« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
It must be allowed that the cost of these surveys is sufficiently reasonable. At the congress of 1833 it was agreed, that each surveyor should measure an area of about 1,000 square miles, and it was assumed that the area of each mouzah averaged 800 acres. But the mouzahs have proved much smaller, and averaged in 1834-35, only 5371, and in 1835 36, 390 acres. The greater number of circuits must, of course, have proportionately retarded their progress. Since the congress, the entire superintendence of the khusrah measurement has also been made over to the surveyors, and though the result is favourable, the system is not altogether free from objections. It is so easy to correct one survey by the other, that there is always danger that some scheme of adaptation has been resorted to. The Surveyor will tell you, this is impossible, because he never allows the professional survey area to be known to the ameens. But he does not consider that the ameen may procure it without his allowing it, by those many means which are always available to ingenious men. The totals frequently require examination, because into these the deficiency or excess is usually thrown, as being more likely to escape detection. The measurement in the detail may be perfectly right and, indeed, there is now seldom reason to suspect that it is wrong; but the Ameens, knowing they have to produce a certain result, make their totals accord to the standard by which it is well known they are to be tried. We shall have reason to show that these fictitious entries are by no means uncommon settlement as well as in survey, originating in a somewhat universal human infirmity, rather to seem to be right than confess oneself wrong. Since these surveys have been conducted under the new contract, their cost has greatly diminished. In the season of 1834-35 the expenses of the native field measurement were 10 rupees 3 annas 3 pie, and in 1835-36, they were 8 rupees 14 annas 6 pie, per square mile; and including European superintendence, the average cost of khusruh work has been reduced during the last year, from rupees 16-7-3 to rupecs 15-11-2, per square mile. The rate at which the European superintendence of the khusrah is charged, is too high. Supposing the areas of both surveys to be equal, the professional bears twothirds, and the khusrah one-third of the expense. Each survey, of course, bears the expense of its own native establishment. The field measurement ought not to be charged with more than one-fourth, and even that is more than the proportion of labour which is bestowed upon it by the European establishment. However, it is a matter of no importance, except as far as it might affect the khusrah's reputation, which we should wish to see unblemished, in order that no inducement may be offered for dispensing with that useful and necessary document.
The survey being completed, the collector commences his proceedings. The first object of attainment is the determination of the jumma, and it is in this point that the chief departure has been made from the old system under regulation VII. of 1822. The revenue is not fixed according to tables of produce, and in consideration of field-details, but after comparison of general results with a few particular inquiries. Large tracts are selected for settlement, instead of detached mouzahs, and thus a means of comparison is obtained, which cannot but tend to produce equalization of assessment and uniformity of practice. The settlement is directed to be made somewhat in the fashion of the old Ryotwar, by proceeding from the aggregate to the detail. This, however, is frequently not done, and, in most instances, there is no urgent necessity why it should be done, for the assessment can be fixed just as well by comparing one mouzah with another, and assuming some standard rate which is to be applied, under ordinary circumstances, to each village, as by the analytic process. The certainty of there being, in every pergunnah, a few villages which are avowedly well assessed, should teach the collector to make, as near as possible, an approximation to their standard. When he has satisfied himself
In both processes the mental operation is precisely the same, but to explain how would involve too many metaphysical subtleties for us to introduce here. A good settlement officer resorts to both, but the distinctions are so nice and impalpable, as frequently to escape observation.
that he has assumed a correct rate, he should allow none of his jummas to vary from it without reason. The information which will enable him to do this with perfect confidence is obtained without difficulty. With the balance statement of thirty years to refer to, with the fiscal history of every mouzah obtainable from the public records, with information gleaned from the local officers, and the agricultural community to guide him, a sensible man, even with these aids alone, will be able to fix what a mouzah should pay without much fear of error. But, besides all these, he now enters on the settlement of a perguunah with the tabular statement before him, showing the extent of the cultivation, the culturable waste, the irrigation, and the average rate at which the present revenue falls on the whole of the malgoozaree and culturable landHe cannot wander very widely from the mark with such guides. Excessive over-assessment is at once brought prominently forward, by immediately suggesting the inquiry-why one mouzah is assessed higher than another? It is perfectly impossible that inequalities can escape detection, because, by running the eye down one single column of the tabular statement, he will not be satisfied at seeing a few mouzahs paying, perhaps, four rupees on their cultivation, while the average run of the pergunnah is just half that sum. Either one must be too high, or the others too low, and he will not rest content till he has ascertained the truth.
