Land Revenue Rigidity, Revisions and Non-remission

  • David Hall-Matthews


In earlier chapters, it has been argued that poor Ahmednagar peasants’ chronic struggle was not fully appreciated by the upper echelons of the colonial state. Their struggle was often exacerbated, particularly through the ryotwari land revenue system, with which this chapter is concerned. It has been suggested that this put pressure on cultivators to take both exploitative loans and unwanted risks. Thus the fiscal interests of the state came into open conflict with smallholders’ attempts to maintain their food security. It cannot be said that the weight of the land revenue was solely responsible for famine. However, in examining whether the relationship between peasants and the state enhanced or mitigated their vulnerability, it is important to focus on its most direct aspect. The land revenue system was at the heart of British administration in the countryside. District officers were, after all, called collectors. With the exception, perhaps, of the civil courts, the revenue administration was the peasants’ only point of contact with the colonial state. Baden-Powell suggested that the ryotwari system required ‘The administration … to take a sort of paternal or “lord of the manor” interest in the whole range of agricultural conditions.’1 While this philosophy was not much in evidence in the 1870s, the impact of the revenue system was considerable on the agrarian political economy from its conception.


Colonial State Revenue Loss Annual Demand Civil Court North West Province 
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  1. 1.
    B. H. Baden-Powell, The Land Systems of British India, Volume 1 (Oxford, 1892), p. 26.Google Scholar
  2. R. E. Frykenberg, Guntur District, 1788–1848: A History of Local Influence and Central Authority in South India (Oxford, 1965).Google Scholar
  3. 36.
    Ibid., pp. 198–202 and 211–12, citing Romesh Dutt, The Economic History of India, Vol. I (London, 1902), including the introduction by D. R. Gadgil. Bhatia rather makes the case that lower land revenue in the twentieth century helped to end famine than that it contributed to famine earlier. Famines in India, pp. 295–8.Google Scholar
  4. 54.
    For a particularly strong argument that the weight and rigidity of the revenue demand was responsible for the penetration of Marwari moneylenders into the Deccan, see Brahma Nand, ‘The Deccan Peasant Uprising, 1875’, unpublished M.Phil. thesis, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi (1980), pp. 196–202.Google Scholar
  5. 59.
    F. G. H. Anderson, Facts and Fallacies About the Bombay Land Revenue System (Poona, 1929), pp. 132–4.Google Scholar
  6. 64.
    Romesh Dutt ‘The Indian land question’, in Romesh Dutt (ed.), Land Problems in India (Madras, 1903), p. 18. Original emphasis.Google Scholar
  7. 84.
    T. H. Stewart, Survey and Settlement Commissioner, to GOB, No. 1360, 27 June 1883; NAI, RAD, RB, November 1883, ‘A’ proceedings 17–21.Google Scholar
  8. 100.
    William Wedderburn, A Permanent Settlement for the Deccan (Bombay, 1880) and ‘Mr. Wedderburn and His Critics on a Permanent Settlement for the Deccan’, Poona Sarvajanik Sabha Quarterly Journal, 3 (3) (1882), 35.Google Scholar
  9. 201.
    John Anding, Deputy District Collector and Magistrate, Ahmednagar, to Elphinston, No. 797, 10 July 1882, AARA (1882), p. 459. This includes the figures tabulated for Kopargaon, Rahuri and Newasa, and Rs 43,663 later sanctioned for Sangamner. See Elphinston to Robertson, No. 5730, 20 July 1882, p. 119.Google Scholar

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© David Hall-Matthews 2005

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  • David Hall-Matthews

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