Permanent Settlement

Permanent Settlement

The Permanent Settlement — also known as the Cornwallis Code or Permanent Settlement of Bengal (Bangla: চিরস্থায়ী বন্দোবস্ত, "Chirosthayi Bandobasto") — was an agreement between the East India Company and Bengali landlords, with far-reaching consequences for both agricultural methods and productivity in the entire Empire and the political realities of the Indian countryside. It was concluded in 1793, by the Company administration headed by Lord Cornwallis.


Earlier zamindars in Bengal, Bihar & Orissa had been functionaries who merely held the right to collect revenue on behalf of the Mughal emperor and his representative or diwan (title)
in Bengal, who in turn would supervise their activity closely and ensure that they were neither lax nor overly stringent. However, the East India Company, on being awarded the diwani or overlordship of Bengal by the empire following the Battle of Buxar in 1764, found itself short of trained administrators, especially those familiar with local custom and law. As a result, landholders found themselves unsupervised or reporting to corrupt and indolent officials; consequently the extraction of revenue proceeded unchecked by any regard for future income or local welfare.

Following the devastating famine of 1770, which was partially caused by this short-sightedness, the importance of oversight of revenue officials was understood by the Company officials in Calcutta. Unfortunately, the question of incentivisation was ignored; hence Warren Hastings, then governor-general, introduced a system of five-yearly inspections and temporary tax farmers.

Naturally, those appointed as tax farmers absconded with as much as they could during the time period between inspections. The disastrous consequences of the system were noted in Parliament, and in 1784 British Prime Minister Pitt the Younger directed the Calcutta administration to alter it forthwith; in 1786 Cornwallis was sent out to India to oversee the alteration.

In 1786 the East India Company Court of Directors first proposed a permanent settlement for Bengal, changing the policy being pursued at that time by Calcutta, which was attempting to increase taxation of zamindars. Between 1786 and 1790 the new Governor-General Lord Cornwallis and Sir John Shore (later Governor-General himself) entered a heated debate over whether or not to introduce a permanent settlement with the zamindars. Shore argued that the native zamindars would not trust the permanent settlement to be permanent and that it would take time before they realised it was genuine. Cornwallis believed that they would immediately accept it and begin investing in improving their land. In 1790 the Court of Directors issued a ten year (Decennial) settlement to the zamindars, which was later made permanent in 1793.

Nature of the Permanent Settlement

The question of incentivisation now being understood to be central, the security of tenure of landlords was guaranteed; in short, the former landholders and revenue intermediaries were granted proprietorial rights (effective ownership) to the land they held. In addition, the land tax was fixed in perpetuity, so as to minimise the tendency by British administrators to amass a small fortune in sluiced-away revenue. Smallholders were no longer permitted to sell their land, though they could not be expropriated by their new landlords.

Incentivisation of zamindars in this case was intended to encourage improvements of the land, such as drainage, irrigation and the construction of roads and bridges; such infrastructure had been insufficient through much of Bengal. With a fixed land tax, zamindars could securely invest in increasing their income without any fear of having the increase taxed away by the Company. Cornwallis made this motivation quite clear, declaring that "when the demand of government is fixed, an opportunity is afforded to the landholder of increasing his profits, by the improvement of his lands". The British had in mind "improving landlords" in their own country, such as Coke of Norfolk. The Court of Directors also hoped to guarantee the company's income which was constantly plagued by defaulting zamindars who fell into arrears, making it impossible for them to budget their spending accurately.

The immediate consequence of the Permanent Settlement was both very sudden and dramatic, and one which nobody had apparently foreseen. By ensuring that zamindars' lands were held in perpetuity and with a fixed tax burden, they became a very desirable commodity. In addition the government tax demand was inflexible and the British East India Company's collectors refused to make allowances for times of drought, flood or other natural disaster. As a result many zamindars immediately fell into arrears. The Company's policy of auction of any zamindari lands deemed to be in arrears created a market for land which previously did not exist. Many of the new purchasers of this land were Indian officials within the East India Company's government. These bureaucrats were ideally placed to purchase lands which they knew to be underassessed, and therefore profitable. In addition their position as officials gave them opportunity to quickly acquire the wealth necessary to purchase land through bribery and corruption. They could also manipulate the system to bring to sale land that they specifically wanted. Thus it has been argued, by Bernhard Cohn among others, that the Permanent Settlement led firstly to a commercialisation of land which previously did not exist in Bengal. And secondly, as a consequence of this, it led to a change in the social background of the ruling class from "lineages and local chiefs" to "under civil servants and their descendants, and to merchants and bankers". The new landlords were different in their outlook; "often they were absentee landlords who managed their land through managers and who had little attachment to their land". [The Initial British Impact on India: A case study of the Benares region, Bernard S. Cohn, "The Journal of Asian Studies", Vol 19, No 4.]

Influence of the Permanent Settlement

The Company hoped that the zamindar class would not only be a revenue-generating instrument but serve as intermediaries for the more political aspects of their rule, preserving local custom and protecting rural life from the possibly rapacious influences of its own representatives. However, this worked both ways; zamindars became a naturally conservative interest group and once British policy changed to one of reform and intervention in custom in the mid-nineteenth century, they were vocal in their opposition.

While the worst of the tax-farming excesses were countered by the introduction of the Settlement, the use of land was not part of the subject of the agreement; hence the tendency of Company officials and Indian landlords to force their tenants into plantation-style farming of cash crops like indigo and cotton rather than rice and wheat. This was a cause of many of the worst famines of the nineteenth century.In addition, zamindars eventually became absentee landlords, with all that that implies for neglect of investment on the land.

Once the salient features of the Settlement were reproduced all over India - and indeed elsewhere in the Empire, including Kenya - the political structure was altered forever, with the landlord class holding much greater power than they had under the Mughals, where they were subject to oversight by a trained bureaucracy with the power to attenuate their tenure. In India, not until the first efforts towards land reform in the 1950s - still incomplete everywhere except, ironically, West Bengal - was the power of the landlord caste/class over smallholders diluted. In Pakistan, where land reform was never carried out, elections in rural areas still suffer from a tendency towards oligarchy reflecting the concentration of influence in the hands of zamindar families.


External links

* [ "Permanent Settlement", "Banglapedia."]

Further reading

*"The History of India", vol 2, T.G.Percival Spear, Penguin (1990) ISBN 0-14-013836-6
*"India: A History", John Keay, Grove/Atlantic (2001) ISBN 0-8021-3797-0
*"A rule of property for Bengal: an essay on the idea of permanent settlement", Ranajit Guha, Durham, