Mountstuart Elphinstone.

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

. (page 35 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 35 of 41)
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all village expenses, including Talatis' pay, are to be

31. The effect of this change on the income of
the chiefs is shown by the payments of the three princi-
pal Girasias, to which I have added the two chief
Kasbatis, though their situation is somewhat different.

The Chief of Koth

,, ,, Utelia
Eupu MiyiiKasbati
Latif Khun Kusbati


















Their pjiyments, CRpccially those of the Girasias,
have therefore greatly increased ; and more within
the three last years than in the preceding fifteen.


32. The appointment of aTalati is very disagreeable
to the chiefs, and those of Dholka assured me that they
felt the presence of that officer more than the increase
of their tribute. They said he assumed the character
of a representative of Government, received complaints
from their Rayats, threw their whole village into
confusion, and utterly destroyed their consequence
among their people.

. 33. The Adalat also, as we came into closer contact
with the chiefs, has been more felt ; and we have
reason to regret that some modifications were not
made in our code before it was applied to a people
in a state of society so different from that which our
laws contemplate, and employed to enforce agreements
concluded at a time when the strict execution of them
was so little foreseen. The Raja of Koth, who, at
the time of Colonel Walker's report in 1804, main-
tained a body of 150 horses and 2,000 Sibandis, was
sent to prison for neglecting a summons from a magis-
trate ; and the chief of Patri, who once resisted for
two months the attacks of the Gaikwar army, was
thrown into goal for his inability to pay debts contracted
in consequence of war and contributions during the
period of his independence. I cannot more strongly
show the change that has taken place than by pointing
out that these are the persons whom Colonel Walker,
and I believe all the gentlemen employed in the
first introduction of our authority, declared to be
sovereign princes, with whom we have no right to
interfere beyond the collection of a tribute, and that
they are now deprived of all power and consequence,
and nearly the whole of their revenue. Almost all
these changes have, in effect, taken place within these
three years. They cannot but feci a change so sudden,
and it must be owned that they have suffered hardships,
though not perhaps injustice.



34. I could not, however, propose any great change
in the present circumstances of the Girasias. With
those of Dholka I would be satisfied to remove the
Talatis, to fix their payments so as to leave 30
per cent, instead of 20, and would tell them that
the sum now settled on that principle would remain
without further increase for the next five years, after
which it might be revised on the same principle.
Their Muklii Patels might be left as at present,
and the only change I should wish in their relation
to the Adalat would be, that the judge and the
magistrate should not require their personal attendance,
except in cases of great necessity ; that all claims
against them for old debts, even if supported by bonds,
should be examined with reference to all circumstances
arising from the situation of the parties at the time
when they were contracted by which the nature of
the debts might be affected ; and that instead of
seizing and confining the persons of the Girasias,
the judges should issue a precept to the collector to
sequestrate as large a portion of the lands as might
suffice for the gradual payment of the debts, leaving
a decent maintenance to the Girasia. The land thus
sequestrated might either be managed by the collector,
or given over under proper securities to the creditors,
but the former would perhaps be the better plan of the

35. With the Girasias of Dhandhuka, Eanpur, and
Gogha, still less change would be required. They are
acknowledged to have a clear proprietary right to their
Talukas. Their tribute is still moderate, and although
they have Mukhi Patels they have no Talatis. It
would be enough to keep them as they are. A small
increase might be put on their tribute where their
villages had improved, to keep up the right of Govern-


ment, and they might be told that no further increase
would be made for five years ; or a regular lease
for that period might be granted to them as formerly,
and likewise to the Girasias and Kasbatis of Dliolka.
If they are to pay a tribute and not to bo brought
under a regular assessment, it is of no use to appoint a
Talati ; and it is hurtful to do so, because even if
the Talati does not purposely interfere from love of
consequence or corruption, his presence as an agent
of Government must weaken the influence of the
Girasia, and lead his Kayats to look to Government
for redress whenever they are dissatistied with the
Girasia. If such a contest is to be encouraged, we
must go further, and see that we secure protection
to the weaker party, whom we engage in opposition
to the stronger : a point on which we are said to
have failed in Bengal, and are surely more likely to fail
in Kathiawar.

