Patil, as the Govern-
ment was on the Mamlatdar, now afforded him an
excuse for tyranny of bearing the blame of his exac-
tions. If the Patil refused to farm the village at the
rate proposed, the case was perhaps worse, as the
Mamlatdar's own officers undertook to levy the sum
determined on, with less knowledge and less mercy
than the Patil ; in either case, the actual state of the
cultivation was in essentials entirely disregarded. A
man's means of payment, not the land he occupied,
were the scale on which he was assessed. No modera-
tion was shown in levying the sum fixed, and everj^
pretext for fine and forfeiture, every means of rigour
and confiscation, were employed to squeeze the utmost
out of the people before the arrival of the day when
the Mamlatdar was to give up his charge : amidst all
this violence a regular account was prepared, as if the
settlement had been made in the most deliberate
manner. This account was of course fictitious, and
the collections were always underrated, as it enabled
the Patil to impose on the next Mamlatdar, and the
Mamlatdar to deceive the Government and his fellows.
The next Mamlatdar pretended to be deceived ; he
agreed to the most moderate terms, and gave everj^
encouragement except Takkavi (advances) to increase
the cultivation ; but when the crops were on the
ground, or when the end of his period drew near, he
threw oft* the mask, and plundered like his predecessor.
In consequence of this plan, the assessment of the
land, being proposed early in the season, would be made
with some reference to former practice, and Saudir
AVarrid and other Patis would accumulate, until the
time when the Mamlatdar came to make up his


accounts. It was then that his exactions were most
severely felt ; for he had a fixed sum to complete, and
if the collections fell short of it, he portioned out the
balance among the exhausted villages, imposed a Jasti
(Zedati) Pati, or extra assessment, to pay it, and left
the Patils to extort it on whatever pretence and by
whatever means they thought proper. We are now
suffering from this system, for as we have no true
accounts, and are afraid to over-assess, we are obliged
to be content with whatever the people agree to.
Captain Briggs's collections in Khandesh, though will-
ingly acceded to by the Eayats, are yet much heavier
than any that appear in the accounts during the ten
years of oppression that have depopulated Khandesh.
Some places, no doubt, escaped the oppressions of the
farming system. Where a village belonged to a man
of influence, or a favourite of such a man, the assess-
ment fell light on him, and he gained by the emigration of
Eayats, occasioned by the misfortunes of his neighbours.

The above sources of revenue were collected by the
village establishment ; the following were in the hands
of distinct officers directly under the Government :

Zakat, or Customs. — This was a transit duty levied

by the b,ullock load ; but the rate varied in proportion

to the value of the article ; the highest was

Customs. . . .

eight rupees. It was levied separately in
every district, so that property was frequently liable to be
stopped and searched. To remedy this inconvenience,
there was a class called Hundekaris in towns, who
undertook for a single payment to pass articles through
the wliole country. These men arranged with the
farmers of the customs, and were answerable to them
for the sums due. In addition to the transit duty,
there was a tax of 12 per cent, on the sale of animals
included in the Zakat.


2. The Governmoiit lands wore another source of
revenue not inducled hi the vilhwes :

"^ ' Oovcninicnt

they were divided into Shairi (cultivated ^*"^^-
fields) ; Kurans (grass lands) ; Bag (gardens) ; and
Ambrai (orchards).

3. The Sheci^-pastures. — This was a tax paid by the
Khillarries, or wandering shepherds, for the sheep-pastures.
right to feed their flocks on all waste lands, from the
Tapti to the Tungbhadra.

4. Kanwa. — A fee paid for leave to cut Forests.
wood in the forests belonging to Government.

5. Kotvali. — This may be called town duties ; it
comprised, besides tlie taxes included in Savai
Jama, a variety of other imposts, among Town duties.
which the most considerable was a tax of 17 per cent,
on the sale of houses.

G. Tanksal. — The mint. Mint.

7. Watan Zabti. — Produce of lands be- sequestration.
longing to Zamindars, sequestrated by Government.

Nazar. — Fines, or fees paid on succession to
property. If a son succeeded his father he was not
liable to this payment, unless he were a

1 r~i Fines and fees.

Jahagirdar, or other servant of Government.

But in cases of adoption (that is, in almost all cases except

where a son succeeded) it was exacted from all persons.

The first six articles were always, or almost always,
farmed ; the rest were not. The Zakat, before the
cession of Puna, produced about five lacs of rupees,
the sheep-pastures about 25,000 rupees, the mint at
Puna yielded 10,000 rupees; the others were con-
founded with the general receipts of the districts where
they were situated. The Watan Zabti yielded 50,000
rupees. The amount of the Nazars was too fluctuating
to be guessed at.

The Kotwalset in Nana Fadnavi's time yielded


50,000 rupees, of which a great part was produced by
money extorted from persons guilty or suspected of
adultery. Baji Eav, much to his honour, abolished
this pretext for extortion, but his lenity was far from
being approved hj the better part of his subjects. The
other articles were trifling. Abkarri, which is so
important with us, did not yield above 10,000 rupees.
The use of spirituous liquors was forbidden at Puna, and
discouraged everywhere else ; the effect of this system
on the sobriety of the people is very conspicuous.

The outline of the revenue system adopted since our

acquisition of the country is contained in my letter

Present Re datcd July lOtli, convcylug iustructious to the

venue System. (.Q^lgg|.Qj.g^ aud iu that datcd July 14th,

enclosing instructions for Mamlatdars. The leading-
principles are to abolish farming, but otherwise to
maintain the native system ; to levy the revenue
according to the actual cultivation ; to make the assess-
ments light ; to impose no new taxes, and to do none
away unless obvious and unjust ; and, above all, to
make no innovations. Many innovations were, however,
the result of the introduction of foreign rulers and
foreign maxims of government ; but in the revenue
department most of them were beneficial. The countrj^,
which had been under many Mamlatdars, with very
unequal extent of territory and power, was placed
under five principal officers (I include Satara), with
much superior weight and respectability. The chief
authority now resided in the district, and devoted his
whole time to its affairs, and all subordinate agents
were obliged to follow his example. The straggling
revenue divisions of the Mahrattas were formed into
compact districts, each yielding from 50 to 70,000

Online LibraryMountstuart ElphinstoneSelections from the minutes and other official writings of the Honourable Mountstuart Elphinstone, governor of Bombay. With an introductory memoir → online text (page 21 of 41)