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 37 of 41)
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without reducing the proprietors to ruin, and without
driving kolis or other unsettled people to plunder, the
measure, I conceive, should be adopted. At all events,
some plans must be adopted to prevent loss to Govern-
ment, by its Eayats cultivating rent-free land, which is
likely to happen whenever the property in that sort of
estate shall be fixed ; and this object must be adverted
to in any plan that may be proposed. It is necessary,
therefore, before we proceed further, that we should


endeavour to ascertain the amount of the revenue
alienated, the classes by whom it is possessed, the pro-
bable effects of resuming it on the condition of those
classes and on their payments to the public, and the
classes by whom it is cultivated when not by the pos-
sessors themselves.

60. The amount in the Kaira district appears to be
1,050,000 rupees, of which it is probable that about
150,000 rupees may be Vanta, Vazifa, and descriptions
of Pasayta that we should not wish to touch. It is
conjectured there may be about 200,000 rupees esti-
mated for land, which is now waste, and that about
200,000 rupees may already pay revenue indirectly.
There would, therefore, be only five lacs to tax ; and
as the highest amount that could well be levied would
be one -third of the Government share, the whole gain
to Government in Kaira would be only 160,000 rupees ;
200,000 rupees would certainly be an ample estimate.
The returns from Ahmedabad have not yet been received,
but as there are only four Parganas where Government
could profit by those resumptions, the whole gain on a
similar calculation could not possibly exceed the same
amount. We may, therefore, reckon our profit at the
very utmost at four lacs of rupees : a sum worth
attending to if it can be realized without much danger,
but one for which it is not worth while to run any great
risk of the evils alluded to.

61. The next questions relating to the classes by
whom the unauthorized lands are possessed, the rents
they pay through other lands or by Veras, and the
other means of subsistence possessed by the proprietors,
might be referred to the collectors, with a request that
they might be careful to specify both the proprietors
and the cultivators, and to distinguish between real and
fictitious proprietors. Mr. Dunlop might also be called


on to state the amount produced by the tax he has
imposed on alienated lands ; and perhaps my inquiries
when in Broach, regarding those resumed by the com-
mission, may throw some light on the question. When
these questions are ascertained, we may determine
whether or not it is expedient to raise a revenue from
rent-free lands. If it should be determined in the
negative, it will still be necessary to guard against loss,
by assessing on each portion of rent-free land the share
which it now actually bears of the over-assessment of
Talpad land. When this is done, it will be practicable
to equalize the assessment on all lands of the latter
description, and likewise to allow the Kayats to take
and relinquish what land they please unrestrained,
neither of which is practicable in the present state of
things. It will also, I conceive, be expedient to
declare that the land now left rent-free is liable to such
imposts as may be rendered necessary by the exigencies
of the state ; and if this declaration should for a time
prevent the owners from feeling confident in their
possession, it is better to submit to that evil than
to close up for ever a source from which so much
revenue may be drawn with so little difficulty or ill
consequence. If it be determined to raise a revenue,
the first mode that occurs is that proposed by Captain
Barnewall and Captain Robertson, of a stamp-duty ;
but this, unless accompanied by a Swadea, will not
prevent the emigration of Sarkar Rayats. It might be
an improvement to have a Swadea of greater amount
than the stamp-duty (say one-third of the Government
share) on land cultivated by Sarkars' Rayats, Patidars,
etc., and a stamp-duty of one-fourth on land cultivated
by the proprietor. Another middle course would be,
to allow all lands cultivated by the proprietors to
remain on their present footing, but to assess those


held by Government Rayats, Patidars, etc., at the full
amount, and then pay to the proprietor the sum which
he now receives from the Rayats. This plan has often
been adopted towards Vanta, and it is much recom-
mended towards Veclian and Garania, by the considera-
tion that the burden will fall on those by whose fraud
the alienations have been occasioned, it being the
common trick of Patels to assign land to a Bhat or
Brahman, keeping the cultivation and the profit in their
own hands, and onl}^ paying a trifle to the proprietor
for the use of his name ; but it is an objection that the
tax falls entirely on the classes who already contribute
to the revenue, and whose wealth, however acquired, is
sure in the end to add to that of the public.

