2.1.2 Changes in Land Tenure under British Rule

India's invasion by the British brought about, in the course of time, a complete transformation in the country's land tenure system. The East India Company experienced difficulty in its trading because the sale of British goods in India was insignificant. On the other hand, the exportation of gold and silver from England to pay for Indian goods was soon prohibited. The company found a solution by securing money from India to pay for Indian goods. It collected taxes for the Indian rulers which, in the beginning, brought revenues of only 10 % of the levied taxes, but, since the control over the amount of levied taxes became lax at the end of the Mogul period, its revenues increased. In addition, they were assigned areas as "jagir:°' The decisive breakthrough came when, in 1765, the office of 'dewan' for Bengal, Orissa, and Bihar, namely the financial sovereignty for these areas, was assigned to the Company with the concession for levying taxes in exchange for a global sum of Rs. 2.6 million per annum.

After some time of experimentation, in 1793, Corwallis' Permanent
Settlement brought a final regulation of the procedure for levying taxes,
which led to decisive changes in land tenure. The British did as if all the
land belonged to the state and was thus at their disposal. They registered
the local tax collectors, who were called zamindars, as owners of the land
in their district. These zamindars had to collect and deliver the taxes; the
amount was fixed at the beginning and remained the same permanently. To give them an incentive, they were free to decide how much to demand from the cultivators. On the other hand, the fixed lump tax sum was an incentive to put more land under cultivation and, thus, have more taxpayers in one region. In order to do so, one could rot bleed the individual farmers too much.

The right to the land conferred on the zamindars was alienable, rentable, and heritable. This meant the introduction of a complete novelty, in India. The privilege of utilizing land had become a saleable good. Those who had been cultivators until then obtained the status of 'occupancy tenants.' These occupancy rights were heritable and transferrable and were not tampered with as long as the holders paid their taxes. In contrast to these, the tenants who cultivated land owned by the tax collectors were'' tenants at will', i.e., they could be evicted.

In the beginning, there were hardly any problems. The scarcity of cultivators prevented the zamindars from demanding too high taxes. They were interested in attracting people to cultivate the land and, thus, to increase the number of tax payers in order to increase the difference between the revenues and the fixed amount that bad to be remitted.

The detrimental consequences of recognizing the tax collectors as landlords and of introducing the legal institution of saleable private landed property first became evident as, later, considerable changes occurred in India in the demographic and economic situation. The industrial revolution in England, namely, brought about a change in the British policy in India. The objective was no longer to import from India, but to sell English products in India. Since the textile industry played an important role at the beginning of industrialization in England, very large amounts of cheap products manufactured by mechanical looms were exported to India and this soon led to a collapse in the textile home industry in India. A large number of weavers became unemployed. In order to secure a basis of existence, they migrated to the rural areas and tried to lease land they could farm. The scope of this migration-Dacca's inhabitants alone decreased from 150,000 to 20,000 between 1824 and 1837- caused pressure on the rural areas and brought about a complete change in the relationships between zamindars and tenants. The monopoly of controlling the means to secure livelihood shifted power unilaterally into the hands of the zamindars who were able to extort more and more taxes as the demand for land increased. This led to indebtedness and often to the loss of occupancy rights and relegation to tenants at will.

The great discrepancy between the fixed amount of taxes to be remitted and the increasing revenues made the zamindars wealthy. Soon they no longer went to the trouble of collecting the taxes themselves but rather sub leased this office to others while they themselves lived on the remainder between the amount claimed as taxes and that paid to the "sub assignees." The difference between the revenues and the amounts to be remitted was so great that even the "sub assignees" tried to sub lease. After some time, it became quite common to have 10 to 20 intermediaries, more or less without a specific function, between the government and the farmers, and they all had a share in the cultivation yield.

In addition, abwabs, supplements and fees for the most curious reasons were introduced; for example, for using an umbrella, for permission to sit down in the zamindar's office, for being allowed to stand up again, etc. Moreover, the "began" unpaid work which the tenants were forced to perform on the zamindar's land, took on larger and larger proportions. On the average, it amounted to 20 25 % of the lease. Under the effect of these developments which should be regarded as late consequences of the changes in the land tenure brought about by the "Permanent Settlement," more and more cultivators became indebted, lost their occupancy rights, and dropped in status to tenants at will or agricultural labourers. On the other hand, the wealth of the zamindars kept increasing on account of the income they earned from the difference between the amount of taxes and the rentals, the increase in cultivated areas, ,money lending, and expropriation of debtors. In the course of time, the zamindari region was characterized by the marked difference between wealth, power, and prospects in life. Even the government experienced drawbacks on account of this system. Changes in the monetary value, prices, and the amount of cultivated areas turned the fixed tax, after 150 years, into nothing but a token sum, and considerable tax tosses ensued.

