Permanent Settlement in Bengal

Permanent settlement was introduced in 1793 by Lord Cornwallis and covered around one fifth of British territory in India, including Bengal, Bihar, Orissa, parts of Northern Karnataka, Varanasi and some other areas. With the permanent settlement, the auctioning of land (Izaredar system in Bengal) came to at an end.

Salient Features of Permanent Settlement

  • The previous experiment of Izaredar system was based on annual assessment of revenue. To streamline the revenues of the company, Cornwallis changed the settlement schedule from annual to decennial (10 years).
  • Zamindars were hitherto only collectors of revenue and had no ownership rights over land. In the permanent settlement, the company recognized them as owners of soil. They were given permanent hereditary rights to collect revenue.
  • The Zamindars needed to pay a fixed amount of land revenue on a fixed date every year. This amount could not be increased later, however, if the Zamindar failed to pay the amount on fixed date, the Company could sell their land via public auction. This made sure that Zamindars were strict enough to collect revenues from peasants and pay it to company at fixed time.
  • Zamindars were allowed to keep force and maintain order in their districts. They were expected to improve the conditions of the tenants but the company would not interfere in their internal dealings with the tenants so long they paid the fixed land revenue.

Assessment of Permanent Settlement

Some historians called permanent settlement a bold step and a wise measure adopted by company while some others called it a sad blunder.