Land Ownership Pattern

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Land Tenure Reforms under British Rule
Thursday, 09 September 2010 17:32 Caroline Laldinsangi
(New Land System / British Land Revenue)
In the Pre-British period in India there is no evidence to show the existence of private ownership of land. The peasants worked the land and the King of Government received a proportion of the produce, which was usually fixed at 1/6th to 1/12th of the produced and in times of trouble, was raised to 1/4th. The British conquest of India led to a change in the existing land system. The new system introduced by the British created two forms of property of land- landlordism in some parts of the country and the individual peasants’ proprietorship in others. The first step taken for this change was that of assessments and registration the ownership of land. The King’s or Government’s share was replaced by fixed money payments irrespective of the year’s production, in good or bad harvest, and whether more or less of the land was cultivated or not. Lord Cornwallis created the first group of landlord in India by introducing the permanent settlement for Bengal, Bihar and Orissa in 1793, it was later extended to parts of North Madras. By the settlement, the Zamindars who were the collectors of land revenue were converted to landlords. They had to make a fixed payment to the government to the East India Company. The Company also created a group of landlords out of the petty chief by transferring their tributes into revenue and by taking over their political, military and administrative power. Persons who rendered valuable military or other aid to the British Government were also granted land and were transformed into landlords. The Permanent Settlement recognized the landlords as the proprietor of the land with the right of hereditary succession. They had also the right to transfer, sell or mortgage the land in their possession. But all their rights ended with their failure to pay the fixed revenue on the fixed date to the government. The government entrusted the landlord with duty of safeguarding the rights of their tenants by giving them land to look after and its rent was stated. The peasants on the other hand, suffered the most from the Settlement. They were left entirely at the mercy of their landlords, who also had share in the production and the land which was not fixed. It was soon found that it was economically disadvantages to the government to have fixed permanent revenue from the landlords. A new land settlement so far as revenue was concerned, was introduced on a temporary basis. The Temporary Settlements covered the major portions of the united provinces, certain parts of Bengal and Bombay, the Central provinces and Punjab. While the British rule created in some parts of India, landlordism, in other parts, it created individual peasant proprietorship known as the ‘Ryotwari System’ which was introduced by Sir Thomas Munro in 1820, the Governor of Madras (1820-27). Under the Ryotwari System, the individual cultivator was transformed into the owner of the land he tilled. The Ryotwari Settlement prevailed in Bombay, Sind, Madras, Berar and Assam....
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