36. From the motives above stated, I was inclined
to make the Muklii Patels responsible to the chief of
the Taluka, and he to the collector ; but the opinion of
the officers best acquainted with that country induces
me to give up the idea. I would, however, recommend
that the Girasia should be employed as head of the
police wherever he conveniently could, and that he
should have no formal appointment of Muklii Patel, a
title which a Kajput chief must look on as a degrada-
tion. I would also recommend that the chief of
Bhavnagar should be appointed a special commissioner
for his own villages in the Gogha Pargana, with
powers considerably above those of the Faujdari Amin,
and with some title less offensive to his pride than that
just mentioned, which he has of late assumed with
great reluctance. This change in the Raja's situation
should not take place at present, as he labours under


accusations which should be disproved before he
receives any marks of favour. All the details con-
nected with this appointment, and with the alterations
suggested in the judicial system in relation to the
Girasias, might be filled up by the Eegulation Com-

37. On the first formation of the Kaira district the
Mevasis were restrained from plundering, but in all
other respects they were left entirely on their ancient
footing. The Adalat was early introduced without any
bad eflfects, but there are no Talatis or Mukhi Patels
till this day, and the tribute is still the same as when
we got the country.

38. In Ahmedabad Talatis have been appointed, and
in some cases have been resisted by the Mevasis. The
Thakor, or persons of their recommendation, have been
appointed Mukhi Patels, and attempts are made to
make them conform to this regulation for the guidance
of those officers. In the district of Choval, the numerous
Mevasis have been assessed in a manner that leaves
them about 25 per cent, of the Government share of
the revenue.

39. In my minute on the Main Kantlia, the situa-
tion of the Mevasis has been fully explained. It
appears that there is no trace in history of their ever
having been on a footing of greater dependence than
they are at present ; and it follows that we have derived
no claim to reduce them further from our predecessors,
and must rest our right to do so on the law of nature,
which entitled us to control our neighbours so far as is
required by our own security ; and this ought, there-
fore, to be the limit of our interference. Considering
the want of military force in the territory, it is sur-
prising how little disturbance the Mcvasi have given
us since we first came into Gujarat ; and it would be


equally inconsistent with justice and policy to risk this
tranquillity, for a little addition to the revenue or a
fancied improvement in the police. That tlie improve-
ment would be real, I think more than doubtful, for
unless where Kolis have acquired habits of industry
and order, they can only be restrained by rendering the
communities to which they belong responsible for their
conduct ; and if we could quietly succeed in bringing
each individual under the direct operation of our police,
the effect, I doubt not, would be a great increase of
robberies. I would, therefore, propose that in Mevasi
villages we should hold the Thakor responsible for the
tribute and for the maintenance of the public tranquillit3^
He might be required to give security, if necessary, and
should be obliged to restore stolen property and to give
up offenders ; but he should be under none of the
regulations applicable to Mukhi Patels, and it should
rest with the magistrate what offences to notice in his
village. All serious crimes ought, of course, to be
noticed, and the criminal should be demanded of the
Thakor. The demand should be enforced by a Mohosal
and a daily fine. Obstinate neglect might be punished
by apprehending the Thakor ; and resistance, by attack-
ing him as a public enemy. Complaints of a serious
nature against the Thakor personally should be in-
vestigated in a summary way by the collector, before
he proceeded to apprehend the accused : when it
became necessary to apprehend him, he should be
made over to the criminal judge in the usual manner.
Thakors habitually guilty of connivance at plunder
might be deposed and imprisoned, the ofltice of chief
being made over to another member of the family ; or
their villages might be garrisoned by troops, and
deprived of all Mevasi privileges.

