Permanent Settlement in Bengal

Permanent Settlement of the Land Revenue of Bengal

The predecessor to the Permanent Settlement, the brainchild of Lord Cornwallis was the Izaredari system.

  • Izaredari system was introduced in 1773 by Warren Hastings.

Izaredari system was coterminous with the farming system in which right of collecting revenue of a particular area was auctioned to the Highest Bidder.

This means that the Peasants, shopkeepers and merchants had to pay their taxes to the Izaredar who eventually was also the Highest Bidder to the company. We can easily make out what would have happened to the poor people of India under this system.

The Izaredar squeezed the poor peasants and then paid to the company saving his profit.

  • Philip Francis, English politician (MP House of Commons) was the chief antagonist of Warren Hastings, had raised a question on this system and struggled against the policy of Warren Hastings, when he was appointed in the Calcutta Council in 1773. His recommendations brought fruits in 1786, but again the new system was no good as far as India’s common public is concerned.

In England, the Court of Directors of the company had expressed their disapprobation of the system, not because it exploited the peasants, but because there was a frequent change in the revenue system.

  • The questions were raised about the Izaredars who had no permanent interest in the welfare of the peasants. These “Thekedars” consistently endeavored to raise the land tax, considerably putting down the poor peasants.

Thus, as expected, Lord Cornwallis introduced the Permanent Settlement in Bengal.

  • Please note that Izaredari system was introduced in Bengal only
  • In Zamindari system Bengal, Banaras, Bihar, Carnatic (Today’s North Karnataka) and Orissa came.

As per this system, the Zamindars who formerly collected revenues were “recognized” as Land Lords and the ownership of the Land was made hereditary. This means that now onwards there would be no auctioning. The son of Zamindar would be a Zamindar.

  • The idea was that Zamindars would have a “permanent interest” in the welfare of the Peasants. But the result was that cultivators were reduced to tenants, deprived of all kinds of rights on the land.
  • The Zamindar could kick a cultivator any time, without giving any reason. In the same system in 1799, the Zamindars were given rights to confiscate the land and kick out the tenant cultivators.

So the system was as follows:

  1. Zamindar was the real owner of the Land and “representative” of the Government.
  2. Peasants were now “tenants” of the Zamindars
  3. Peasants could be kicked out any time by the Zamindar
  4. The Zamindar was like a servant to the Government. He used to keep 11% of the revenue with him for “serving as agent of the Government” and 89% he had to pay to the Government.
  5. Thus the revenue started coming to the British on 10/11 ratio.
  6. The Permanent Settlement fixed the revenue of the land on a 10 year basis.

The economic drain from India was set at a faster pace by Lord Cornwallis by putting in place the Zamindari or Permanent settlement system. The system remained in placed but later a new Mahalwari system was placed during the times of Sir Thomas Munroe in certain areas of India.