We will suppose the jumma to be now fixed; the preparation of the settlement record comes next, and his may be considered in reality the most important stage in the proceedings. The printed orders direct that the proprietors, under the superintendence of the tahseeldar and canoongoe, are to furnish through the putwaree of the mouzah a thokewar, puttewar, or behreewar, khutteonee and teerij, according as the mouzah may be held in any of the above modes, connecting each sharer holding separately with the land he holds, and shewing the proportion of revenue due from each, according to the distribution which the community may have made of the jumma fixed by the Collector. Every kind of incident connected with the tenure is to be recorded, so that no case may hereafter arise which may not instantly be adjusted by the settlement papers. All adjudications of future summary suits are made entirely dependent on this register. The rate at which the lowest peasant pays is carefully entered, and this is not liable to enhancement without previous notice and agreement. The constructions by the Suddur Dewanny Adawlut of section 18, regulation VIII. of 1819, and of regulation VII. of 1822, fully bear out this view, and nothing will so much tend to produce confidence and security as a strict enforcement of the law in all cases where it is contravened.
With regard to the proprietors, or the village maliks, or zemindars (synnymous terms in the western provinces), it is distinctly stated, that at the time of settlement, they must declare their determination either of holding villages on joint responsibility or defining the mode of division, so that, in case of transfer for default or decree, the amount for which a sharer is responsible, or the actual quantity of his land, may be known. Unless every information respecting the sub-divisions and fractional shares is declared, no relaxation of the principle of joint responsibility is admissible.
If parties cannot agree respecting the amount of jumma which they should respectively contribute, or if any cultivator declaims against the rate which he has to pay, the case is to be decided by a jury or by arbitration, in the manner already pointed out. Cases of the former kind very frequently occur, and unless the Collector is heartily aided by the agricultural community, they are very difficut of adjustment. But, after a short experience, he is able to hit upon numberless expedients to pacify clamorous suitors. An intimate knowledge of the village tenures soon enables him to offer an equivalent to an injured suitor, by proposing some abatement in his quota of payment, by effecting an interchange of land, or otherwise inducing the litigants to compromise the matter. If the Collector feels himself unable to settle a dispute amicably, he must resort to a panchayut. It is easy to issue an order in the case, but it will never be obeyed;
any attempt at authoritative interference in village administration is worse than useless. The Collector, if he cannot induce the people to obey him by his moral influence, must leave the case to be decided by the landholders themselves. The justice of a claim never escapes them, and juries deciding in the presence of hundreds of their companions, and acting under the most rigid surveillance would not dare to expose themselves to the obloquy of an unjust award.
The Persian records, which are of so much benefit to the cultivator, are of three kinds. One is for the zumeendaree mouzahs, in which there is a column shewing the rent which the cultivators pay for each field possessed by them, whether in grain or money, or at a valuation before severance. This, though usually filled up from the information of the proprietor and village accountant, can scarcely be considered complete till it has obtained the concurrence of the cultivators, and where this has been omitted, as it has in some districts, it is chiefly owing to a misapprehension of the printed orders. This column shews at what rate the zumeendar is to collect, and for what amount of rent he can sue and distrain. The second kind is that in which there are many proprietors with asamees under them, the former paying by bach will be excluded from the durbundee column, but the rates paid by the latter class must be recorded. In some mouzahs, particularly in Agra, the asamees pay the same bach as the proprietors, for reasons which it is difficult now to trace; but, most probably, it originated in over-assessment, or deficiency of capital, as in many mouzahs in the Begum Sumroo's jageer, lately lapsed to Government, the same system has been found to prevail, and in them this custom is evidently attributable to those causes. It is obvious that in bach mouzahs the severity of the rate is alleviated by extension of cultivation, and if the proprietors have not capital or labourers to spare, they are too glad to allow strangers to cultivate the waste and pay their quota of revenue, without demanding from them any rent or any other acknowledgement of superiority. The third kind of papers is for a mouzah where there are solely proprietors, who may either pay a fixed rate for the land which is then in their occupancy, or one which varies every year according to the actual quantity of land which they cultivate. When these papers are complete, it only remains for the Collector to draw out his proceedings, state his reasons in each instance for fixing his jumma, and send up the whole pergunnah together in a tabular form, with a concise general report to the Commissioner.
