Permanent Settlement

By Shubhra Anand Jain|Updated : September 15th, 2022

Permanent Settlement was a system that was introduced by the second governor-general of Bengal, Cornwallis in 1793. In the permanent settlement, the Zamindars, who had the right to collect the taxes on their land were given the proprietorship or the ownership of their own land. The condition was that the demand for land revenue was fixed by the Britishers, which if zamindars failed to pay on time, may lose the land directly by the company or in the auction.

Permanent Settlement System made the process of interaction between the company and zamindars easier as after this system the company did not have two deals with every farmer but with a limited number of Zamindars.

Table of Content

What is Permanent Settlement?

Permanent settlement was the system that was introduced by Lord Cornwallis who was the governor-general in 1793. It was also known as the permanent settlement of Bengal where an agreement was signed between the landlords of Bengal and the British East India Company in which the land revenue was fixed. It is quite known that land revenue played a major role for the company in collecting tax from the Indian population.

There were many systems like the Mahalwari System, and Ryotwari System similarly the permanent settlement system was one of its kind. Initially, a permanent settlement system was introduced in Bengal followed by Bihar which was extended to the states of Madras and Varanasi. This idea of the permanent settlement struck Lord Cornwallis after taking into consideration a similar system prevailing in England where the landlords were the owners of their land and collected the revenues from the peasants by keeping their interests in mind. So it can also be concluded that Lord Cornwallis envisioned the hereditary class of landlord system in the country which was known as the zamindari system.

History of Permanent Settlement

Before the arrival of the British East India Company in India, the zamindars of Bengal, Odisha, and Bihar used to collect the land revenues on behalf of the Mughals as their representatives.

  • Deewani of Bengal was granted to the East India Company after the Battle of Buxar in 1764. There were however numerous farmers in the rural area who could not be collected from. In addition to that, they were not familiar with the local customs and laws too.
  • Later in 1770, due to the negligence of the company, the severe Bengal famine occurred. Afterwards, Warren Hastings introduced a 5 yearly inspection program as a reform. An auction was held to award the revenue collection to the person who could promise and bid for the highest revenue.
  • Hastings also experimented with the annual settlement of land due to its dangerous implications and effects which also did not prove to be helpful in improving the conditions.
  • Later in 1786, the permanent settlement system was introduced by Lord Cornwallis under the orders of William fit who was the then Prime Minister of Britain. A permanent settlement Act was passed in 1793 that brought the law into effect.

Feature of Permanent Settlement

Following are the features of permanent settlement-

  • The lands were owned by the landlords or zamindars who were given the power of hereditary succession rights. These zamindars had the liberty to sell or transfer the land to whomever they wanted to.
  • For the zamindars in order to maintain their proprietorship, they had to pay the Government of fixed revenue on the date mentioned, failing to which, can lead to the seizing of their rights to the existing land. Then the land could be either taken back by the company or would be auctioned off.
  • The amount that the landlords had to pay was fixed by the company with the agreement that this amount will not increase in the future, hence it was a permanent one.
  • The government received 10/11 of the revenue, and the Zamindars received 1/10th of the revenue. These rates were relatively higher than the rates existing in England.
  • The zamindars were also supposed to give a patta to the tenants- that had the details of the lands they held and the total amount they had to pay to the landlord.
  • Due to their land-based Heritage system, the Zamindars were thought to be able to reach far corners of the area as well as understand the local customs.
  • The permanent settlement gave a sense of protection to everyone as it was like a permanent system that is not going to have any major change in the near future.
  • Since the landlord was well aware of the amount therefore the company knew how much they were going to make from sales and land revenues.
  • Land ownership was established as a permanent right to the owners by the permanent land revenue settlement.
  • According to the instructions they were supposed to pay 89% of the total revenue to the state and they could use 11% of it for themselves.

Also check, How was the Mahalwari System different from the Permanent Settlement?

Impacts of Permanent Settlement

The permanent settlement impacted various sections, especially peasants, zamindars and companies in many ways. Let's see how-

Impacts of Permanent Settlement on Peasants

  • The permanent settlement system was very domineering for the peasants. This is because they were part of the system, who had the main role but were given the least attention neither their lands weren't taken care of.
  • The landlords were not at all merciful to the peasants in terms of payments of revenues. Sometimes the revenues went so high that they had to take loans from the moneylenders, who further used to exploit them.
  • In the worst-case scenario, if they fail to pay the revenue, the land was evicted from them.

Zamindar

  • Zamindars were also impacted by the advent of the permanent settlement system because in spite of the fixed revenue by the British the zamindars reaped the increase of production from the land and it ultimately benefited them and the British.
  • In the permanent settlement system, the revenues were fixed high making the settlements difficult for zamindars.
  • Upon the failure to make payments, the British took possession of their properties.
  • Subletting their lands and settling in the cities was the common practice among zamindars. So the zamindars and the farmers were interconnected through the middleman.
  • Besides serving as a broker for British politics, the zamindar was also an intermediary for other purposes.