G2. In all plans, wdiatever is now collected by
Government should be kept up, there being no doubt of
its right to what it possesses, however doubtful that of
the holders of the alienations.

63. It is desirable that the questions regarding aliena-
tions and a new assessment should be settled soon, to
enable us to remove the doubt and anxiety under which
the Rayats now labour.

64. An important point to consider is the degree of
interference which Government should exercise with
the collector, and I think, on the w^liole, it is expedient
to leave him a great latitude. Government must settle
such questions as that of resuming the alienated lands
and the policy to be observed towards Girasias and
Mevasis : it may interfere to correct any proceeding
that is obviously erroneous ; and above all, it should
permit no great change to be made without its express
permission. Besides the advantage of retarding inno-
vations, it would thus be able to bring to every question
its own general views, and occasionally the experience
of the other Presidencies ; but all details had better be


left to the collector. This is more expedient than at
the other Presidencies, because we have no Board of
Eevenue, and our collectorships are so different from
each other that a complete knowledge of one scarcely
enables a member of the Government to decide on
a question relating to another. It is, however, a
serious evil that there is no check on a collector, and no
means of knowing, short of the ultimate failure of the
revenue, whether his district is in prosperity and content,
or in poverty and wretchedness. To make up for the
want of this, it has occurred to me that the judge, or
judge of circuit, might be empowered to receive com-
plaints and transmit them to Government, even on
questions of high assessment or the like, which are un-
connected with his judicial functions. There are,
however, strong objections to this plan, as likely to lead
to discord between two officers whose good understand-
ing with each other it is of importance to preserve, and
perhaps even to excite a litigious spirit in the Eayats

65. I will insert an observation here, as it relates so
immediately to the Eayats, though it properly belongs
to the administration of justice : it is the hardship felt by
the Eayats from the exaction of the debts contracted by
them during the Mahratta Government under the decrees
of the Adalat. The root of the grievance seems to lie
in the readiness with which a bond is admitted as a suf-
ficient evidence of the justice of a claim. In this case
it is by no means so, for a Eayat is easily drawn by
occasional advances and partial payments into a com-
plicated account, which it is impossible for him to
unravel. This account presents a groat balance in the
lender's favour ; and as the practice is for the Eayat to
give up his produce each year in part payment, and to
take an advance to enable him to go on with the next, he


is so completely in the lender's power that he would sign
anything rather than disoblige him. The remedy,
therefore, is to settle that in new provinces a bond shall
not be conclusive when originating in an old debt of a
Eayat, but that his whole account shall be examined as
if no bond had been executed, and only the amount
which shall then appear fair decreed to the plaintiff.
If the debts could be paid by instalments regulated
by the amount of the Rayat's i)ayment to Government,
it would complete the removal of the evil ; but, at all
events, steps should be taken to prohibit the sale of a
Rayat's cattle and implements of husbandry in satis-
faction of debts.

G6. Though it appears from the reports of the
judges that this practice is seldom resorted to, it is
much dreaded and greatly complained of, and as it is
not used it may be safely forbidden ; the revision of the
code affords an opportunity of doing so. A petition
which 1 have received from the Patels of four Parganas
in the Kaira district, complaining loudly of these evils,
solicits likewise that the sale of houses belonging to
Rayats should be forbidden. Those houses being on
Government ground, which is required by the villages,
cannot be sold to a stranger ; the creditor can, there-
fore, only destroy the house and sell the materials,
which is ruinous to the Rayat without being beneficial
to the creditor. It is, however, a question whether the
prohibition of such sales would not in the end injure
the Rayat by lessening his credit.