The zamindari system was not introduced in the whole of India. Because of the experience made with the system, better knowledge of the conditions in India, and liberal influences on the colonial policy, the provinces which became British possessions later were assigned other taxation systems. The ryotwari system was introduced in Madras, Bombay, and Assam. Under that system, the government claimed the property rights to all of the land. but allotted it to the cultivators on the condition that they pay the taxes. They could use, sell, mortgage, bequeath, and lease the land as long as they paid their taxes. Otherwise, they were evicted. This direct tax relation between the government and the cultivators was meant to prevent sub tax collectors, thus increasing purchasing power, and, in that way,improving the marketing prospects for English products. Here, the taxes were only fixed in a temporary settlement for a period of thirty years and then revised. This way, the government increased its revenue.

In North India and in the Punjab where villages with joint land rights were common, an attempt was made to utilize this structure in the Mahalwari system. Taxation was imposed with the village community as theoretical landlord, since it had the land rights. The village community had to distribute these taxes among the cultivators who owed taxes individually and jointly. Everyone was thus liable for the others' arrears. A village inhabitant- the lambardar- collected the amounts and remitted them in bulk. Here, too, tax assessment was revised at intervals.

Despite this different system, the conditions for cultivators constantly deteriorated in these regions as well. The high taxes fixed by the governmen-t half to two thirds of the net yield was the usual amount made investments impossible. Because of fragmentation resulting from inheritance, the farms became smaller and smaller. The fact that land could be used as collateral made it possible to borrow money to pay taxes in the case of crop failures. But, in that way, more and more farms passed into the hbands of moneylenders, often better off cultivatorsin the village. In the course of time,these ceased to cultivate their land themselves and sub leased it instead. Finally, the ryotwari region was no longer a self cultivator region. More than one third of the land was leased and in many districts more than two thirds. The great demand for land owing to the population growth made it possible to let others work for oneself.

In the Mahalwari region as well, sub leasing and indebtedness became ,more and more common. Indeed, it was not possible to transfer the land to people who were not from the locality, but the result was that landed property became concentrated in the hands of a few wealthy people, whereas the others lost their rights. A constantly increasing number of people were or became landless. While in the middle of the last century there were still no landless, in 1931 and 1945, respectively 33 and 70 million landless labourers were registered. Others succeeded in renting some land, but on less favourable terms. Share tenancy, in particular, increased greatly.

The British land policy which lasted 150 years as well as the consequences of economic changes and the drastic population growth led to a complete change in the land tenure system in India. Whereas, formerly, the cultivators possessed the right of use and the government the right to impose taxes, now the rights in land were split into many pieces. In this process, not only did a large number of cultivators lose their valid land rights and fell in status to unprotected tenants and labourers. At the same time, the tax collectors became landlords and large landowners. A stratum of intermediaries who did not have a specific function developed, and the land passed into the hands of moneylenders. This caused an enormous differentiation in financial conditions, whereby, the mass of farmers lived in abject poverty.

To explain the further development following India and Pakistan's independence, it is very important tonote that, admittedly, the economic situation of the different groups of the rural population had developed very differently, and a large part of the population became poor, but, in its main traits, the social system remained intact, There existed namely a complicated relationship pattern between landlords, cultivators, and landless people which was based on mutual rights and obligations and which provided everyone with a place-even if a poorone am within the rural society. The system aimed at satisfying the needs of everyone in the economic and social sector, and was based on the fact that all members depended upon one another.

Thus, the landlords owned land, it is true, but were dependent upon
the landless tenants, agricultural labourers, and village craftsmen to
cultivate it. Inversely, the landless could rot utilize their labour in an
agrarian society if the landlords did rot give them the possibility of
working on the fields. This made it necessary for the landlords to maintain
the landless' economic situation at least at a level which was not detrimental
to their capacity to work, nor caused them to migrate. This not only forced
the existence of a minimum wage, although very low, but also induced
financial aid in emergencies, crop failures, etc. In addition, the landlords
preferred to face want than not meet the obligations resulting from their
labour relationships.

Such mutual relationships existed even in the social sector. The landlord assured the protection and representation of their workers externally, whereas the landless adopted a loyal attitude towards their employers and were, so to say, automatically on his side. This secured him power and influence and put him in a position to represent their interests well externally. In the wars. of time these behavioural patterns became so ingrained that the obligations of the strong towards the weak became social norms, and paternalistic behaviour was a prerequisite for being recognized as a leading personality. This norm, which is typical for rural societies, sets obvious limits to exploitation. It is true that the level of these limits am very low, but they guaranteed a subsistence. It is also important to observe that the rights had been unilaterally shifted to the benefit of the landlords, but the landless did not consider themselves to be exploited. Here, religion may have played an important role, but the existence of mutual relationships even if they were unequal which granted security against threat to existence were also of extreme importance.