Permanent Settlement – Act 1793, Features, Permanent Settlement of Bengal UPSC Notes

By BYJU'S Exam Prep

Updated on: November 14th, 2023

Permanent Settlement was introduced by the second governor-general of Bengal, Cornwallis, in 1793. It was a settlement system that was first enacted in Odisha, Bihar, and Bengal. However, this was later adopted by the district of Varanasi and northern Madras Presidency through a series of regulations that remained in place until the introduction of the Charter Act of 1833. The Permanent Settlement of Bengal was an official agreement between the Bengali landlords and the East India Company.

The Permanent Settlement System was aimed at fixing a specific amount of revenue raised from the land used for agricultural methods and its productivity. This settlement 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. This article will throw light on the Permanent Settlement Act, its features, merits, and demerits.

Permanent Settlement was Introduced By?

Permanent Settlement was introduced by Lord Cornwallis, in 1793, the 2nd governor-general of Bengal. The Permanent Settlement of Bengal was a grand contract between the East India Company and the individual landholders belonging to Bengal. These landholders include the talukdars and zamindars of Bengal.

Permanent Settlement UPSC Notes

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 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 Act 1793

As per the Permanent Settlement Agreement, the colonial state system was adopted by the government of Bengal. According to this, all the zamindars and talukdars had to pay a fixed rate of revenue to the government, and the landlords had the right to change the rate of the rent collected from their tenants. These landholders could also evict the tenants as per their choice.

But, if the landholders wanted, they could make it default and generate the amount by publicly selling their piece of land. This was a strong law known as the sunset law. However, such privileges were not given to the cultivating raiyats.

Permanent Settlement of Bengal: Background

The concept of Permanent Settlement dates back to the Mughal Empire, wherein the Mughal emperor called the revenue collectors as Diwan. In 1764, The East India Company won the Battle of Buxar.

After the battle, they were granted the Bengal’s Diwani. However, the rural farmers were the biggest hurdle for them as they could not pay the said revenue. At the same time, because of the negligence of the East India Company, there was a severe famine in Bengal.

  • A lot of measures were taken, but they were of no use. Lastly, in 1786, the idea of the Permanent Settlement System was introduced.
  • However, the concept came into effect in 1793 under the administration of Lord Cornwallis after the formation of the Permanent Settlement Act 1793.
  • There were many systems, like the Mahalwari System and Ryotwari System; similarly, the permanent settlement system was one of its kind.
  • Initially, this settlement system was introduced in Bengal, followed by Bihar, which was extended to the states of Madras and Varanasi.


Features of Permanent Settlement

The main features of Permanent Settlement are as follows:

  • In the Permanent Settlement, the Zamindars, or landlords, were regarded as the landowners in Odisha, Bihar, and Bengal.
  • The lands were owned by the landlords or zamindars, who were given the power of hereditary succession rights.
  • These zamindars were free to sell or transfer the land to whomever they wanted.
  • The zamindars had to pay a fixed amount of revenue to the government of the East India Company on the said date.
  • If the zamindars failed to generate revenue at the said time, they ceased their rights, and the respective land would be auctioned to generate revenue.
  • The revenue of the land was fixed for the landlords, and the government agreed on a common term that it would not increase the value of the permanently fixed revenue.
  • The government takes 10 out of 11 portions of the revenue, and the remaining 1/10th was fixed for the Zamindars.
  • Though the Permanent Settlement system was introduced in England, the tax rate was much higher than England’s prevailing rates.
  • Along with this, the Zamindars provide a patta to the tenant. The patta represents the area attired to a Zamindar and describes the rent they had to pay the landlord.

Impact of Permanent Settlement

The Permanent Settlement significantly impacted the Zamindars, Peasants, and the East India Company. The effect of permanent settlement in Bengal can be explained below.

Impact of Permanent Settlement on Peasants

  • The farmers and the Bengal cultivators thought the system oppressive as they were reduced to Zamindar’s mercy.
  • They had to take loans to pay the tax. Sometimes, they were exploited by the zamindars.
  • If the landowners failed to pay the tax, they were evicted from their cultivated land.

Impact of Permanent Settlement on Zamindars

  • They have a complete hold over the revenue.
  • The benefit of Zamindars depends on the increase in land production.
  • If Zamindars failed to pay the said revenue, their properties were confiscated by the Company.
  • They became the intermediaries and served the Britisher’s political aspects.
  • In Permanent Settlement, the revenue was fixed because the zamindars could not settle quickly.

Impact of Permanent Settlement on Company

  • It ensured a constant flow of money to the Company.
  • It was the Company’s responsibility to improve the productivity of the land.
  • It resulted in an increase in cultivation and a rise in market prices.

Benefits of Permanent Settlement

The benefits of Permanent Settlement were as follows:

  • 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 Permanent Settlement system was permanent in nature. Because of this permanent feature, the company was sure how much amount they were 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.

Drawbacks of Permanent Settlement

The disadvantages of Permanent Settlement are more than the advantages. 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 benefit 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 Permanent Settlement 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 this settlement could be established.

Short Note on Permanent Settlement

The Permanent Settlement came into existence in 1793 through the East India Company. It was introduced by the Governor-General Lord Cornwallis and was a contract between the Zamindars and the company to settle the land revenue. The permanent settlement of Bengal was initially legislated in Bihar, Bengal, and Odisha, and was eventually followed by the northern Madras Presidency and the Varanasi district.

Cornwallis envisioned the formation of a hereditary category of landlords in the country, which was called the Zamindari System, wherein Zamindars collected revenue from the peasants and took care of their interests.

Permanent Settlement UPSC

Aspirants must learn Permanent Settlement was introduced by whom and when, and details about its features, merits, and how it was completely abolished after India’s independence. It is an important topic from the perspective of the IAS exam and is a part of the GS-I section of the UPSC Syllabus.

For your convenience, you must download and keep a copy of the Permanent Settlement UPSC notes PDF provided in this article. Candidates are advised to solve the previous year’s question papers and refer to all the relevant UPSC study materials for extra and effective preparations.

Permanent Settlement MCQs

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. Correct option is: 2 only, 1 only, 1, 2 and 3, None of the above
Answer: None of the above

Question: Prelims 2021 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. The correct answer is: 1 and 2, 1 and 3, 2 only, 1 only, 1,2 and 3
Answer: 2 only

Question: Who introduced the Ist-e-Marari Settlement? (a) Lord Dufferin, (b) Lord Cornwallis, (c) Warren Hastings, (d) Wellesley
Answer: Lord Cornwallis

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