67. In all discussions connected with the means of
improving the situation of the people, our attention is
drawn to the amendment of their education. This
seems to be nearly in the same state here as in the
Deccan. I should rather think there were more schools,
but there are no books.




The same plan I recommend in the Deccan may be
adopted here, the circulation of cheap editions of such
native books, of those already popular, as might have a
tendency to improve the morals of the people without
strengthening their religious prejudices. Passages
remarkable for bigotry or false maxims of morality
might be silently omitted, but not a syllable of attack
on the religion of the country should be allowed.

68. I was formerly of opinion that the salaries
allowed to assistant collectors, on the plan proposed by
Mr. Warden and approved by the Supreme Govern-
ment, were too high, and I therefore recommended
that they should be fixed on their present footing. I
now find that I did not at the time sufficiently advert
to the fees in the judicial line, which render all the
appointments there so much superior to those in the
revenue, that it is not to be expected that any young
man will stay in the latter when he can leave it,
although it is indispensable that everyone should spend
some years in it. I therefore recommend that the
former proposal be reconsidered, and the salaries fixed
on a footing nearer equality with the others, though I
would perhaps make it worth the while of the youngest
judicial assistant to go into the revenue line, and of the
oldest revenue assistant to accept of a registership.

69. I shall here introduce a few observations on the
employment of the assistants to the collectors, a point
of more consequence to the welfare of the public than it
at first appears, as by it is formed the character of
those on whose ability and public spirit the success of
all future measures of Government is to depend. The
collectors, I conceive, should be ordered to employ their
assistants in the Parganas tlie moment they are capable :
the assistant's allowances to be kept below the standard
fixed for his appointment until he has been so deputed.


Each collector should report every six months how his
assistant has been employed, and how he discharges
his duties. Copies of the collector's instructions to the
assistant should be forwarded to Government, as well
as occasional copies of his reports to the collector.
One great duty of the assistant should be to ascertain
at the villages whether the sum charged in the accounts
as the payments of each Rayat, is the whole amount
that he has paid. If this inquiry be made of each
Eayat, personally, at a few villages taken at random in
every Pargana, there would be an effectual check on
the native officers, and this important object would
be closely connected with the improvement of the

70. I beg here to recall the attention of the Board
to the salaries of the Kamavisdars, which I find in
many instances totallj^ inadequate. The Kamavisdar
of Dholka collects six lacs of rupees, and his whole
allowances are 158 rupees. This disproportion is
hardly decent. I think we should push into these Zillas
the plan already adopted in the Northern Konkan, with
the difference that as the districts here are rich and
compact, and the country cheap, a smaller percentage
might be given; 1,500 rupees a year for one lac of
rupees collections, and an increase of 500 rupees or
thereabout on every succeeding lac would be sufficient.
The allowance of the collector's head native servant
should be raised, and perhaps made equal to that of the
best paid Kamavisdar. I would also strongty recom-
mend some plan for increasing the pay of Kamavisdars
with their standing, as the strongest tie on their
honesty, and still more for furnishing a provision for
them after long service ; a measure not more required
by considerations relative to the particular case, than
by the general policy of securing a respectable class of



persons accustomed to our views and attached to our

71. I have not had time to make any inquiries
about the customs and town duties, but I may make
two observations regarding them. No customs levied
by Mevasis, Girasias, or petty chiefs, if estabhshed
before our acquisition of the country, should be
abolished w^ithout a compensation ; and this compensa-
tion should be promptly afforded, since, if it is withheld,
the complaints of the sufferers will render others in
similar circumstances unwilling to give up a right they
possess for a pension, while the regular payment would
seem to them doubtful.

72. Another regards the abolition of two duties.
The Committee at Kaira in 1811 have reported them
to be vexatious and pernicious, and Government deter-
mined to do them away. I would, however, recom-
mend that they should not be given up without some
equivalent tax which should reach the merchants and
bankers, the only description of people in our territory
that are not subject to taxation. The losses of that
class from the introduction of our Government would
render it inexpedient to lay any serious impost on them
now ; but something might be introduced that would
enable Government to draw a revenue from them when
their circumstances are more flourishing, or the wants
of the state more urgent.

