Discuss the salient features of Permanent Settlement. Why some historians call it a bold step and a wise measure adopted by company while some others called it a sad blunder? Substantiate.

Model Answer:
The basic features of the settlement were as follows:

  • The Zamindars were made hereditary owners of the land under their possession. They and their successors exercised total control over lands.
  • The Zamindars could sell and purchase lands.
  • The state had no direct contact with the peasants.
  • The company’s share in the revenue was fixed permanently with the Zamindars.
  • If the Zamindars were unable to pay the tax; there land was subjected to be auctioned.

However, many scholars hold divergent opinions about this settlement. Marshman observed that it was a bold, brave and wise measure. R.C. Dutt also opines the measure to bring prosperity and happiness to the nation. He further added that permanent settlement by Cornwallis fixed the share of revenue for government and has most effectively safeguarded the economic welfare of the people.
On the contrary, Holmes, James Mill, Thurston and Raja Rama Mohan Roy were very critical about this settlement.As per them the actual operation of this settlement in years to come proves that this settlement was not at all beneficial to any party – the government, Zamindar and the ryot.Charles Metcalfe is of the view that “Cornwallis instead of being the creator of the prosperity in India was the great destroyer of it because the cultivators who were reduced to the position of tenants suffered miserably at the hands of their landlords. Bipan Chandra also writes that compared to the British landlord, Indian landlord paid as tax 10/11th of his income from the land. As such many landlords became defaulters of tax to the government and had to sell their lands to pay the tax.

Question for UPSC Mains:
Discuss the salient features of Permanent Settlement. Why some historians call it a bold step and a wise measure adopted by company while some others called it a sad blunder? Substantiate.

Published: February 7, 2016 | Modified:June 27, 2019

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