Malabar Manual Vol 1 CHAPTER IV. THE LAND
Section (B): REVENUE ASSESSMENTS
EXAMINATION OF THE PRINCIPLES WHICH REGULATE THE LAND REVENUE ASSESSMENTS IN MALABAR AS BEARING ON THE SUBJECT OF RENT.
Sub-section I. — Preliminary Remarks and Plan.
The objects which have necessitated the preparation of this paper are mainly two, viz.
(a). To ascertain proportions between Government land assessments and net produce.
(a) To ascertain, first, by reference to the past Revenue History of Malabar, the proportions which the land revenue assessments bear to the fund available out of the net produce of the land, for paying a rent to the proprietor and an assessment to Government.
(b). Are these proportions anywhere excessive?
(b) To discover, in the second place, whether these proportions are anywhere so oppressive at the present time, as to take from the people more of the produce than by the fixed principles regulating the assessments the Government intended to take
Private property in land in India depends on the share left, over after satisfying the Government demands.
The former object is merely precedent to the latter. Regarding the latter, it was absolutely necessary to obtain accurate and exact notions, before proceeding to the main object of the present Commission, the consideration of the existing state of the relations between cultivators, intermediaries, and proprietors. It is sufficiently obvious, and, moreover, it has always been recognised that private property in land in this country depends on the share of the produce which remains to the cultivator, after satisfying the demands of Government. The administrations, Muhammadan and others, prior to the British, on the East Coast of the Presidency, had practically abolished private landed estates by raising the Government demands so as to absorb the whole of the surplus produce.
The British policy has been to restore property in land. This has, perhaps, already proceeded enough.
The policy of the British Government has hitherto been to restore property in land on that coast. Evidence is not wanting (see the Famine Commissioners' Report) that that policy of restoring landed property has, perhaps, already proceeded far enough. The lessons to be learnt by an attentive study of the progress of events in Malabar, where the condition of landed property designed for the East Coast has never ceased to exist, may, perhaps, be found to be under such circumstances capable of more general application, and, at any rate as regards Malabar itself, it is absolutely necessary to a proper understanding of the land tenures, that exact ideas should first be obtained regarding the shares of produce which Government leaves to be divided between the private individuals interested in the land.
Contrary to the view usually adopted, Malabar probably at first had a land revenue associated like all other Indian countries.
2. Some reasons will be found set forth elsewhere [Section (A) of this Chapter] for thinking that the idea hitherto generally received that in ancient times there was no such thing as a land assessment in Malabar is, after all, a mistaken one. Knowledge on this subject is at present extremely limited, and it is now doubtful whether the point, if it is eventually cleared up will hereafter be of any other than antiquarian interest.
It will be sufficient for the present purpose here to obse
rve that the position occupied by the Kanakkars in ancient society, will repay the best study that can be devoted to it, and that it will almost certainly turn out that the proceedings, which will be found hereinafter detailed in due course, of the Kolattiri Raja in 1736-37 in Kolattunad, and of the Zamorin Raja a few years later in the Palghat country, were not after all as hitherto usually accepted, the first essays to assess a land tax in Malabar.
Necessity for reference to certain preliminary matters.
3. Before proceeding to give in detail an account of the measures adopted, first, by Hyder Ali and Tippu and afterwards by the Honourable Company, for introducing a regular land tax throughout the district, it will be necessary to advert to some preliminary matters necessary to the correct appreciation of those measures.
The Malayali mode of stating the extent of grain-crop lands. is by the quantity of seed required to sow them.
4. First, as to the Malayali mode of determining, or rather of stating, the extent of grain-crop lands, it appears that Malabar has preserved on this point (as on so many others) the traditionary custom of other parts of the Continent. The quantity of seedgrain which it takes to sow a certain field, depends so much on the quality of the soil that it is impossible to form from it any but the very roughest approximation to the extent of the field, but on the other hand, the quantity of seed required for any particular field is, other things being equal, pretty constant, and the outturn multiple being pretty constant, also, the gross produce of the field is easily calculated.
Reason for this.
Custom, and not composition, distributed the produce in former times.
It will be seen from the paper on Tenures [Section (A) of this Chapter] that custom - and not, as in these modern days, competition—ruled everything: it was essential that the gross produce of each field should be known in order that, it might be distributed by custom ; and hence the adoption of a mode of stating areas, which, under any other system, would have presented difficulties.