Nothing can be wanting to complete the excellence of this system, and we shall now proceed to show the mode of practically working on these principles. Great latitude is, of course, allowed to settlement officers to carry them into effect in the manner which suits them best, and though all are obliged to conform to one common standard, yet, perhaps, no two agree together about the best method of executing its details. We will take the one we have seen most of, and which, whether right or wrong, has at least been found efficacious.
When the survey of pergunnah Mhow was completed, and ready for settlement, the Collector, after examining the records of his office to ascertain the fiscal history and proprietary changes which had transpired in every village, issued a proclamation to the effect that his tent would be pitched at Shahjehanpore, in the centre of the pergunnah, on the 5th of December. The proclamation was not issued in the usual chuspaneedu shood style, but to every chuprassee was allotted ten villages in one vicinage, in each of which he was to publish three different times, by beat of drum, that the twenty years' settlement was about to take place, and that any man who had any claim to be adjusted of any kind connected with settlement was to make his appearance, whether chokeydar, ryot, coparcener, or lumberdar. The number of people that this drew together was astonishing; not only all the litigants but all the tumash beens of the neighbourhood were attracted to the spot. There were 250 villages in the pergunnah, and there must have been at least 3,000 men present whenever the cutcherry
hour approached. The comitia were invariably held in the open air, and regularity in so large a crowd was preserved in the following way :-A space of about forty feet square was marked out by ropes, within which no one was allowed to come, except for special reasons. A mound was raised in the middle of one side of the square, on which the Collector, one or two of his omlas, and visitors and friends from cantonments (ourselves amongst the number), were privileged to sit. Opposite to this point two smaller squares were formed outside the large one, and these were always kept open to admit litigants, remonstrants, and petitioners." Two squares were formed in this place instead of one, merely for the purpose of dividing plaintiffs from defendants; and this was very necessary as there were frequently fifty men on each side in disputed questions respecting village administration. On the right and left of the Collector carpets were strewed outside the rope for the most respectable of the native visitors and zemindars. All the feuds in the pergunnah were distinctly marked by the people one side clubbing together, and not intermingling with the other. Those who could not be comfortably accommodated on the ground, by reason of the crowd, climbed up the trees, and seated themselves on the boughs. When the Collector reached the spot where all had been prepared for his reception, he ordered all the men who were assembled to seat themselves, and the business of the day commenced.
But before these grand tribunals were held, the Collector had, for the first fortnight, been out in different parts of the pergunnah, inspecting the villages, and holding personal communication with every intelligent person in the neighbourhood. By the pergunnah map he could easily arrange, so as to visit the villages in regular succession. His camp was moved to the four remotest corners in the pergunnah for two or three days, each time, and all the surrounding villages were inspected. His establishment remained meanwhile at Shajehanpore preparing the papers. The remaining villages which were closer to the fixed camp were easily examined during the remainder of his stay. The use of these personal visits has been questioned, but surely a fair judgment may be formed of the pressure of the jumma from the state of repair of the village, from the mode of husbandry, the comforts of the people, and the state of the crops; and, above all the general character of the soil may be examined, so as to trace from what part a new variation occurs. It must be considered, however, that this is merely auxiliary to other means of inquiry. Were entire dependance placed on such results and deductions, and were they not submitted to comparison, it might, perhaps, be considered presumptuous in any officer to profess to gain a knowledge of the assets of a village by riding across its area, and inspecting or pretending to inspect its capabilities; but with the survey and other preliminary statements before him, such inquiries and examination must obviously be of great service.
