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XVII. Lives of the British Admirals, with an Introductory View of
the Naval History of England. By Robert Southey,
Art. I.--Minutes of Evidence taken before the Select Committee
on the Affairs of the East India Company; and also an Appendix and Index. No. III. Revenue. Printed by order of the
House of Commons. 1833. In the very voluminous documents connected with East India affairs which are now in course of publication by order of parliament, we meet occasionally with facts and statements which serve to throw a very considerable light on the strange peculiarities, habits, manners, and
usages of the mighty population inhabiting Hindostan. The nature of the policy pursued in India by the goverộment was highly calculated to give rise to a constant observation, by means of its agents, of the people; for, as the object of the East India Company was, to interfere with the minutest concerns of the inhabitants, and to controul their conduct in all its details, so was it most likely that they should attentively study the nature and habits of those minds upon which they were anxious to effect a change. In presenting to the reader some partial sketches of the population of Hindostan in their native condition, we must apprize him that he is about to be introduced to a people whose daily life has undergone some considerable modification in consequence of the system of ment which has been applied to them. It is proper, however, to state, that this modification has been by no means a direct result of any professed measures, but it has proceeded altogether indirectly from a course which had other objects in view. The circumstances in which the Hindoo population had been placed at the period of our conquest of India, rendered it necessary for the new local government to institute a peculiar and almost unparallelled contrivance for securing to itself an adequate revenue in the country. In many instances it selected as the foundation of its measures the practice which was already in existence amongst the natives, in other cases it created new contrivances of its own. Amongst the institutions which apply to the Hindoo population of India, and have for their principal object the levying of a revenue,
VOL. 1v. (1833) NO. I.
are the zemindary system, the village system, and the ryotwar system. An explanation of these systems forms a necessary introduction to the specific subject of the present paper.
The zemindar system consists of that form of arrangement in which any portion of land beyond that of a village is rated at a certain gross sum, the payment of which is guaranteed by an individual who is called zemindar. The government has made a variety of agreements with the zemindars in different parts of India.
The village system is that under which each village is rated distinctly at some aggregate sum which the headman of such village is under an engagement to pay. The headman is chosen either by the people of the village, or by the government officers; and sometimes individuals or families in the village will claim, as a matter of hereditary right, the duty of making up and paying the aggregate
The ryotwar system derives its name from the word ryot, in English, cultivator. This system is applied in great detail throughout the Company's territories. Under its provisions, the fields occupied by each cultivator, or ryot, are rated separately, and his payment is made directly by himself to some government officer.
Independently of these general systems, there are others of a very different kind, particularly in the more recently acquired territories under the Bombay government. To these territories, as offering the most novel facts, we shall now direct the reader's attention. The lands in the district just mentioned are divided into collectorates, or divisions, in each of which a separate establishment for collecting the revenue exists. It will be convenient to select for illustration one of those collectorates and that which we are induced to prefer for our purpose is called the Broach Collectorate, which is situated, as we have already observed, within the jurisdiction of the Bengal presidency. Here the operation of collecting is managed directly by the government, the collector settling every year with each village separately for the amount of the public revenue. In completing this settlement, no more than two parties appear, the collector on behalf of the government, and patells (as they are called), or principal bhagdors, on the part of the village community. The amount of the revenue depends altogether upon the nature of the harvest; and the month of March is generally chosen for making a survey of the crops, and for adjusting the assessment according to the results of the inquiry. It appears that the greater portion of the villages contained in this collectorate are called bhagwar. In this system, the lands of the villages are, in the first place, divided into great shares or bhags, in number from two to ten. The chief holders of these are the bhagdars, the whole or a part of whom are also the patells of the village. But each of the great bhags are subdivided into portions usually called anas; and these again into sixteenth parts, called anees or chawuls, and these are held by numerous inferior bhagdars. There may be more than an hundred anas in a village; but, whatever the numbermay be, the total amount of the demands on the village, on government or other accounts, is divided by that number; and thus the amount to be paid by each individual, whether he holds one ana or more, or the fractional part of an ana, is ascertained. The apportioning of the lands into bhags and anas is made by the village community, with reference to all the circumstances of soil and situation, which increase or diminish the value of different patches; and thus the great bhags are not each a separate and distinct portion of the village lands, but have their fields quite intermixed throughout the whole area.
The making of all the arrangements here described is a village business entirely, in which every member of the village community has an interest, and also has a voice, and in which no other persons and no other authority interfere, unless asked to do so. The patells and bhagdars, who are all themselves cultivators, take the lead, no doubt, in these common concerns; but they possess not the influence to enable them to effect arrangements that will be attended with injustice or oppression to any member of the community possessing any right in the land.
Such is the mode in which land is distributed: and how it is finally disposed of by the first proprietors amongst their families is the next point of curiosity worthy of being inquired into. The custom which prevails in reference to this mode of providing for the junior branches of a family consists of the following arrangements : as soon as the sons are grown up, have received their wives and cohabited with them, the father must make an equal division with them of his land, and furnish houses also to the sons, or gubhan (building-ground), to build upon. A man having shared his bhag with three or four sons who had grown up, and having afterwards, unexpectedly, another son or sons of the same mother, must make a fresh equal division on the younger ones coming to a time of life to shift for themselves; that is, from fifteen to twenty years of
age. If the father marries another wife, after having so shared the lands, and has sons by her, he must divide his own share amongst the sons of this second marriage, leaving the shares of the sons by the first marriage untouched. If a man has two or three sons by one wife, and he has other sons by a second wife, when they are all grown up, or when the time comes for dividing the lands, then an equal portion is to be allotted to the sons of both marriages, although there may be only one son of the one, and three sons of the other. This is said to be the law; but it often happens that the single son, or smaller number, from weakness, or from a sense of justice and brotherly feeling, consents to an equal division. Daughters do not inherit the lands. If the bhagdar dies without a son, the nephews or nearest male relations take the lands after the death of the widow.