Rambles and Recollections of an Indian Official eBook

William Henry Sleeman
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 1,051 pages of information about Rambles and Recollections of an Indian Official.

9.  Fifty per cent. may be considered as the average rate left to the lessees or proprietors of estates under this new settlement; and, if they take on an average one-third of the gross produce, Government takes two-ninths.  But we may rate the Government share of the produce actually taken at one-fifth as the maximum, and one-tenth as the minimum. [W.  H. S.]

It is unfortunately true that in the short-term settlements made previous to 1833 many abuses of the kinds referred to in the text occurred.  The traditions of the people and the old records attest numerous instances.  The first serious attempt to reform the system of revenue settlements was made by Regulation VII of 1822, but, owing to an excessive elaboration of procedure, the attempt produced no appreciable results.  Regulation IX of 1833 established a workable system, and provided for the appointment of Indian Deputy Collectors with adequate powers.  The settlements of the North-Western Provinces made under this Regulation were, for the most part, reasonably fair, and were generally confirmed for a period of thirty years.  Mr. Robert Mertins Bird, who entered the service in 1805, and died in 1853, took a leading part in this great reform.  When the next settlements were made, between 1860 and 1880, the share of the profit rental claimed by the State was reduced from two-thirds to one-half.  Full details will be found in the editor’s Settlement Officer’s Manual for the N. W. P. (Allahabad, 1882), or in Baden Powell’s big book, Land Systems of British India (Clarendon Press, 1892).

10.  Since 1833 the people whom the author calls ‘farmers’ have gradually become fall proprietors, subject to the Government lien on the land and its produce for the land revenue.  For many years past the ancient custom of joint ownership and collective responsibility has been losing ground.  Partitions are now continually demanded, and every year collective responsibility is becoming more unpopular and more difficult to enforce.

11.  This judgement, I need hardly say, would not be accepted in Madras or Bombay.  The issue raised is too large for discussion in footnotes.

12.  The advantages of very long terms of settlements are obvious; the disadvantages, though equally real, are less obvious.  Fluctuations in prices, and above all, in the price of silver, are among the many conditions which complicate the question.  Except the Bengal landowners, most people now admit that the Permanent Settlement of Bengal in 1793 was a grievous mistake.  It is also admitted that the mistake is irrevocable.

13.  These two suggestions of the author that the law of primogeniture should be established to regulate the succession to ordinary estates, and that it should be abolished in the case of chieftainships, where it already prevails, are obviously open to criticism.  It seems sufficient to say that both recommendations are, for many reasons, altogether impracticable.  In passing, I may note that the term ‘feudal’ does not express with any approach to correctness the relation of the Native States to the Government of India.

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