40. No Talatis should be appointed, and the tribute


should be kept uearly stationary. A small increase
might be put on suitable cases to preserve the right
of the Government, but in general the greatest profit
should be left to the villages, to encourage their attend-
ing to agriculture. Civil justice ought in most cases
to be allowed to take its course, but in some villages it
would be expedient for complaints to be made, in the
first instance, to the magistrate, who might decide
whether to send them to the courts or to settle them by
the Panchayats, supported by Mohosals. There are
many villages to which some only of these exemptions
need be granted, and others where the whole would be
necessary. Exemption from civil justice, for instance,
should be rare ; but the removal of Talatis almost
universal. The Pargana of Prantej, Modasa, etc.,
Avhicli are situated in the heart of the Mahi Kantha,
and some of which we share with the chief of Ahmed-
nagar, are those which should be least interfered with ;
but the collectors would be best able to discriminate
the different classes, and might be called on to send
lists of the villages to which they consider each kind of
exemption applicable.

41. It would not be expedient to introduce anything
into the regulations on the subject of Girasias and
Mevasis more than is ncccssarj^ to legalize the proceed-
ings of the magistrates ; and great care ought to be
taken to avoid any appearance of restraining any right
of Government, as circumstances, especially the conduct
of the Mevasis themselves, may compel us to resume
the exercise of the control which we are at present

42. The changes in the management of the Khalsa
land have been greater, but more beneficial, than those
in the Girasia and Mevasi villages.

43. In the Kaira Zilla the Parganas were farmed


out for the first five years to the Desais and Amins,
agreeably to the Maratha practice; then this plan was
laid aside. That of farming them to the Patel was
adopted, but it was soon found that no true account of
the resources could be obtained from these persons; and
a scheme was therefore partially resorted to of setting
up competitors to the Patel, leasing the village to the
person who made the highest offer. Many villages in
bad order were also let to strangers on increasing leases,
for the purpose of their being improved by their capital;
but by far the greatest proportion still remained under
the Patels, either on ordinary leases, or more frequently
on increasing ones. Up to May, 181G, scarcely any
were settled Piayatwar ; and since then the number has
gradually increased till last year, when 370 out of 5G7,
being all those of which the leases were expired, v/ere
settled in that manner. The liayatwar system had,
however, since the Talatis became efficient, been more
extensively introduced in reality than in appearance.
The Patel in many villages continued to go through the
forms of farming his village ; but as the farm was not
given till every liayat's rent had been settled, the Patel
had not avowedly either the chance of gain or the risk
of loss, except by discovering abuses, and his influence
was greatly impaired by the change in his situation.

44. Many changes were introduced even while the
system was ostensibly the same. Our strict adminis-
tration and readiness to hear complaints checked many
abuses in collection and expenditure, and stopped much
oppression. The disuse of the custom of requiring
security for the revenue saved each Kayat a very large
percentage which he used to pay to a banker, who
became answerable for him, and the manner of collecting
became in other respects much less vexatious. But the
greatest change with the least appearance was wrought


by the appointment of new Talatis. These officers are
all over India hereditary functionaries of the village,
subordinate to the Patels, to whom they serve as
a clerk and assistant. When on their best footing they
are generally in league with the villagers, and their
accounts are often falsified to serve the purpose of the
Patel. Even the check afforded by such an officer had
been lost in Gujarat, where the Talati's duty had become
merely nominal. The new Talati is an officer direct
from Government, and looked up to in the village as its
agent. He examines every man's condition, and his
tenure, and he is now employed to make the collections,
and in a great measure to supersede the Patel in all his
acts as agent of Government. There can be no doubt
of the excellence of this regulation, both as promoting
the advantage of Government and of the Kayats ; but
it must not be overlooked that it has a tendency to
extinguish the authority of the Patel, already much
weakened by other parts of our management, and care
should be taken when the necessary information has
been acquired to bring the Talati's power within its
natural bounds, and to withdraw it from all interference
with the immediate duties of the Patel. The authority
of the Desai and other Pargana officers has long since
been destroyed. The}^ were first reduced from the
masters of the districts to mere ministerial officers, and
the extent of their duties, as such, has been greatly
limited. There seems nothing to regret in this alter-

