Mountstuart Elphinstone.

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

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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 33 of 41)
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of the people, without anyone to check him. The
mode of settlement of the revenue was for the Mamlat-
dar, and in our time for the collector, to send for the
Desai and make as good a bargain as he could with
him for the year's revenue of his Pargana. The
Desai then apportioned the sum to be paid among
all the villages of the Pargana, and the Talukdars
(or, where there w^as one, the Patel) divided the assess-
ment among the Piayats. By this plan the collector
made his assessment entirely in the dark ; and,
although it w^as his intention not to increase the
revenue, unless where there was an increase in the
cultivation, yet the want of information on his part, as
well as the fraud of the Desai, often operated to raise
the Bighoti of the old lands. They, indeed, had no
protection against the exactions of the Desai, if he
chose to complain to the collector, except an appeal
to the Talati's accounts, by which his own ignorance
of his rights rendered him little able to profit, and
which could not be much relied on, in consequence of
the dependence of the Talati on the Desai. By the
present mode of assessment every Kayat attends at the
Kamavisdar's Kacheri. His land and rent for the
preceding year are ascertained in his presence from the
Talati's books. If ho should wish to take up more
land, or to throw up part of what he already has, or
if it should be necessary to increase or diminish the
rent of any portion of his lands, wliich he may have
changed from common lands to garden lands, or vice
t'ersdf the requisite alterations arc made and agreed to.


If none of these changes are required, he holds the
same land on the same rent as the year before. In
either case he receives a Pottah under the seal of the
Kamavisdar ; a paper specifying the lands and rent of
each Rayat in the village is also signed by the collec-
tor and deposited with the Tahiti. Each Ray at then
becomes security for his neighbour's payment of the
revenue ; but this ceremony is reckoned nearly nuga-
tory. The Patel also furnishes security (generally that
of another Patel) for his not embezzling the collections.
There is, then, no more to do till the revenue comes to
be paid. Formerly two-thirds of the revenue was paid
before the crops were ripe, and the money must have
been borrowed at heavy interest by the Rayats ; but now
no demand is made until the crops are cut. One-half is
then paid before the grain can be removed ; the rest is
paid after the sale of the whole or part of the produce.
When any failure has taken place, a remission is made
to the individual sufferer after an examination of his
field by a Government officer.

8. This system was first introduced in the j^ear
1817-18. There are several Parganas to which it
was only extended during the last revenue year, and
in some it has not yet been completed. Each man's
land was measured, and his rent fixed at the sum whicli
he had paid the preceding year. The great advantage
of this plan is the clear view which it gives the collec-
tor of the real state of his district, thus enabling him
to adapt any increase or remission of the revenue to
the actual circumstances of each individual, and also
putting it in his power to detect and check any undue
exaction which may be practised upon the Ray at. A
great objection to it is, that it lessens the power and
consequence of the Patel ; but this was not felt in the
Surat district, wdiere, in consequence of the usurpations



of the Desais, the office of Patel had scarcely an exist-
ence. In Bhagclar villages, where the Paticlars are
numerous, the introduction of the Kaaytwar settlement
is productive of much hardship and of no advantage ;
but there were scarcely any villages of this description
in the old Surat district. In Olpad, where they were
more numerous, more inconvenience must have been
felt. The Eayatwar settlement may also prevent the
employment of large capitals in improvements and new
cultivation ; but the opposite system does not appear
hitherto to have been attended with that advantag^e in
Surat, as almost all wells and tanks have been made
either by Government or the Eayats. The establish-
ment of Patels in the plurality of the villages is one of
the advantages of the new system ; but the want of
experience of those functionaries, and perhaps the
smallness of their allowances, have occasioned frequent
changes and removals, which are against the respect-
ability of the body. Nothing can be more complete
than the state of the Talati's books, which contain every
point of information contemplated by the regulations.
These remarks relate exclusively to the regular land
revenue ; there are other taxes, the chief of which are
the Abkari and the taxes on trades, which call for no