5. As regards gardens, the produce of which, as in the case of grain lands, was likewise ruled by custom, it had been usual to count the fruitful trees only and to form an estimate of their produce for distribution in the allotted shares. A garden, therefore, came to be known as a garden of so many coco, arcca, or jack trees, and of so many pepper-vines.
The facilities which this customary sharing of the produce afforded to the Mysoreans for assessing a land revenue.
6. The subject of pattam or so-called rent, has been considered, as fully as extent of present knowledge will permit under the head of Tenures, and nothing more required here than to observe that when the Mysoreans descended into Malabar under Hyder Ali , they found, as it were, a system made ready to hand for easily and quickly assessing a land tax. The seed sown on each field, the gross produce of the field, the shares into which this gross produce was divided, the number of fruitful trees in a garden, the produce of the garden and the customary shares of it were all points which were, and if may be added are still, known to the most illiterate husbandman ; and it was with the husbandmen, and not with the landlords, that the settlement was made. (Paragraph 196 of the Joint Commissioners’ Report, 1793).
That settlement proceeded (as will be seen further on) nearly everywhere on the plan of taking for the Government a certain portion of the pattam or so-called rent paid by the husbandman.
The Mysorean settlement was not systematic.
Arshad Beg Khan's share in it.
6a. Finally, it has been too often and too easily assumed in many public reports that the Mysorean settlement of a land tax proceeded on a definite system, and was carried out completely and universally on such a system. The good but unfortunate Mysorean Governor Arshad Beg Khan’s name has been too often quoted as the official who, at least in South Malabar, carried out this system ; but it will be seen presently what was in reality the part that he played. The country was not settled enough for the introduction of any systematic and complete plan, and the Mysoreans, even under Hyder's strict rule, were not the persons to introduce such a scheme if it had been elaborated.
The Joint Commissioners, in 1792-1793, were misled by a Brahman called Jinnea.
7. The Bengal and Bombay Joint Commissioners, in 1792-93, obtained from a Brahman named Jinnea a statement purporting to give details of Arshad Beg Khan's settlement of the southern portion of the district for the year 1784-85, and on this the Joint Commissioners proceeded (paragraphs 39, 41, 42, 196 to 200 and 269 to 278) to discuss the principles on which that settlement was based, and being satisfied with its general correctness, they directed (paragraph 458) its adoption in the southern districts.
Mr. Greame pointed out the inconsistencies in Jinnea's account.
It was conclusively ascertained, however, by Mr. Commissioner Graeme in 1822 that the Joint Commissioners had been misled into believing that the settlement was more orderly and systematic than the reality proved it to be. The Brahman Jinnea's statement had set forth that so many measures of seed sown produced so many rupees, and so many fruitful trees produced so many more rupees. The Joint Commissioners thereupon judged that the Mysore settlement had been fixed at certain money rates per measure of seed sown and per fruitful tree respectively, which rates they ascertained by dividing the total revenue from wet lands and the total revenue from gardens by the number of measures of seed sown and by the number of fruitful trees respectively. Mr. Graeme in 1818-22 found, however, by comparing Jinnea's account with certain subsequently prepared, that the discrepancies in regard to "seed sown" and "fruitful trees" were enormous.
So also with cocoanut trees.
The real facts relating to the Mysorean settlement were gathered by Mr. Graeme.
It is unnecessary to go into further details regarding the other garden productions, except to say that the Joint Commissioners’ calculations as to the rates of assessment were equally erroneous regarding them. Graeme, after satisfying himself that “it would be delusive to regard the principles of assessment pointed out in that Report” (Joint Commissioners’ Report, 1793) “as correct,” proceeded on a four years’ tour through the different districts of Malabar and collected most of the details which will be found below relating to the period prior to 1823.
Jinnea's "factitious seed of assessment" and "artificial tree of account."
8. It may be stated as the general result of Mr. Graeme’s enquiries that he found Jinnea’s account to be as misleading as he at first suspected it to be ; and he found that the rates which had been deduced therefrom by the Joint Commissioners had been applied to “a factitious seed of assessment” and to “an artificial tree of account” respectively. The Mysorean officials, it would seem, imposed an apparently severe tax on the “seed of assessment” and “fruitful tree” respectively, probably for the sake of throwing dust in the eyes of the people at headquarters in Mysore, while in reality, in distributing the lump sums thus assessed on particular districts, they found congenial and remunerative employment in fixing the assessments on individuals.
