Land tenure system:
Land is a gift of nature. We produce several things from the land. In India, in ancient times, the land belonged to the almighty or the society. Although the land is tilled by the individual farmer, the ultimate ownership of it rests in the government, who charge revenue from the individual farmer. In India there came a time when a middle man appeared on the scene. He realized revenue from the individual farmer and paid something to the government. This was not at all a very healthy position. Land tenure system should be congenial for the development of land and also for agricultural production.
System of Land Tenure in Pre-Independent India:
The land tenure system has a long history of its own. There are references to it even in the “Arthashastra’ of Kautilya. As stated in “Arthashastra”, the king was the sole proprietor of the land. According to other scriptures, the tiller of the land was practically regarded as the real owner of the land. The king only had the power to increase or decrease the land tax. The ancient system of land tax continued even during the Muslim rule with some modifications here and there. In the 16th century, Sher Shah Suri initiated land settlement operations for assessment and collection of land revenue. During the reign of Akbar, there was some improvement in the system. The British rulers inherited a well-laid-out land system from the Mughals. The British administration modified or transformed the prevailing land tenures in such a manner as to secure the maximum revenue for the government from land tax. These changes resulted in the development of three types of land tenure systems. 1. The Zamindari System:
The Zamindari system was introduced by Lord Cornwallis in 1793 with a view to increasing the revenue of the East India Company. Under this settlement, the landlords were recognized as the full proprietors of the land. In return for this honor, the task of collecting rent from the farmers was entrusted to them. The Zamindars became the intermediaries between the cultivators and the State. But with the passage of time, the Zamindari settlements made these intermediaries the owners of land thereby creating a permanent interest in land. Zamindari settlements were of two types. They consisted of permanent settlement and temporary settlement.
(i) Permanent Zamindari Settlement:
The permanent settlement fixed land revenue on a permanent basis. This system prevailed in Bengal, Bihar, Orissa, North Madras, Banaras and in some parts of Assam. (ii) Temporary Zamindari, Settlement:
So far as temporary settlement was concerned, land revenue was assessed for a period ranging between 20 and 40 years in various states. This system was in vogue in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Oudh. Since the period of assessment was pretty long, temporary settlement was not “temporary’ in the true sense. The British Government pleaded that the Zamindars represented the most enlightened section of the rural population. As such the conferment of tenurial rights on them could result in significant improvement pertaining to land and agriculture. But these expectations were not materialised. The Zamindari system as it worked in India suffered from a number of defects. They are as follows: (a) Hindrance to Agricultural Development:
The Zamindari system worked as a formidable obstacle in bringing about economic transformation in rural India. The Zamindars evinced no interest in the improvement of either land or cultivation. Collection of revenue was their sole interest. (b) Problem of “Absentee-landlordism”:
The Zamindari system supposedly introduced to promote progressive agriculture, degenerated into absentee landlordism. Absentee landlordism signifies conferment of a right of the sharing of the produce of the land on a few without participating personally in the productive process. The very creation of the section of absentee...
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