9. If I were to decide on the present condition of the
people in this collectorship, I should pronounce it to be
very much depressed. The Rayats seem to be ill-clothed
and ill-lodged, and although some parts of the district
are highly productive, I should think that in others the
cultivation was very imperfect. Land that has been in
use for a few years is so exhausted as to be considered
unfit for cultivation. From this, or some otlier cause,
the Pargana of Chowrasi, contiguous to the populous
city of Surat, is the worst cultivated in the district ; and


this is the more remarkable as the Vazifa lands in the
same neighbourhood are in a high state of improvement.
These evils are by no means to be ascribed to the pre-
sent system ; on the contrary, I am persuaded that the
measures now in progress will go far to relieve us from
the system which we inherited from our predecessors.
The great obstacle will be the extreme heaviness and
perhaps the inequality of the assessment. Mr. Morrison
has endeavoured to correct this by reducing the revenue
in some cases where it appeared to weigh with particular
severity ; in other places he has promised to lower the
assessment if the inhabitants will promise to protect
Government from loss by the cultivation of additional
lands. I doubt, however, whether these palliations will
be sufficient; and if I were not aware of the extreme
difficulty of lowering the revenue when it is once raised,
I should be induced to recommend some more extensive
measure of that nature. I would not, however, wish
for a general remission, but for a reduction in the par-
ticular cases where there appeared to be a particular
pressure. As the cultivation has greatly increased since
we got the country, it is probable some parts even now
are lightly assessed, while others must be too heavily,
as the Bighoti doubles that of Broach, and as the
Government share appears by the Tahiti's books greatly
to exceed one-half of the produce. I have applied
to the collector for some information regarding the
general rates of assessment, on receiving which I may
probably resume the subject : in the meantime it is
satisfactory to say that no increase has been put upon
the district since the introduction of the Kaj^atwar
system, and that in no instance has it been found
necessary to send a Bayat to prison, or to sell his house
or cattle for arrears of revenue.

10. Scarcely any part of the above remarks apply to


the Pargana of Olpad. That division, Hke all other
possessions of the Vinchur Jahagirdars, was lightly
assessed and equitably governed. It is a rich country
with few trees, but in the highest state of cultivation.
The villages were said to be excellent, and the people
easy in their circumstances and independent in their
manners. The assessment is said to bear to that of
the other Parganas under Surat the proportion of one-
third to one-half; but from what I can learn, it does not
appear to be more lightly assessed than the Broach dis-
trict, or near so lightly as that of Kaira. The character
of the people is not what one might expect from their
favourable circumstances, for thej^ are said to be less
honest, as well as less obedient, than the inhabitants of
the old Parganas. The generality of the latter are
described to be a remarkably quiet, simple, inoffensive,
and industrious race of men.

11. It might be expected that the petitions presented
in the different districts would give some idea of the
grievances suffered in each. Of about three hundred
that I received in the districts of Ahmedabad, Kaira,
Broach, and Surat, some did not relate to revenue. Of
those which did, the stoppage of pensions and old
allowances, either from change of system or from par-
ticular orders of our Government, and the administration
of the allowances of the Pargana officers and Patels, were
common to all the districts, though of course most fre-
quent in new acquisitions. Those peculiar to Ahme-
dabad were the complaints of the Girasias against the
introduction of Talatis and the increase in their tribute ;
nearly similar complaints from the Kasbatis, complaints
of assessment on rent-free lands, some few for ovcr-
usscssment on Government lands.

12. The complaints of Kaira were for over-assess-
ment and for imposing Savadias and assessing rent-free


land, both originating in some partial arrangement of
Captain Robertson for equalizing the assessment and
for levying on the alienated lands such portions of the
nominal rent of Government land as were in reality
received from them. In Broach the prevailing grievance
was the over-assessment of the present year, which in
Anklesvar occasioned much discontent and clamour.

13. In Surat the petitions were not numerous.

14. I am not sure that these facts throw any light
on the comparative state of the districts. They show
that the smallest addition to the assessment occasions
more remonstrance than the heaviest burdens if they
are not increasing ; and, perhaps, they also show that
the silence of the Rayats may be a sign that they are
dispirited as often as that they are content.