73. All accounts agree in reporting the transfer of
the police to the revenue officers as eminently success-
ful ; and even before that measure tlie improvements in
tlic police had been prodigious. There is no open
violence, and the people can act against any attempt at
it without the fear of revenge. Thefts are much
diminislied, and murders are comparatively extremely
rare. From what I can learn, the people (except the


Kolis) are neither much given to affrays or drinking,
nor otherwise debauched. One evil of the present plan
is the expense to which Kamavisdars are put by the
attendance required of them at the sessions as police
officers, and the serious inconvenience to themselves
and the public occasioned by their absence during
seasons when they are wanted for their revenue duties.
The increase I have proposed to salaries, if it should
take place, will obviate the first objection ; and I really
think that all sorts of forms should be sacrificed to
remove the second. The Kamavisdar might be sum-
moned for the occasion when his evidence was essential
to a trial, but should be dismissed as soon as it is over;
and in all cases of verifying depositions and the like, the
oath of the person who wrote them, or of some other
bystander, should be sufficient.

74. A point very generally and seriously exclaimed
against, both by the people and the gentlemen in
authority, is the present mode of recovering stolen pro-
perty from villages to which it is traced. The respon-
sibility of villages not actually convicted of connivance
is, I believe, generally considered as extremely harsh
and unjust, and as such, I believe, it has been abolished
under the other Presidencies. The natives (from whom
we borrowed it, exercise it with many limitations. The
property must have been placed in charge of the village
watchman, and even then it is only in peculiar cases
that the w^liole or a part of the value is levied on the
village. For my own part, although I think it rather
a rough remedy, I am decidedly of opinion that it
should be kept up, to prevent the indifference to the
police which we should otherwise have reason to dread
from our native subjects ; but it is only as an engine to
be employed in the police that I would preserve it, and
as such it must be employed with judgment and by the


hands to which the poHce is entrusted. The present
indiscriminate application of it is not only intolerable
from its injustice and severity, but absolutely fatal to
the principle of activity in the police which it is meant to
uphold. The temptation to the inhabitants to share, to
connive, or to neglect, is much increased, when the
tracing of footsteps (perhaps imprinted for the purpose)
to another village relieves them from all responsibility,
and the person robbed, who is generally the best agent
of the police, becomes at once an indifferent spectator of
a search for property of which he is certain to receive
at least the full value. It would be a much more
effectual plan for the police, and much more equitable
towards the villages, to invest the magistrate with a
discretionary power to exact a sum not exceeding the
value of the property from any village which he sus-
pects of connivance or neglect. He should be at liberty
to apportion it on any number of villages that seemed
to partake in the neglect, and to levy it at what period
he pleased, so as to allow it time to operate as a stimulus
to the researches of the villagers ; and he might remit
it, if he was satisfied before payment had taken place
that no exertion had been wanting. But he ought to
be directed to be rather rigid than lax, and to allow no
appearance even of negligence to escape without some
fine. I can see no objection whatever to entrusting the
magistrate with this power, which he always possessed
till the passing of Eegulation III. of 1818. If it is
wished to have a check on his exercise of it, it might be
subject to the revision of the criminal judge ; but it
ought, at all events, to be a branch of the police ; and
I observe that it was so even in Bengal, where the pay-
ment for property by villages in certain circumstances
■was to be ordered by the Court of Circuit and not by
the Divani. Adalat. Supposing, however, that our


system requires it to be subject to the decision of a
civil court, it would be necessary to enact that no suit
should be received, unless a certificate could be produced
from the magistrate or criminal judge that the case was
one in which the village was to blame.

