Ryotwari System: Meaning, Drawbacks, Features of Ryotwari Settlement

By BYJU'S Exam Prep

Updated on: November 14th, 2023

The Ryotwari System was a land revenue system in British India mainly introduced in the southern part of the country to replace permanent settlements. The Ryotwari System of land revenue enabled collection from farmers and was introduced by Thomas Munro. The Ryotwari settlement permitted the government to collect direct revenue from the cultivators, who were also called the ‘ryot’.

Ryotwari Settlement was introduced in the later period of the 18th century and the system enabled the cultivators to have control over their lands. In the history of Indian colonization, the Ryotwari system marked a significant shift in the way taxes were collected. Know more about who introduced the Ryotwari System and its features in the article below.

What is Ryotwari System?

Ryotwari System refers to a land revenue system that was introduced in 1820. Another name for Ryotwari System is the Munro system, which is named after its founder. The system was first initiated in southern India and was the focus of its implementation. Under the Ryotwari settlement, land ownership was given to the farmer (‘ryot’).

Ryotwari System UPSC Notes

The government could deal directly with the farmer for revenue collection, and the peasant may cede or purchase more agricultural land. In this system, the amount of revenue was directly proportional to the amount of yield produced. Let’s look at some of the important points related to the Ryotwari System that are important for the upcoming exam.

Ryotwari System Highlights

Also known as Munro System
Introduced In Tamil Nadu in 1820
Introduced By Sir Thomas Munro
Key Features Ryotwari System removed the middleman and collected the revenue directly from the cultivators

Who Introduced Ryotwari System?

The Ryotwari System was introduced by Captain Alexander Read and Sir Thomas Munro. It was a land revenue system that was started in 1820 in Tamil Nadu. Munro was the Governor of the Madras Presidency from 1819–1826 and introduced the Ryotwari settlement in Tamil Nadu.

He initially served as a Scottish soldier. He later served in the East India Company Army and became an important part of the British administration.

Salient Features of Ryotwari System

The Ryotwari system was introduced as a land revenue system. It was a new system that brought a huge shift in the way taxes were collected in British India. The main features of the Ryotwari System are listed below.

  • The Ryotwari system was first practiced with the farmers of Madras, Bombay, Assam, and Coorg provinces.
  • The Ryotwari System was where the farmers or the cultivators were supposed to be the landowner, which meant they had complete rights to their land.
  • Being the owner of the total land area, each cultivator was given complete ownership. They had all the rights to buy, sell, mortgage, and even gift the land to anyone.
  • According to the statement issued by Sir Thomas Munro, the taxes were applied to the land by the government, which had to be paid by the peasants.
  • The rates under Ryotwari System were also set for the type of land, meaning if the land is dry, the rates would be 50%, and if it is wetland, the rate will increase to 10%, and it will be 60%.
  • These rates were temporary, meaning there was no permanence in the rates of the taxes on land, and they may vary, mostly increasing with time.
  • Because of this uncertainty in the rating system of taxes on land, if any peasant or cultivator failed to pay the taxes on time, they were evicted by the government from land ownership.
  • Although the Zamindari system has the concept of a middleman, in this Ryotwari System, there was no middleman.
  • The taxes were very high and supposed to be paid in cash as the British government did not accept any kind.
  • Hence another problem the cultivators faced was the money lenders who loaned the money at very high interest.
  • The concept of Ryotwari, Mahalwari, and the Zamindari System ran hand in hand.

Ryotwari System in India

The term Ryot refers to peasant cultivators. Sir Thomas Munro first introduced the Ryotwari System, a concept of collecting land revenue from farmers in 1820. This system was designed to eliminate middlemen.

The farmers could directly pay the taxes to the British and also, own their own land. Through this system, Munro made more than half of the British Indian cultivators pay these taxes.

Ryotwari System in Bombay Presidency

Originally, the Ryotwari System of Bombay originated in the province of Gujarat. Before introducing the Ryotwari System, the British government collected taxes from the ‘Desais,’ who were the hereditary officers and the village’s headman.

  • However, this collection wasn’t sufficient for them, so they brought the Ryotwari System and started collecting land revenue from the cultivators.
  • Later, in 1818, after conquering the territory of Peshwa in Bombay, they introduced the concept of the Ryotwari System.
  • There in Bombay, that system was under the guidance of the disciple of Munro, Elphinstone.
  • The same pattern of revenue collection was established in Bombay, where the peasants were forced to give the revenue, and the government gradually kept increasing the rates rapidly.

Ryotwari System in Madras

In 1820, when Sir Thomas Munro was the governor of Madras state or province, he first introduced the Ryotwari Settlement concept. Madras was one of the first provinces where the system was launched and implemented.

  • The concept behind launching this type of land revenue collection process was that the British believed that no middlemen should be involved in the Ryotwari System, and they could get the most of the revenue directly from the cultivators.
  • Another main reason for introducing this type of revenue collection was that the Madras government was underfunded for a long time; therefore, this type of revenue was logically correct.
  • The Madras government proposed this idea to the British Parliament. However, it was rejected, and hence the temporary Ryotwari Settlement was enacted.

