JAC Board Class 8th Social Science Notes History Chapter 3 Ruling the Countryside
→ The Company Becomes the Diwan
- On 12 August 1765, the Mughal emperor appointed the East India Company as the Diwan of Bengal.
- As Diwan, the Company became the chief financial administrator of the territory under its control. Now, it had to think of administering the land and organising its revenue resources.
- Being an alien power, it needed to pacify those who in the past had ruled the countryside, and enjoyed authority and prestige.
→ Revenue for the Company
- The Company had become the Diwan. but it still saw itself primarily as a trader.
- Before 1865, the Company had purchased goods in India by importing gold and silver from Britain. Now the revenue collected in Bengal could finance the purchase of goods for export.
- Artisans were deserting villages since they were being forced to sell their goods to the Company at low prices. Peasants were unable to pay the dues that were being demanded from them.
- In 1770 a terrible famine killed ten million people in Bengal. About one-third of the population was wiped out.
→ The need to improve agriculture
- Most Company officials began to feel that investment in land had to be encouraged and agriculture had to be improved.
- In 1793, the Company introduced the Permanent Settlement.
- By the terms of the settlement, the rajas and taluqdars were recognised as zamindars. They were asked to collect rent from the peasants and pay revenue to the Company.
- The amount to be paid was fixed permanently. It was felt that this would ensure a regular flow of revenue into the Company’s coffers and at the same time encourage the zamindars to invest in improving the land.
→ The problem
- The Permanent Settlement created problems. Company officials soon discovered that the zamindars were in fact not investing in the improvement of land. The revenue that had been fixed was so high that the zamindars found it difficult to pay. Anyone who failed to pay the revenue lost his zamindari.
- The prices in the market rose and cultivation slowly expanded. Hence, there is an increment in the income of the zamindars but no gain for the Company since it could not increase a revenue demand that had been fixed permanently.
- As long as the zamindars could give out the land to tenants and get rent, they were not interested in improving the land.
- On the other hand, in the villages, the cultivator found the system extremely oppressive. The rent he paid to the zamindar was high and his right on the land was insecure.
→ A new system is devised
- By the early nineteenth century many of the Company officials were convinced that the system of revenue had to be changed again.
- An Englishman called Holt Mackenzie devised the new system which came into effect in 1822, in the North Western Provinces of the Bengal Presidency (most of this area is now in Uttar Pradesh).
- The estimated revenue of each plot within a village was added up to calculate the revenue that each village (mahal) had to pay. This demand was to be revised periodically, not permanently fixed.
- The charge of collecting the revenue and paying it to the Company was given to the village headman, rather than the zamindar. This system came to be known as the mahalwari settlement.
→ The Munro system
- Down in south, the similar idea of permanent settlement moved away. The new system that was devised came to be known as the ryotwar or ryotwari.
- It was tried on a small scale by Captain Alexander Read in some of the areas that were taken over by the Company after the wars with Tipu Sultan. Subsequently developed by Thomas Munro, this system was gradually extended all over south India.
- Munro thought that the British should act as paternal father figures protecting the lyots under their charge.
→ All was not well
Driven by the desire to increase the income from land, revenue officials fixed too high a revenue demands. Peasants were unable to pay, ryots fled the countryside, and villages became deserted in many regions.
→ Crops for Europe
- The British also realised that the countryside could not only yield revenue, it could also grow the crops that Europe required.
- The British persuaded or forced cultivators in various parts of India to produce other crops: jute in Bengal, tea in Assam, sugarcane in the United Provinces (now Uttar Pradesh), wheat in Punjab, cotton in Maharashtra and Punjab, rice in Madras.
→ Does colour have a history?
- A kalamkari print was created by weavers of Andhra Pradesh in India. On the other hand, a floral cotton print was designed and produced by William Morris, a famous poet and artist of nineteenth-century Britain.
- There is one thing common in the two prints: both used a rich blue colour commonly called indigo.
- The blue prints was produced from a plant called indigo.
→ Why the demand for Indian indigo?