Such has been the progress of the Kaira Zilla in that
of Ahmedabad, which was formed after the complete
establishment of our power in Gujarat; and after the
whole system of our regulations had been completed,
the course was much more rapid. All the changes
above mentioned were introduced at once, and the plan


of letting villages to strangers was carried to a much
greater extent. For one year the villages in some
Parganas at least were put up to public auction and
knocked down to the highest bidder, unless the Patel,
to whom a preference was always shown, would agree to
nearly the same sum oJBfered by the speculator. This
plan, I believe, is by no means unusual in some parts
of India, and it is, perhaps, absolutely unavoidable
where you have to make hastily the settlement of a
new country without accounts or information. As far
as regards the Kayats, it appears to be the worst plan
possible. It is, however, spoken of by experienced
collectors as much less pernicious than it seems. The
farmer was bound to respect the tenures of the Eayats
and to conform to the customs of the village ; the rates
at which each was to pay were well defined and well
known ; and above all, the Zilla was of moderate size,
and the collector and his assistants were active, zealous,
well acquainted with the system, and always ready to
redress complaints. It is, indeed, to those circum-
stances, to the administration rather than to the system,
that the prosperity of Gujarat is chiefly to be attributed.

Many villages now nearly waste were also let out at
increasing leases on such favourable terms as to bring
whole colonies of Eayats from the Gaikwar's district,
and to promise the most desirable effects to the revenue.
Last year many villages have been settled Kayatwar.

45. It is difficult to ascertain how far the assess-
ment is light or heavy ;*

but they have so obvious an interest in doing so that
their testimony is of little value. I should think the
assessment was light on most lands, and very light on
many, though probably heavy on some. In the Ahme-
dabad Zilla, the number of villages that have been let

* Blank in originaL


to the highest bidder, the consequent detection of all
sources of revenue, and in some cases the raising of the
Bighotis by Panchaits, granted at the suggestion of the
farmer, have a tendency to strain the revenue to the
highest pitch. Yet the continual emigrations from the
Gaikwar's territory, amounting from Kadi to above
1,300 families, rather prove that the condition of the
Eayats cannot be very bad. In the Kaira Zilla one or
two Parganas are said to be fully assessed, but none
oppressively, except one-half of Petlad, which I under-
stand is much overburdened. The revenue yielded by
each village has greatly increased in both Zillas since
the country fell into our hands, but little of this is
owing to increased assessments. Our steady Govern-
ment, and the absence of vexation to the Rayats, leave
them time to attend to their concerns and draw others
from the territories of our neighbours. Our little em-
ployment for soldiers and other unproductive labourers
has turned them to husbandry, and by all these means
the cultivation increased and with it the revenue.
Many classes pay with us who were favoured formerly.
We have few expenses of collection, few fees, little or
no money paid for security, and we check frauds and
allow few middlemen to intercept the revenue between
the Piayat and the state. It would not therefore be
fair to judge of the increase of the assessment by the
augmentation of the revenue. On the other hand, a
statement sent in by the acting collector of Kaira,
makes the average payment on most Parganas in his
Zilla only* per Bigha ; but this also is in some

measure fallacious, since much of the land is alienated,
and pays little or nothing, so that the assessment may
fall very heavy on some parts, though certainly very
light on the whole. It is probably decisive on this

* Blank in original.


question that no distraint is required to collect the
revenue, and scarcely any imprisonment ; that there
are no Eayats quitting the country, or even movini^
from one village to another ; that there is no Takavi
and scarcely any remissions.