How was Indigo Cultivated Under the Ryotwari System?

Cultivators under the Ryotwari system had to use at least 25% of their lands to cultivate indigo. Indigo was used to make blue dye which was an invaluable source of income for the British. Cultivators had to sign contracts and were also pressured by plantation owners into growing indigo on their lands instead of food crops like wheat.

With the lack of food and high taxes, the conditions of peasants only worsen. This led to the infamous Indigo Revolt of 1859 where cultivators unanimously decided to stop growing indigo and focus on growing food grains instead.

How were Peasants Affected by the Ryotwari System?

The impact of the Ryotwari System on peasants was mostly unfavorable. On one end, cultivators were provided with the right to their lands. However, the system was largely dismissive of the needs of peasants and was focused solely on tax collection. There was no fixed tax rate, so the taxes kept gradually increasing.

As a result, cultivators often had to pay higher taxes than the actual yield, leading to heavy losses. They weren’t exempted from taxes even in the event of crop failure.

  • As the taxes were to be paid in cash, this led to peasants getting exploited by moneylenders.
  • They had to often mortgage their lands which they would end up losing due to debts.
  • The cultivation of indigo also led to the degradation of their lands which resulted in further suffering for the peasants.

Difference Between Permanent Settlement, Ryotwari, and Mahalwari System

India under British rule experienced various types of land revenue systems which include Permanent Settlement (also known as the Zamindari System), Ryotwari System, and Mahalwari System.

Even though all these systems were exploitative towards the peasants, they were quite the opposite. The difference between permanent settlement, Mahalwari System, and Ryotwari System is mentioned below.

Permanent Settlement vs Ryotwari System vs Mahalwari System

Permanent Settlement Ryotwari System Mahalwari System
The land was owned by the Zamindars The land was owned by the peasants The land was owned by the village or a community
The revenue amount was fixed The revenue amount was not fixed The revenue amount was not fixed
There was a presence of middlemen i.e. Zamindars There was no middleman There was a presence of the Village head, i.e. Lambardar
The revenue was not collected directly by the peasants The revenue was collected directly by the peasants The revenue was not collected directly by the peasants

Difference Between Mahalwari System and Ryotwari System

The Ryotwari and Mahalwari systems were created after the Zamindari system was abolished. Both these systems aimed to eradicate the need for Zamindars to improve the tax amount collected by the British government. In both the Ryotwari and Mahalwari systems, there was no fixed amount of tax.

The main difference between Mahalwari System and Ryotwari System is in terms of land ownership and tax collected. In the Ryotwari system, the tax is collected directly from the peasants and they are also the owners of their lands. However, in the Mahalwari system, the land was owned by the village and the taxes were paid by the village headman on their behalf.

Issues With Ryotwari System

The power related to the Ryotwari system was delegated to the subordinate revenue officials. Those were then misused by them as there was nobody to monitor them. The increased taxes were a big issue for the cultivators, for which sometimes they had to mortgage even their lands. The money lenders and the Mahajan also exploited the cultivators if they couldn’t pay the interest.

Disadvantages of Ryotwari System

The Ryotwari system had many disadvantages which led to its ultimate failure. It led to extreme exploitation of the peasants. The various drawbacks of the Ryotwari system are mentioned below.

  • The rates of collecting taxes from the cultivator were very high, which was a very important drawback of this system.
  • This is because the rates fixed for land as tax were relatively much higher than the actual land production capacity.
  • The collection method of the review was quite rude and rigid for the British government.
  • If the cultivator could not pay the desired amount at the time, the British government would torture the peasants and evict them.
  • Another major drawback of this system was that the officers could be easily bribed while assessing the land. Hence bribery increased to a wide level.
  • The increased taxes on the lands devalued them as there was no proper care. This is because farmers were unable to take care of their land.

Ryotwari System UPSC

The Ryotwari System is an essential part of Modern Indian History. This topic is not only important from the sight of UPSC Mains answer writing but equally important for Prelims. The Ryotwari System UPSC notes will help you to learn the topic easily.

Learn all the information about Ryotwari System, including its features, issues, disadvantages, and more. Several IAS questions are asked from this section, hence it is recommended to prepare this section well in advance.

Ryotwari System Questions

Question: Which of the statements correct regarding the Ryotwari System: (1) The Zamindar was responsible for paying land revenue to the state, (2) A Patta was maintained to keep the records of land revenue, (3) Land revenue was based on the quality of soil and the nature of the crop grown. Options: 2 and 3 only, 1 and 2 only, 1 only, All of these

Answer: 2 and 3 only

Question: Ryotwari System of Revenue Collection was introduced in which part of British India? Options: Eastern India, Western India, Northern India, Southern India

Answer: Southern India

Question: With reference to Ryotwari Settlement, consider the following statements: 1) The rent was paid directly by the peasants to the Government, 2) The Government gave Pattas to the Ryots, 3) The lands were surveyed and assessed before being taxed. Which of the statements given above is/are correct? a) 1 only, b) 1 and 2 only, c) 1, 2 and 3, d) None

Answer: 1, 2 and 3

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