The central feature of the agrarian system under the Mughals was the alienation from the peasant of his surplus produce (produce over and above the subsistence level) in the form of land revenue which was the main source of state's income. Early British administrators regarded the land revenue as rent of the soil because they had a notion that the king was the owner of the land. Subsequent studies of Mughal India have shown that it was a tax on the crop and was thus different from the land revenue as conceived by the British. Abul Fazl in his Ain-i Akbari justifies the imposition of taxes by the state saying that these are the remuneration of sovereignty, paid in return for protection and justice. The Persian term for land revenue during the Mughal rule was mal and mal wajib. Kharaj was not in regular use.
The process of land revenue collection has two stages:
(a) Assessment (tashkhis/jama)
(b) Actual collection (hasil).
Assessment was made to fix the state demand. On the basis of this demand, actual collection was done separately for kbarif and rabi crops.
METHODS OF LAND REVENUE ASSESSMENT
Under the Mughals assessment was separately made for kharif and rabi crops. After the assessment was over a written document called patta, qaul or paul-e-qarar was issued in which the amount or the rate of the revenue demand was mentioned. The assessee was in return supposed to give qabuliyat i.e. 'the "acceptance" of the obligation imposed upon him, stating when and how he would make the payments'.
We will discuss here a few commonly used methods:
1) Ghalla Bakhshi (Crop-sharing): In some areas it was called bhaoli and batai. The Ain-i Akbri notes three types of crop-sharing:
a) Division of crop at the threshing floor after the grain was obtained. This was done in the presence of both the parties in accordance with agreement.
b) Khet batai: The share was decided when the crop was still standing in the fields, and a division of the field was marked.
c) Lang batai: The crop was cut and stacked in heaps without separating grain and a division of crop in this form was made.
In Malikzada's Nigarnama-i Munshi ,crop sharing has been mentioned as the best method of revenue assessment and collection. Under this method, the peasants and the state shared the risks of the seasons equally. But as Abul Fazl says it was expensive from the viewpoint of the state since the latter had to employ a large number of watchmen, else there were chances of misappropriation before harvesting. When Aurangzeb introduced it in the Deccan, the cost of revenue collection doubled simply from the necessity of organizing a watch on the crops.
2) Kankut/Dambandi The word kankut is derived from the words kan and kat. Kan denotes grain while kat means to estimate or appraisal. Similarly, dam means grain while bandi is fixing or detemining anything. It was a system where the grain yield (or productivity) was estimated. In kankut, at first, the field was measured either by means of a rope or by pacing. After this, the per bigha productivity from good, middling and bad Iands was estimated and the revenue demand was fixed accordingly.
3) Zabti: In Mughal India, it was the most important method of assersment. The origin of this practice is traced to Sher Shah. During Akbar'r reign, the system was revised a number of times before it took the final shape.
Sher Shah had established a rai or per bigha yield for lands which were under continuous cultivation (polaj), or those land which very rarely allowed to lie fallow (parauti). The rai was based on three rates, representing good, middling and low yields and one third of the sum of these was appropriated as land revenue. Akbar adopted Sher Shah's rai. Akbar introduced his so-called karori experiment and appointed karoris all aver North India in 1574-75. The entire jagir was converted into khalisan. On the basis of the information provided by the karoris regarding the...