Commentary on
William Logan’s ‘Malabar Manual’
Revenue and administrative changes


The English Company came to do trade. However, unwittingly they had to take up the administration of the semi-barbarian locations. For, in the various feudal language location, no one was bothered about creating any enduring systems. All that was the thought about and aimed for was ‘respect’. Without ‘respect’, an individual is a ‘pinam’-പിണം, that is a dead body.

Once the administration became their responsibility, the English Company officials had to literally set up and create each and every kind of infrastructure in the land right from start. Including the administration, the police, the judiciary, the roadways, the waterways, the postal system, public healthcare, public sanitation and much, much more. ഇന്ന് ഇന്ത്യയിലെ രാഷ്ട്രീയക്കാർ നിന്ന് വിലസുന്ന മിക്ക ഭരണ സംവിധാനങ്ങളും ഇങ്ഗ്ളിഷ് ഭരണം ഇവിടെ വെറും നിലത്ത് പൊടിതട്ടി, കുഴികുഴിച്ച് വിത്തിട്ട് വെളളമൊഴിച്ച് വളർത്തി പന്തലിപ്പിച്ചവയാണ്.

For doing all this there was need for revenue. It is quite curious that the English administrators did not think of sales tax at all. Instead, they tried to go along with the revenue collection model that was already there in the land. That is of collecting a tax on the agricultural products.

This was a Himalayan endeavour. These persons who did not know actually anything about agriculture and produces of the subcontinent went on improving their ideas, so as to arrive at the best suitable system. However, they were hampered by the various vested interests involved. The first of this was their own natives-of-the-subcontinent officials. They were mostly corrupt and could very easily misuse their position. For, in the feudal languages, any official job automatically becomes a social position.

QUOTE: Was Janmi, as Mr. Græme says, an empty title after his share of the produce of the land had been thus mortgaged ? END OF QUOTE.

In English, it might seem that a person who has become a ‘former’ official, has not much of a difference in the verbal codes from an ‘official’ who is incumbent. However in feudal languages, it is not so easy. Titles are codes of ‘respect’. And it bear many kinds of social power and prestige, which are not there in English for any official.

QUOTE: river-side portion of Ponnani town which stands at its mouth is always in more or less danger from erosion, and in fact the town is only preserved by groynes, for the proper maintenance of which a special voluntary cess is paid by the mercantile community. END OF QUOTE.

That is from the description on Ponnani River.

QUOTE: “After completion, the roads should be maintained in good order by the labour of the community. Bullocks carrying merchandise might be tolled so as to provide a fund to meet contingent charges, etc.” END OF QUOTE.

That was mentioned with regard to the building of the various news roads to the various interior parts of Malabar by the English Company.

QUOTE: The ryots, on the other hand, viewed the government as the inheritors in succession to Tippu and Hyder Ali of the pattam or land revenue assessment, and this was explicitly stated to the Commissioners by a deputation of influential Mappillas whom the Commissioners called together to consult on the subject. If the Commissioners had followed out the rule laid down in the fourth paragraph of the agreement with the Iruvalinad Nambiars which has already been commented on, the status of the ryots of Malabar would have been very different at the present day. END OF QUOTE.

There are obviously a lot of conflicts of interests, as the English Company went ahead to breakdown the oppressive social layers. Actually the English Company was not any kind of inheritors of anything in the subcontinent. They were a totally different group who was bring in a lot of enlightenment to the social system.

Naturally the higher castes who were in the earlier days the main officials of the English administration, including the socially powerful peons (kolkars), had their own interest in seeing that the English Company’s native-English officials were led to all kinds of confusions and disorientations, as a means to delay the more or less certain liberalisation of the social system.

QUOTE: They declared the trade in timber to be free, abolished the levy of profits on black pepper, coconuts, etc., as impolitic, and instructed the Supravisur to levy a modern tax in the shape of licence on the retail tobacco trade. END OF QUOTE

The English administration was bringing in standards in everything. Written codes of law even in the case of tax collection was being introduced. Many age-old revenue inflictions were removed.

QUOTE: These leases, after recapitulating the Provisions of the Commissioners’ agreements of 1792 and 1793, prohibited the levy of all exactions recently abolished and allowed only the collection of land revenue and the charges for collection while deductions were made for bringing waste lands into cultivation. END OF QUOTE.

This was to rein in the irascible powers of the various rajas and other small-time chiefs in South Malabar on the people in their own locations.

QUOTE: There can be no manner of doubt that the system of settlement adopted by the Joint Commission, of which Mr. Duncan was President during the greater portion of its existence, was very unsuited to the circumstances of the country.

The Zamorin had in a very characteristic letter, as he himself put it “opened his heart” to the Joint Commissioners, and at an early period in 1792 had assured them that “By the ancient customs of Malabar the Nayars held their lands free ; they paid no revenue to any one, but were obliged to attend their Rajas when called on to war.” END OF QUOTE.

The point to be checked is what the circumstances of the ‘country’ were. It was a land that functioned on feudal languages. A huge percent of the population were placed in hierarchical layers, from which they revered those above and treated as stinking dirt those who were below. Into this cantankerous ‘circumstances of the country’, the English administration and the egalitarian English language were bringing in a total wiping out of the hierarchical codes.

Naturally the vested interests who got a chance to write into the book, Malabar, were writing their own perturbations. For, it was an uneasy situation. Because the lower-placed populations, who had been traditionally ‘respectful’ would become stark rude and insulting, once they get the upper hand, if the language was Malabari or Malayalam.

QUOTE: The result, of course, was that the petty chieftains, accustomed to independence, shook their swords or barred the doors of their defensible houses when the tax-gatherers came, and large balances of course accrued. END OF QUOTE.

Off course, the petty chieftains should now be declared as ‘great’ ‘freedom fighters’ against the English! For, they were fighting against the English attempts to uplift the lower populations.

However, there is the other side to the social communication involved. The traditional rajas would find it quite difficult to converse with the native-officials of the English Company in Malabari or Malayalam. For, in the usual course of things, the petty kings could address them as Inhi or Nee. And they would have to stand with a perpetual bow before these ‘rajas’.

The satanic languages, Malabari and Malayalam were the culprits.

QUOTE: “They (the Rajas) have (stimulated perhaps in some degree by the uncertainty as to their future situations) acted in their avidity to amass wealth, more as the scourges and plunderers than as the protectors of their respective little states. END OF QUOTE.

The fact is the rajas of the subcontinent had always remained as scourges and plunderers of the majority populations of the land. However, the in the new social circumstance, they could very well understand that they were moving down to the levels of the higher castes, who had treated them with venerations. So, the higher castes and other social seniors were going to become their social competitors.

QUOTE: The posts of native dewans were abolished, and it was resolved to make a radical change in the a