Company

  • A regular income flow for the company was ensured by the permanent settlement system of 1793.
  • Agriculture and productivity were among the main goals of the permanent settlement Act.
  • Although the zamindars took no action to improve the land, they were not interested in doing so.
  • A rise in cultivation and a rise in prices occurred during the first decade of the 19th century. Due to the fixed revenue amount, this resulted in a higher income for zamindars, but no profit for the company.

Merits of Permanent Settlement

  • It became the responsibility of the Indian landlord to take care of and look after the farmers. This is because due to their regional roots they were able to reach the distant sections of the region and understand the local customs.
  • There was a sense of security among all the farmers and peasants because the system was permanent in nature. Because of this permanent feature the company was sure how much amount they are going to get in revenue.
  • Along with the Company, the landlords were also sure about the guaranteed amount they were going to get.
  • Not only this, but the farmers also knew how much rent they had to pay instead of being concerned about pattas.
  • Due to the permanent nature of the settlement, the Zamindars would take more care of the land thereby maximizing their revenue.

Demerits of Permanent Settlement

  • There was a major drawback to the permanent settlement system that its efficiency varied according to the characteristics of the zamindars. This means they looked after the interest of farmers and the land very well when they were good and also they made the necessary changes to the land which would be beneficial to whoever was concerned. But a bad landlord on the other hand would be negligent to the conditions of farmers and their lands.
  • The class of hereditary landlords developed, who led luxurious and extravagant lifestyles forming the upper aristocracy of society.
  • Even during the freedom struggle Zamindar supported the British administration.
  • There was a lack of assessment of lands and even the revenues were fixed capriciously for all types of productive and unproductive lands. This was a big problem for the farmers, who had infertile or unproductive land.
  • The revenues in the system were so high that the zamindars became corrupted in no time and soon it proved to be a disastrous move. According to the British government, a proper land survey was required before a permanent settlement could be established.

Permanent Settlement UPSC

Permanent settlement UPSC topic is a part of modern Indian history. It is the static portion of the UPSC exam and has got great relevance in UPSC Prelims Exam. You can download the UPSC Prelims syllabus and UPSC mains syllabus for references. Also, you can download the NCERT books for UPSC to learn about modern Indian history.

To be more clear you are provided with the history syllabus for UPSC along with the history books for UPSC.

Download Permanent Settlement UPSC Notes PDF

Permanent Settlement UPSC Question

For extra and effective preparations you are facilitated with the UPSC previous year's question papers and the study materials.

Question: Prelims 2021 Q1. Under the Permanent Settlement 1793, the zamindars were required to issue pattas to the farmers which were not issued by many of the zamindars. The reason was-

  1. The zamindars were trusted by the farmers.
  2. There was no official check upon the zamindars.
  3. It was the responsibility of the British government.
  4. The farmers were not interested in getting the pattas.

Choose the correct answer from the codes given below-

  1. 1 and 2
  2. 1and 3
  3. 1,2 and 3
  4. 1 only
  5. 2 only

Answer: E

Question: Prelims Question 2011 - The tendency for increased litigation was visible after the introduction of the land settlement system of Lord Cornwallis in 1793. The reason for this is normally traced to which one of the following provisions?

  1. Making zamindar's position stronger, Vis-Vis the Ryot.
  2. Making East India Company an overload of zamindars.
  3. Making the judicial system more efficient

Choose the correct option from the codes given below-

  1. 1 only
  2. 2 only
  3. 1, 2 and 3
  4. None of the above

Answer: D

Other Important UPSC Notes
Cabinet Ministers of IndiaDances of India
International Labour Organization (ILO) Fiscal Deficit
Salient Features of the Indian ConstitutionKothari Commission
EWS CriteriaSources of Indian Constitution
Industrial PolicyStatutory Body
Indian Army Rank in WorldIPC Sections List

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FAQs on Permanent Settlement

  • The permanent settlement system popularly known as the permanent settlement of Bengal was introduced in 1793. At first, it was introduced in Bengal and Bihar later on it was extended to Varanasi and Madras.

  • The Permanent Settlement System in India was introduced by Cornwallis 1793 who was the second governor-general of Bengal.

  • There were a number of problems with the permanent settlement system. The company easily came to know that zamindars warrant investing in Land Development. Also because there was a high fixed revenue zamindars were facing difficulty to cover them up. The peasants had to borrow money from moneylenders. Also, the Zamindars showed disinterest in taking care of peasants and land and even appointed intermediaries for the collection of revenue.

  • Permanent Settlement was a feature of the Zamindari system.

  • The major difference between the permanent settlement and mahalwari system was that the permanent settlement was a permanent system, where the revenue of land was fixed and had no chances of revision, whereas the revenue collection in mahalwari system was revised periodically.  Also, the revenue in the permanent settlement was collected by the zamindars and in the mahalwari system was collected by the head of the village.

  • The permanent settlement system of Bengal was an agreement between the company and the zamindars, having the clauses of fixed rates of land revenues from the land. These lands could be of great significance and had far-reaching consequences for agricultural productivity. 

  • Permanent settlement is also called the Zamindari system in Inda.

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