Land Reforms in India: Ryotwari, Mahalwari & Zamindari System

By Naveen Singh|Updated : March 16th, 2020

Land Reforms in India During the British Era

What is land reform?

  • Land reform involves taking away land from rich and redistributing among landless.
  • Formally, improving land tenure and institution related to agriculture.
  • It is an integrated program to remove barriers for economic and social development caused by the existing land tenure system.
  • During the British legacy, EIC faced the following problem,
  • Demand for British goods in India is was negligible.
  • The company needed cash to maintain an army for defeating the native rulers.
  • EIC came up with the following land revenue policy.

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Permanent Settlement (1793)/ Zamindari System

  • Started by Lord Cornwallis + John Shore
  • Where – Bengal and Bihar
  • Cornwallis wanted a consistent revenue system therefore; he fixed the revenue with the zamindars and every year they had to pay their fixed amount.
  • It covered 56% of British India.
  • It would be easy for the company to collect the revenue from zamindars rather than millions of peasants.
  • He wanted to create a social class of zamindars who would be loyal to the company in future.
  • He expected that it would increase agricultural productivity as a company would not demand a share in the surplus production.
  • Zamindars were made as owners of those lands in which they had previously being revenue collectors.
  • Their rights were hereditary. They could sell, transfer and even mortgage the land.
  • They had to pay 10/11 part to the company.
  • By the evening at the predetermined date, they had to pay their due. Therefore, it is also known as sunset law.

Ryotwari Settlement (1820)

  • Thomas Munro and Alexander Reed
  • Where- Madras, Bombay and Assam
  • It covered 37% of British India.
  • This settlement was made directly with the peasants who were known as ryot.
  • The peasants were issued PATTA. This was a document which confirms the ownership rights of the peasants.
  • The state revenue was too high and was calculated as 50% of the standard production.
  • Farmers could sell, use, mortgage and transfer their land as long as they paid their taxes. If they did not pay taxes they were evicted.
  • Taxes were only fixed in a temporary for a period of 20-30 years and then revised.
  • Farmers had o pay revenue even during droughts and famines.
  • The government insisted on cash revenue, farmers started growing cash crops instead of food crops and cash crops needed more inputs increasing loans and indebtedness.

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Mahalwari Settlement(1822)

  • Holt Mackenzie and R.M. Bird
  • Where- Gangetic valley, North West provinces, parts of Central India and Punjab.
  • It covered 7% of British India.
  • Unit of assessment was a village.
  • Taxes on village community and they had to distribute it among the cultivators.
  • Farmers had the right to sell and mortgage land.
  • A village inhabitant called lambardar collected the amounts and gave o the British.
  • British periodically revised tax rates.
  • Since Punjab and northern India was fertile so, they want to collect the maximum amount. Revenue was usually 50-75% of produce.
  • Fragmentation occurs and the land becomes smaller and smaller.
  • British demanded revenue in cash so farmers had to take a loan to pay revenue, as a result, more and more farms passed into the hands of moneylenders.
  • It is also called modified zamindari system.

Consequences of British tenure policy:

  • Land becomes a property before its private ownership did not exist.
  • Panchayat lost prestige.
  • Since British demanded revenue in cash, declining the food crops. It increased food security.
  • British did not do much about irrigation and taxes on irrigation were high.
  • More area brought under cultivation particularly in Punjab.
  • It increases the absentee landlordism.
  • Rural industry destroyed due to the high pressure of agriculture.
  • They introduced the commercialization of agriculture.

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Posted by:

Naveen SinghNaveen SinghMember since Jan 2019
Recommended twice for Indian Army in 2011 & 2017. Cleared NDA, CDSE, AFCAT, CAPF Exams.
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Jack Zou

Jack ZouJun 4, 2019

Thank for the info its help me alot...
Gunjan Sawle
Thnk u so much
Kritika Mishra
Thanks... Sir

MonarkJun 4, 2019

one question in UPSC pre 2019
sir, in 3rd point of Consequences of British tenure increased food Singh shouldn't it b decreased?
...Read More
Deepak Jeena

Deepak JeenaAug 18, 2019

Isme factual data wrong h
Its Cool Yuvi
Hmm..badhiya hai
Govind Suryawanshi
Thanks sirji your information is my interest 😇
Nikhil Srivastava
Very less part of modern history is covered here.
And maximum questions comes from modern history only

TabiApr 17, 2021

Sir what about the portion of the Gandhi era

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