(Signed) M. Elphinstone.
Vapi, May 6th, 1821.


Vol. III. pp. 661—664.


Vol. III. pp. 661—664.

The district of Broach lias been so ably reported on,
and its general system is so fully known, that I did not
think it necessary to give up to it more of the little
time I had remaining than six days ; my observations
on it must therefore be very brief.

There can scarcely be a greater contrast than between
the districts beyond the Mahi and the old part of
Broach. In the latter there are no Mehvasis and
scarcely any Girasias, little variety in the soil and
produce, no diversity in the modes of assessment, no
unauthorized alienations, no Suadias, no taxes beyond
the land-tax but what are merely nominal. The revenue
system, though perhaps aefective, has been long estab-
lished and unchanged. The Adalat is exempt even
from the few objections that exist to it bej'ond the
Mahi. It is well understood by all classes, and seems
both useful and popular.

When I say that there are scarcely any Girasias, I
mean such Girasias as are common to the westward,
who possess villages and Talukas of their own. Here
there are only four or five of this description, and they


have no separate jurisdiction, either in theory or in
practice. There are other persons who bear the name
of Girasias, but they have only portions of land or
pecuniary claims in different villages. The land is
cultivated on favourable terms by the Sarkar's Kayats.
It pays a fixed Salami to Government. The pecuniary
claims are paid by the village to the proprietor ; the
dues of the Pargana officers are also paid in this manner
instead of from the Treasury, and I have not heard of
any inconvenience resulting from the practice. The
other tenures of rent-free land are Vazifa and Pasaitu.
The Vechania and Garania lands were resumed by the
Pievenue Committee, but are still kept separate in the
village accounts.

The Talpat villages are all either formed by the Patel,
or by an association of Bhagdars, like those called
Narva beyond the Mahi. They were farmed by the
strangers, and never held Eayatvar.

The assessment is made entirely by villages, without
any inquiry into the circumstances of individuals. One
of the hereditary revenue officers is sent to inspect the
crops of each harvest. He makes a statement of the
quantity of land cultivated, with each sort of produce by
each Rayat, and calculates the quantity of each sort that
will be produced in each field. The sum of these gives
the whole amount of each sort of grain produced in the
village. The collector compares this with the produce
of the last year, and then compares the market price of
each article with that of last year ; after which he looks
at the sum paid by the village for last year, and if he
finds that the crops are more abundant or the price
higher, he puts a proportionate increase on the revenue.
The general principle is to take half of the money pro-
duced by the sale of the crops, and leave the rest to the
Piayat. The whole of the calculations I have men-


tioned are in fact only made at the second harvest ; a
considerable part of the first consists of rice-crops, and
in making the estimate for them it is usual to charge
the land at twenty rupees a Bigha, whatever may be the
state of the crops. This charge is double the rent of
the best rice-land, and a deduction to the amount of
one-half the sum collected on account of it is made
from the Government's claim, on account of the second
harvest. The only object of this over-assessment is to
secure a large portion of the revenue at an early period
of the year. I am not sure that the practice exists in
all the Parganas. This first payment is Dhangar
Tanji. If the Patel consents to the sum fixed by the
collector for the revenue of the village, nothing more is
AY anting to complete the settlement. Although the
names of the Rayats are written down in the estimate
for the sake of marking the fields they cultivate, the
collector does not interfere in assessing them : that is
afterwards done by the Patel, who explains what each
Rayat has to pay to the Talati, and it rests with the
latter officer to collect it. The collection is made by
securing the whole produce of the harvest at the village
cornyard, where it remains under Government officers
until the revenue is paid. It is not, however, necessary
that the whole should be paid before any is removed ;
on the contrary, a Rayat may remove a portion of his
produce as soon as he can pay the price of it ; and when
his payments are equal to the whole demand against
him, he may remove the whole. The Patel is guided
in making his assessment by the former payments of the
Rayats, among whom he distributes the increase of the
year in proportion to the amount of their rents. The
same tenures of Khatebandi and Ganot are in use here as
in Kaira ; but the custom of having a portion of Vchta
or highly-assessed land in each Khata, is confined to