- The indigo plant grows primarily in the tropics. By the thirteenth century, Indian indigo was being used by cloth manufacturers in Italy, France and Britain to dye cloth.
- Only small amounts of Indian indigo reached the European market and its price was very high. European cloth manufacturers therefore had to depend on another plant called woad to make violet and blue dyes.
- However, cloth dyers preferred indigo as a dye. Indigo produced a rich blue colour, whereas the dye from woad was pale and dull.
- By the seventeenth century, European cloth producers persuaded their governments to relax the ban on indigo import.
- Indigo plantations also came up in many parts of North America.
- The French began cultivating indigo in St Domingue in the Caribbean Islands, the Portuguese in Brazil, the English in Jamaica, and the Spanish in Venezuela.
- By the end of the eighteenth century, the demand for Indian indigo grew further.
- While the demand for indigo increased, its existing supplies from the West Indies and America collapsed for a variety of reasons.
- Between 1783 and 1789 the production of indigo in the world fell by half.
→ Britain turns to India
- From the last decades of the eighteenth-century indigo cultivation in Bengal expanded rapidly and Bengal indigo came to dominate the world market.
- As the indigo trade grew, commercial agents and officials of the Company began investing in indigo production.
→ How was indigo cultivated?
- There were two main systems of indigo cultivation nij and ryoti.
- Within the system of nij cultivation, the planter produced indigo in lands that he directly controlled.
→ The problem with nij cultivation
- The planters found it difficult to expand the area under nij cultivation.
- Indigo could be cultivated only on fertile lands and these were all already densely populated.
- They attempted to lease in the land around the indigo factory, and evict the peasants
from the area. But this always led to conflicts and tension.
- Nor was labour easy to mobilise and large numbers of labours required. And labour was needed precisely at a time when peasants were usually busy with their rice cultivation.
- Nij cultivation on a large scale also required many ploughs and bullocks.
- One bigha of indigo cultivation required two ploughs.
- Till the late nineteenth century, planters were therefore reluctant to expand the area under nij cultivation.
- Less than 25 per cent of the land producing indigo was under this system.
- The rest was under an alternative mode of cultivation i.e.; the ryoti system.
→ Indigo on the land of ryots
- Under the ryoti system, the planters forced the ryots to sign a contract, an agreement (satta).
- At times they pressurised the village headmen to sign the contract on behalf of the ryots.
- The planter provided the seed and the drill, while the cultivators prepared the soil, sowed the seed and looked after the crop.
- When the crop was delivered to the planter after the harvest, a new loan was given to the ryot, and the cycle started all over again.
- The price peasants got for the indigo they produced was very low and the cycle of loans never ended.
- The planters usually insisted that indigo be cultivated on the best soils in which peasants preferred to cultivate rice because indigo had deep roots and it exhausted the soil rapidly. After an indigo harvest the land could not be sown with rice.
→ The “Blue Rebellion” and After
- In March 1859, thousands of ryots in Bengal refused to grow indigo.
- As the rebellion spread, ryots refused to pay rents to the planters and attacked indigo factories armed with swords and spears, bows and arrows. Women turned up to fight with pots, pans and kitchen implements.
- In many villages, headmen who had been forced to sign indigo contracts, mobilised the indigo peasants and fought pitched battles with the lathiyals.
- In other places even the zamindars went around villages urging the ryots to resist the planters.
- After the Revolt of 1857 the British government was particularly worried about the possibility of another popular rebellion.
- When in Barasat, the magistrate Ashley Eden issued a notice stating that ryots would not be compelled to accept indigo contracts, word went around that Queen Victoria had declared that indigo need not be sown.
- The intellectuals from Calcutta wrote about the misery of the ryots, the tyranny of the planters, and the horrors of the indigo system.
- Worried by the rebellion, the government brought in the military to protect the planters from assault, and set up the Indigo Commission to enquire into the system of indigo production.
- After the revolt, indigo production collapsed in Bengal. But the planters now shifted their operation to Bihar.
- Mahatma Gandhi’s visit in 1917 marked the beginning of the Champaran movement against the indigo planters.