Ruling the countryside
Activity (Page 28)
Why do you think Colebrook is concerned with the conditions of the under-ryots in Bengal? Read the preceding pages and suggest possible reasons.
- After the Company was given ‘Diwani’ of Bengal, the Company got an opportunity to obtain huge land revenues.
- But, the policy of the Company was not appropriate. It followed a policy which left the tenants helpless.
- Tenants were not in a condition to pay the rents increased by zamindars.
- If they did not pay the rent, they had to loose the piece of land they had been tilling for generations. On the other hand, if they wanted to pay rent, they had to take loans.
- They were not in a position to pay back their loans because after paying rent, they had not enough money even to run their household.
- So, the tenants were being trapped in a cycle of indebtedness.
- The Company or zamindars did not care about the improvement of land. This further worsened the situation.
So, Colebrook’s concerns about the under-ryots is right. He could see that Company’s policy was in favour of none. All the parties,
i. e., the Company, zamindars and tenants were going to be adversely affected by this policy.
Activity (Page 30)
Imagine that you are a Company representative sending a report back to England about the conditions in rural areas under Company rule. What would you write ?
The Board of Directors,
In the light of Company’s policy in India, especially in the rural areas, I have to say the following :
(1) The Company has made a policy of permanent settlement with the zamindars. This will provide a definite and regular supply of revenue to the Company.
(2) The zamindars are asked to take care of their tenants. They have been directed to dp enough for improvement of land.
(3) People in the rural areas are leading peaceful life. They are slowly becoming law abiding people. The law and order situation is satisfactoiy.
(4) Farmers have been provided with the required irrigation facilities. They have been asked to focus on some crops which the Company needs for its trade.
(5) The farmers are being given payment in advance for the crops they grow for the Company. They are satisfied with their returns.
(6) Small scale industries have been amply supported by the Company. The weavers are being provided loans, both for machines and tools and for raw materials.
(7) The Company has made contracts with them that they will sell their cloths only to the Company at the price mentioned in the contract.
(8) The overall situation in the Company ruled areas is satisfactory. The conditions seem satisfactory and promising to me both for the common people and the Company.
Company Representative in India
Activity (Page 36)
Imagine you are a witness giving evidence before the Indigo Commission. W.S, Seton Karr asks you “On what condition will ryots grow indigo?” What will your answer be ?
Mr. Karr : On what conditions will ryots grow indigo?
My Answer : Sir, however, under the existing policy, I do not think that farmers would be willing to grow indigo, but if following terms are satisfied, they may grow indigo.
- They are given loans at lower rate for raw materials and tools.
- Once the crop is harvested, they are given reasonable price for their crops.
- They are not compelled to grow indigo on whole piece of land they have. They should be permitted to grow food crops as well.
- If crop fails, they should be given relief loans and also the previous loan should be waived off.
Let’s imagine (Page 38)
Imagine a conversation between a planter and a peasant who is being forced to grow indigo. What reasons would the planter give to persuade the peasant? What problems would the peasant point out? Enact their conversation.
Planter: Look, you are in trouble.We want to help you. We will give you loan in advance. You just grow indigo for us.
Peasant: No, sorry. I cannot do this. It leaves nothing for me to meet my family needs.
Planter: We can provide you seed and drill. It costs you nothing.
Peasant: Why ? I have to spend a long time in the field. You people do not allow me to grow some food crops for my family. Also, almost all my family members had to take care of Indigo plants. When it comes the time of selling, you give us a low price.
Planter: No, the same is given every¬where. We give you what actually your crops deserve.
Peasant: So, what ? This is not enough to meet my needs. Also land becomes infertile. If I try to grow rice on such piece of land, I cannot. Sorry, in no way it is profitable for us.
Planter: O.K. This time we shall increase the price of your crops.
Peasant: No, sir. Even then we have to pay a large amount towards loan. Also, we have to buy rice, wheat, etc. from the rest amount. This much you can’t give.
Planter: We assure you a fair price of your crop.
Peasant: What about the next year ? What if the crop fails ? Sorry, in fact, indigo farming is not profitable for us. We can’t do this.
Exercise Questions and Answers
Match the following :
|Nij||Cultivation on ryot’s lands|
|ryot’s||Cultivation on planter’s own land|
|Nij||Cultivation on planter’s own land|
|ryot’s||Cultivation on ryot’s lands|
Fill in the blanks :
(a) Growers of woad in Europe saw ______ as a crop which would provide competition to their earnings.
(b) The demand for indigo increased in late-eighteenth-century Britain because of ______
(c) The international demand for indigo was affected by the discovery of ______
(d) The Champaran movement was against ______.
Describe the main features of the Permanent Settlement.
Following were the main features of the Permanent Settlement :
- The rajas and taluqdars were recognised as zamindars.
- They were responsible for collecting revenue from peasants and paying to the Company.
- Revenue demand was permanently fixed.
How was the mahalwari system different from the Permanent Settlement ?
(1) On the one hand, under the Permanent Settlement, the revenue was determined as per the land holdings of the individual peasant, on the other hand, in Mahalwari system revenue was to be paid by village called mahal.
(2) In Permanent Settlement, the revenue was fixed and there was no provision of any revision in future, whereas in the Mahalwari system, the revenue was to be revised periodically.