46. It is not to be supposed that my stay in these
Zillas could enable me to form any opinion of the real
condition of the people. The facts that present them-
selves on a hasty view are, that the Girasias are
weakened and depressed ; that the Desais and all the
hereditary officers, including the Patel, are stripped of
power and influence, and have security of person and
property in exchange ; that the bankers are deprived of
one large branch of their profit by the change in our
system of revenue, and of another by the decline of
commerce, occasioned by the downfall of so many
native states and the equal diff'usion of property ; that
the Bhats, once so important in Gujarat, are now
almost too insignificant to mention ; and that the Rayats
have gained much in wealth, comfort, and security.
Among all the sufferers, those engaged in commerce,
and perhaps the Girasias, are the only classes that give
rise to regret. There are no hereditary chiefs, no
established military leaders, and no body of men that
claimed respect from even an apparent devotion to
learning or religion. The property of those who have
suffered was built on the depression of the people, and
their fall has been compensated by the rise of the
Eayats, the most numerous, most industrious, and most
respectable part of the community. To that order our
Government has, beyond all doubt, been a blessing.
It has repelled predatory invasion, restrained intestine
disorder, administered equal and impartial justice, and
has almost extirpated every branch of exaction and
oppression. The appearance of the country on this


side of the Sabarmati, wliicli has been long in our
possession, is what might be expected in such circum-
stances. The former affluence of the upper classes is
apparent in the excellence of their houses ; and the
prosperity of the Kayats appears in the comfort of their
dwellings, the neatness of their dress, and the high
cultivation of their lands.

47. In the fertility and improvements of the jBelds,
there are many parts of the Bengal provinces which
cannot be surpassed ; but in the abundance of trees and
hedges, in handsome and substantial well-built villages,
and in the decent and thriving appearance of the people,
I have seen nothing in India that can bear a comparison
with the eastern Zilla of Gujarat.

48. With regard to the course to be adopted for the
future, the first question is, on which of the four plans
now in use is it desirable to grant leases for a term of
years ? Whichever of the plans may be adopted, it is
not my intention to enter generally into those questions
which have so long divided all those who are best
qualified to pronounce on such subjects ; but with
respect to Gujarat, we must decide which course to
adopt, or else come to an equally positive resolution to
make over the task to the collectors. No. 8, the plan
of Ijara (or farming villages to strangers), especially if
they are let to the highest bidder, seems the worst of
all. It may be useful in an entirely new country, as
the only means of finding out its resources when there
is no survey and no true accounts, and it has the
advantage of inducing moneyed men to embark their
capital in agriculture, and to assist the Rayats with
money, the want of which is the great check to their
industry ; but whether soon or late, it is evidently the
interest of the farmer to get as much money from the
liayats before liis farm expires as he can ; and though


he may be prevented from doiii^ much mischief by
clearly defining the rights of the llayats, and giving a
ready ear to their complaints, yet it is bad policy to
adopt a system that holds out strong temptations to evil,
in the hope of preventing it by checks and punishments.

49. The next plan (that of farming the village to the
Patel) is less objectionable, because there are many ties
on the Patel to prevent his oppressing the people with
whom he has been brought up, and among whom he is
to pass the rest of his days. It is not by any means so
unpopular among the people. It gives to the person
whose business it is to direct and encourage the labours
of the llayats an interest in their success ; it strengthens
the influence of the Patel, so much required in revenue
police and in settling disputes, and so likely to be under-
mined by the introduction of the Talati as an officer of
Government instead of one of the village, by our restraint
of abuses, whether of expenditure or of authority, and
by the resumption of alienated lands (should that take
place), as a great share of the profits are now in the
hands of the Patels. On the other hand, the Patel
cannot bring forward a capital so readily as a common
farmer, and the plan of farming to him, as w^ell as to
the other, is liable to this great objection, that it does
not oblige the collector to examine the efiects of its
operation, and that if the Patel can stifle complaints
(which he is more likely to do than another farmer) the

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 35 of 41)