75. I may here introduce the subject of military
guards employed on civil duties. I made this an
object of my particular attention, with a view to relieve
the line from a number of duties requiring none of the
qualities of a soldier, and yet breaking up battalions
that might be wanted for service, and injuring the dis-
cipline of those not likely to be so called on. The
result of my inquiries showed the number of Sepoys so
employed to be less than I had supposed ; but still they
amount to upwards of 600 men, without including the
Northern and Southern Konkan ; altogether they can-
not fall short of the strength of a complete battalion.
Guards for the gaols, however, would at all events be
required, and these would take 50 men for each
Zilla ; 300 in all ; so that the reduction in Gujarat
would not exceed 300 men. It might be practicable
to make such a distribution of the extra battalions as
might render them applicable to this duty, and thus
leave all the battalions intended for service disposable
for that purpose. But these troops, if employed on
the gaol guards, would require to be often relieved,
as they would otherwise get intimate with the prisoners
and cease to be an efiectual check on them. The
collector of Ahmedabad has a party of his Peons dressed
in a blue uniform, with brown belts and a kind of for-
aging-cap, and armed with muskets and bayonets, who
only receive seven rupees for clothes and all, and yet
a month or two's exercising with a regular battalion,
and, I believe, the superintendence of a discharged
Havaldar, has made them at least as good, I think


better than regular Sepoys, for all these duties except
gaol guards. If a company of 100 men of this
description to each Zilla could be paid by a reduction
in the revenue and police establishments, it would be
sufficient for the duty, and would ease the troops of the
line. The responsibility of collectors for treasure not
under a military guard should be dispensed with, where
there is no neglect on his part or his officers'. The
absence of a military guard should make no difference.

76. Before I conclude this paper, I must record my
obligations to the collectors of these Zillas for the cordial
assistance I received from them in my inquiries, and
for the valuable information and opinions which they
communicated. The zeal, activity, and successful
management of Mr. Dunlop have already been noticed
in various employments, and I have particular pleasure
in noticing the remarkable intelligence and acquaint-
ance with his duty displayed by Mr. More.

77. Though from the nature of the judicial es-
tablishment, fixed by regulations and controlled by
superior courts, I did not think it necessary to devote
any of the short time I had at my disposal to inquiries
in that line, I have to acknowledge the readiness of
the gentlemen at the head of it to afford me every
information ; and to Mr. Anderson I am indebted for
much information and many judicious suggestions.

(Signed) M. Elphinstone.

Camp Chaklasi, 6/^ April, 1821.


Vol. III. pp. 706—709.


Vol. hi. pp. TOG— 709.

I HAVE perused Mr. Prendergast's observations on my
minutes on Ahmedabad and Kaira, and on other
districts of Gujarat, with much interest and attention.
I now proceed to offer such explanation as those obser-
vations appear to call for.

To facilitate reference, I shall take the liberty of
putting numbers on the parts of Mr. Prendergast's
minute to which I wish to allude.

This observation applies to Bhagdar villages only ;
and in them I think I have said that all the Bhas^dars
and Patels, though only the few who are at the
heads of great divisions (Mota Bhags in Broach) receive
the Patel's allowances and communicate with the
Government. But the number of Bhagdar villages
in Gujarat is comparativel}^ small : there are more
in Surat, few in Ahmedabad, not so much as half
the number of villages in Kaira. In Broach only
they are numerous ; in all other villages there is onl}^
one Patel.

In one sense of the word all the Company's subjects


are Eayats ; but in the village the word is used
(in contradistinction to Patel) for the cultivators who
do not share in the village Government. It is in
this sense I use it in the places noticed by Mr.
Prendergast, and I believe in all others.

Those are called ' Sarkar,' the Ptayats that cultivate
Talpad land, to distinguish them from those who culti-
vate exclusively land belonging to Girasias, which last
are chiefly found in Girasias villages. What control the
Government has over them is another question. The
Native Government had a great deal once, and I
think ought to have none ; at least no power of
restraining them from throwing up their lands when

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 37 of 41)