(3) In Permanent Settlement, the responsibility of revenue collection was in the hands of zamindars, whereas in the Mahalwari system, this responsibility was given to the village headman.
Give two problems which arose with the new Munro system of fixing revenue.
- The ryots were supposed to improve their lands, but they did not. The system supposed peasants to get changed into rich enterprising farmers, but this did not happen.
- The revenue officials fixed too high a revenue demand. Ryots were not able to pay this much of revenue.
Why were ryots reluctant to grow indigo?
Following were the reasons for the ryots were reluctant to grow indigo :
(1) They were given loans to grow crops but when crops were harvested, they were compelled to sell them at lower prices. With this price they were unable to pay loans, thus, fell into a cycle of indebtedness.
(2) They had to grow indigo on a fixed part of their land. So, for other crops, they had small pieces of land left. Hence, their food grain needs were not met with.
(3) Also, the cultivation of indigo required the most fertile land. The lands left were not suitable for growing other crops.
(4) Indigo cultivation required extra labour and time. So, they did not have enough time and labour spared for food crops,
What were the circumstances which led to the eventual collapse of indigo production in Bengal?
(1) The indigo cultivators in Bengal were given loans but for that they had to grow indigo on at least 25 percent of the area under their holdings.
(2) The planters provided only seed and drill. The rest of works till the crop was harvested, was to be done by the ryots.
(3) The price the ryots got for their indigo, was very low. They had to take loans to repay their previous loans. Thus, the cycle of loan was never ending.
(4) The planters usually insisted that indigo should be cultivated on the best soils in which peasants preferred to cultivate rice.
(5) The indigo crops exhausted the soil rapidly. After an indigo harvest, the land could not be sown with rice.
These were certain circumstances which led to the eventual collapse of indigo production in Bengal.
Find out more about the Champaran movement and Mahatma Gandhi’s role in it.
Champaran is a district in the present day state of Bihar. Here, during the colonial period, tens of thousands of landless labourers and poor farmers were forced to grow indigo and other cash crops. These crops were grown at the cost of food crops necessary for their survival. Their produce were bought from them at a very low price. Merely, they were given any compensation.
The people in Champaran were living in extreme poverty. Their villages were kept extremely dirty and unhygienic. Alcoholism, untouchability, purdah, etc. were prevailing there. Most of the landlords were the British. They never cared of the life the farmers were leading. On the one hand, when farmers and general public were facing the famine, the British landlords levied an oppressive tax.
They insisted this tax should be increased. The situation was desperate. In this situation, a local farmer Raj Kumar Shukla invited Gandhiji to Champaran.
Gandhi visited Champaran. He had a detailed study and survey of the villages. He accounted the attrocities of the landlords and terrible sufferings of the people. He ran drives to clean-up villages, building schools and hospitals. He encouraged the village leadership to abolish ill social and individual practices.
With the help of many leaders like Brajkishore Prasad, Rajendra Prasad, Anugrah Narayan Singh, J.L. Nehru and many others, he fought against the attrocities of the indigo- landlords. It was the first Satyagrah he ever staged in India.
Gandhiji was arrested on the charge of creating unrest. He was ordered to leave the province. His arrest was protested by hundreds of thousands of people. They rallied outside the jail and police stations. Till now people had identified file power of Satyagraha. They demanded for the release of Gandhiji from the courts.
People under the leadership of Gandhi staged protests and strikes against the landlords. Finally, the landlords, under the pressure of the British Government, had to sign an agreement granting more compensation and control over farming for the poor farmers of the region. They had to cancel the revenue hike and collection until the famine ends.
The poor farmers ultimately emerged victorious. Gandhi’s experiment of Satyagraha was successful, which he repeated at later stage to win freedom for us.
Look into the history of either tea or coffee plantations in India. See how the life of workers in these plantations was similar to or different from that of workers in indigo plantations.
(1) Accounts of earlier Indian history do not mention the use of tea or its cultivation . We get a mention by a Dutch sea-traveller in 1598 that tea is being eaten as well as druck in India.
(2) In 1824, tea plants were discoverd in the hills of the Indian state of Assam. The British introduced tea culture into India in 1836. India had been the top producer of tea for nearly a century.
(3) The workers in the tea plantations were oppressed. They were given low wages. There were poor housing and lack of socialmobility. For- making more profits, the tea planters reclaimed wastelands where the, workers had to labour hard to develop , plantation. For this, the planters introduced indentured labour system. The local as well as outside labourers were employed under contracts. There were two types of indentured labour system – Arkatti and Sardari.
(4) Under Arkatti system, unlicensed 1recruitment was carried from Chhotanagpur and other tribal areas of the sub-continent. Under the Sardari system new labourers were employed by those who were already employed in the plantation gardens.
(5) The labourers had to work hard. The outside labourers had to stay at the garden for a longer period. They were not permitted to meet their family, even on occasions. They were exploited in many ways. They were not allowed to leave the plantation garden during the contract period.
(6) The labourers in the tea plantations and indigo farming were similar in the way that they were exploited heavily. The profit was made by the owners and the labourers got almost nothing. They were different in the way that, however, there was a contract with the planters, but indigo workers were not under indentured labour system.