some villages in this collectorate. Both are liable to
increase when the revenue of the village is increased,
but not otherwise. A Rayat from whom a Patel re-
quired an increase in other circumstances would com-
plain to the collector ; but from the dependence of the
Talati on the Patel, and from the mode of settlement,
in which the collector has so little occasion to watch over
the correctness of village accounts, it would probably not
be easy for him to ascertain whether the Rayat's com-
plaint was well-founded. The above applies to an
undivided village (or Senja, as it is called in Kaira).
In Bhagdar villages, Narva in Kaira, the increase is
divided into as many portions as there are Bhags, and
the Bhagdars apportion them among their Patidars,
who levy them on their Piayats. There seems at one
time to have been a general Bighoti of four rupees on all
the land except the sandy soils near the sea, which paid
only three and a half per Bigha, and some rich tracts
on rivers, which paid from six to twelve ; but it does
not seem to be acted on now, the Government revenue
being regulated by the state of the crops and of the
market, and all the demands being regulated by the
Government revenue. Every village account now ex-
hibits a great variety of rates of Bighoti, and each of
those is liable to frequent change.

It is always difficult to guess whether the assessment
is light or heavy. On the plan here adopted, it is
utterly impossible. An increase of four lacs and a half
has taken place this year : a circumstance that I cannot
contemplate with pleasure, while the sources of the
revenue and the principles of increase are so completely
in the dark. Until within these three years there is
reason to think that the assessment was light ; but in
appearance the country falls far short of the western
districts. Though almost every spot of it is cultivated,


yet the total absence of hedges and of trees, except
close to villages, makes it seem naked. The villages
are entirely built of unburnt bricks, and though good,
compared to most in India, have nothing of the comfort
and solidity of those beyond the Malii. The dress of
the inhabitants is not so inferior, and they seem a quiet,
industrious, and respectable race of men. Considerably
more than three-fourths of the villages in this district
are managed on the Bhagdar or Narva plan ; and in
the Broach Pargana, as well as in Jambusar and Amod,
the minor Patidars form a great majority of the culti-
vators. In the Broach Pargana there are ninety-six
villages which have not a single cultivator besides the
Patidars ; but there are some Bhagdar villages in which
the heads of the Bliags, five or six in number, are the
only persons who hold by that tenure, all the lands
being cultivated by common Eayats, either Khatedars
or Ganvatias.

The Talati regulation can scarcely be said to be in-
troduced here. The Talati keep their accounts in the
old form, and although they are considered as Govern-
ment officers much more than in the Deccan, and are
often removed and appointed by the collector, they seem
to be much more closely connected with the Patels than
in Ahmedabad and Kaira, and more likely to conceal
than to expose any frauds of the village manage-

The Parganas of Jambusar and Amod resemble the
old possessions almost in all respects but these. Although
there has been no settlement, the alienated lands are
still unexamined, and the rents of those unalienated are
consequently in many cases far above their natural
height. In one village the Talpat land pays ninety rupees
a Bigha, which can only be defrayed by immense re-
ceipts from rent-free land. The character and condition