The rates were so heavy that, even when an attempt was made to assess the lands fairly, the quantity of seed sown and the number of productive trees had to be understated in order to find an assessment which the lands could bear. And of course this under-estimating of the capabilities of the land was not procured for nothing.
The rates were so heavy that the quantity of seed sown and the number of fruitful trees had to be understated in order to find an assessment which the land could bear.
The inequalities of assessment are still excessive.
Individuals who could manage to square the officials got off with comparative immunity, while those who could not do so had their lands excessively assessed. Much has been done since to equalise the assessments, but the commutation rates have since become so favourable to the cultivators that many inequalities which would otherwise have come to the surface (so to speak) have remained hidden, and it is only when local investigations are made into existing facts that the immense differences which do really still exist, especially as respects the wet lands, are laid bare.
Arshad Beg Khan's so-called Jambandi was adopted by the Joint Commissioners, and it continues down to the present day to influence materially the land revenue in South Malabar. In North Malabar the system in force was understood by the Joint Commissioners to lead to the same results, and it, too, is to some extent in force down to the present day.
9. Notwithstanding, then its great inequalities in regard to individuals, it was Arshad Beg Khan’s so-called Jamabandi which was adopted by the Bengal and Bombay Joint Commissioners. In the Southern Districts, it continued to be the standard to which all partial revisions of assessments were made to approximate, until Mr. Graeme’s elaborate investigation (1818-22) put fresh materials into the hands of Government.
As regards wet lands, it will be seen in the course of this narrative that the so-called Arshad Beg Khan’s settlement continues even down to the present day to be the standard in the southern portion of the district, while in the north the settlement adopted under orders of the Joint Commissioners (Report paragraph 459), though differing in details from Arshad Beg Khan’s was understood to lead to the same results, and it, too, remains to a considerable extent to influence down to the present day the collections from wet lands in North Malabar.
North Malabar was managed by its chieftains as quasi-Zemindars under the Mysoreans.
This system continued under British, but owing to accumulation of arrears it was gradually abolished.
The Joint Commission.
The second Commission.
Transfer from Bombay to Madras. Major Macleod the first Principal Collector.
Scheme of arrangement for the historical details which follow.
9a. It only remains to add that the revenues of North Malabar were to a great extent managed by the respective chieftains of that part of the country as quasi-Zemindars during the Mysorean occupation, while South Malabar was more or less directly under the management of Mysorean officials. During the first years of the Honourable Company’s Government, each Nad was respectively managed for longer or shorter periods by its hereditary chieftain. Owing, however, to the accumulation of arrears of revenue, which on 30th September 1801 had reached the large amount of over Rs. 11,40,000, this system of management was gradually abolished.
On the winding up of the first or Joint Commission of Bengal and Bombay Officers who controlled the district during 1792 and part of 1793, a Supervisor with two Superintendents under him constituted the executive authority. This system remained in force till May 1796, when a second Commission was sent down to execute the office of Supervisor. This Commission continued till Malabar was transferred from the Bombay to the Madras Presidency, and Major Macleod was appointed the first Principal Collector in 1801.
10. In arranging the following historical details it will be best to adopt a uniform scheme, and the one that seems best to suit the subject is —
(a) To take up one by one, proceeding from north to south, the different Nads or districts into which Malabar was divided at the time of the Mysorean conquest, and to set out in regard to each, as briefly as possible, the series of measures which were introduced therein, first under the Mysore and afterwards under the British Government, down to the year 1805-6, after which year the low-country portion of the district was treated on an uniform and systematic plan as regards land revenue.
(b) The measures adopted subsequently to 1805-6 in the low country taluks will then be detailed.
(c) The exceptional cases of (1) Cannanore and the Laccadive Islands, (2) Wynad, (3) Cochin, (4) Tangacherry and Anjengo will finally be dealt -with.
Moreover, in order to secure clearness, it will be necessary, in treating of each Nad, to detail under the separate heads of —
I. Wet Lands,
II. Garden Lands,
III. Miscellaneous Lands,
the measures adopted in regard to each. This plan will lead to some repetition, but it is impossible otherwise to prevent confusion in detail