The day we arrived in Camp was the first on which the public comitia were assembled, and we confess ourselves struck with the patriarchal mode of distributing justice. Of the private conferences held every day, we shall speak shortly when we come to the subject of assessment. Almost the first petition presented was by a certain Sibba, who stated that he had been unjustly ousted from the possession of one hundred beegas of land through the instrumentality of the lumberdar, Maharaj Sing, who, when the khusruh measurement was taking place, had caused him to be apprehended in the Foujdaree Court on a false accusation, and had, through collusion with the putwaree, got this land measured as his (the lumberdar's) property. We remarked to the Collector that the complaint appeared to excite great interest among the zemindars, and he, after hearing the statement of both parties which were, of course, contradictory, directed that any man who could speak in favour of the petitioner's claim should come forward and avow his knowledge. On this a confused murmur arose, and every one seemed to speak in favour of the petitioner; but the Collector, not being satisfied that he distinctly apprehended them, ordered all who were persuaded of the justice of the claim to stand up.
that they might possibly have misunderstood his question, he directed them all again to be seated. When they were all level, and scarcely one head appeared above the other, all those who considered the petitioner's claim to be unjust, were ordered to stand up. But not a soul rose in favour of the oppressor, and the Collector having examined the putwaree's accounts minutely, and ascertained that the petitioner had been in possession of the land, of course, directed his reinstatement, and excluded, with the concurrence of the proprietors, Maharaj Sing from the future management of the village. Sibba was allowed to succeed him. The air was rent with acclamations at this summary, expeditious, and certain mode of dispensing justice; and M.U.M.'s heart rejoiced to see a simple and uncorrupted (because they were, happily, nescient of Courts and their injurious iufluences) a simple and uncorrupted people, so enthusiastic in defending the poor and helpless against the proud man's contumely.
Cases on which evidence was requisite, were disposed of by the Collector's own order, or by reference to a more private punchayut; but all questions into which the pergunnah zemindars might be supposed to have entered, and which could not have escaped their observation, were refered in this manner to the public sense of the meeting and really the unbought and unsolicited testimony of three or four thousand peers must come very near the truth; and at any rate must be more trustworthy than the gunga jullee oath of two paid witnesses.
In cases which could only be settled in the presence of the whole village community, such as claims to be exempt from the payment of village expenses, demands of fresh re-allotments of jumma on the several component puttees of a mouza, of partition of culturable waste, &c. the petitions were reserved till the period that the settlement papers were sent in, when either the razeenama of the claimant accompanied them, stating that he had received his full right, or the disputed matter was reported by the settlement writer for the decision of the Collector, who was always able, at one glance of the record, to see on what grounds the claim rested, which he could not have done as long as the papers were unprepared. But there were scarcely any plaintiffs who were not fully satisfied when the papers were made out. Indeed the only reason in most cases of their petitioning was, that they were not aware of the minute specifi cations which were entered on the proceedings for the protection of rights and privileges. The preparation of these records of municipal administration was entrusted to experienced and well-paid officers, who had been previously taught to exclude all fictions from their accounts, and register only the existing state of affairs, and the mutual agreements by which parties were to be bound for the period of settlement. If, on any occasion, there was reason to doubt the strict propriety of the entries, a superintendent was despatched from the Sudder cutcherry to revise and re-cast them, if necessary.
We now come to the method of fixing the assessment, which was reserved for future consideration. The tabular statement which the Collector had with him when he entered the pergunnah, was drawn out in the following form, exhibiting almost all the material points on which preliminary information was required. This shewed him at one view the total area measured by the professional survey, the quantity of land which ought to be excluded from assessment, the culturable waste, the cultivation of one measurement contrasted with the other, the average jumma which each mouzah had borne since the cession, amount of jumma which the local officers considered equitable, and the rates at which the present jumma fell on the cultivated and culturable area. We will extract the first twenty-five villages as they appeared previous to settlement on the Collector's list. We have no room for more.