of the people does not seem so dififerent in these Par-
ganas as one would expect from the tyranny of the
Peshwa's Government. I may here observe that the
Baroda Pargana, though still subject to all the defects
of the native system, and although it has for these last
ten years notoriously been oppressed, is yet in the ap-
pearance of the country, the villages, and the inhabit-
ants, at least equal to the best parts of the Kaira
district. This may be supposed to be the effect of
former good government ; but when the history of the
Gaikwar family is recollected, it will be difficult to say
when that good government could have existed. It is
extremely difficult to account for this circumstance. I
can see no advantage the Baroda Pargana has enjoyed,
except tranquillity in the neighbourhood of a capital;
and yet I have little doubt that, as far as concerns
the comfort of the Rayats, it is among the most flourish-
ing spots in all India. The Gaikwar countr}^, south
of Broach, though farmed by the same man as Baroda,
is in a state of great poverty and oppression. The
most striking defects in the mode of assessment in
Broach are its uncertainty and its irregularity. It is un-
certain, because it depends on the hasty estimate of an
Amin, liable to be mistaken, and still more liable to be
corrupt. If the collector disregards the estimate and
proceeds on his own opinion and on secret information,
the uncertainty is increased — he is as much in the dark
as before ; and the Patels are less acquainted with the
principles on which he proceeds, consequently less able
to convince him of any mistake. It is unequal, because
the Amin may be led by corruption or other motives
to favour some villages and throw the burden on the
rest ; and still more because the assessment is made on
the general state of the village, without regard to the
circumstances of individuals, and ma}^ therefore bear


heavy on a man who has a bad crop, wliile it is light
on one who is more fortunate. When the villages are
held by Bhagdars, this evil is in some degree inseparable
from the system, but it might be easily amended in
the other villages ; and even in those of the Bhagdilrs
the evil is at present unnecessarily aggravated by the
practice of making the whole settlement with one, or a
very few Bhagdars, who, by concert with the Talati,
generally contrive to keep the assessment off their own
lands and throw it on their neighbours'. That the
assessment is subject to increase and decrease as the
crops are good or bad, is not perhaps an evil, for
though it increases the fluctuations to the Government,
it diminishes it to the Eayat, in whose condition a fixed
rent with fluctuating crops would occasion more
variation than the present plan. If, however, the
assessment were light, it would be of advantage to him
also to have it fixed, as his chance of gain would be
increased without a corresponding risk of loss. The loss to
Government by a light Bighoti would in time be made up
by the improvement of the land, which would raise the
second class to the first ; but an immediate indemnification
would be procured by transferring the corrupt profits of
the Amins to the treasury. I would not, however,
venture on the measure of fixing a Bighoti. I would
rather propose in the first instance the appointment of
an intelligent and experienced revenue officer as
collector to inquire into the present state of the assess-
ment, and report cases where it appeared too high, too
low or unequal. In any of those cases I would revise
the Bighoti by means of a Panchayat of the villages,
superintended by a Government ofiicer, and liable to be
corrected by another Pauchaj^at in case of error. I
would arrange for a vigilant supervision, perhaps by
means of European assistants, and would then leave



the Biglioti unaltered, unless wlien there was an
evident and considerable improvement in the village,
and even then it would be in no way heavy to raise the
assessment. In cases where the present assessment
seemed tolerably reasonable and equally levied, I would
merely record the details of it, and fix it so as to
prevent the collectors altering, except in such cases as
have been mentioned. The settlement would still be
with the Patels, but the rights of every Eayat would be
known and fixed, and both the collector and the
Adalat could at once afford redress in case of oppression.

The above applies to Senja villages. It would be
difficult to introduce the proposed equality of assess-
ment in Bhagdar ones ; but as it is usual for flourish-
ing Bhagdars voluntarily to take part of the burden of
their poorer brethren, and as there are, I believe,
instances of the Government making a new division to
equalize the assessment, something might perhaps be
done even in them. It would be an improvement in
Broach if the Eayats were allowed the option of moving
their crops, on giving security of other respectable
people of the same class.

The police of the Broach Zilla appears to be very
good. The offences are those of a very settled country;
no gang robberies or invasions of predatory Kolis. The
Kolis, indeed, are among the most respectable culti-
vators ; one out of four of the Amin Patels are of that
caste. The Bhils occupy here the place of the Kolis
beyond the Mahi, but even they are not turbulent,
robbers used sometimes to come in from Eajpipla, and
do still from Dehvan. The rule that a village is
responsible for stolen goods traced to it by a Pagi, is
not in force here.

(Signed) M. Elphinstone.

Camp Veldcha, Ap-'d 'l')ih, 1821.


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 33 of 41)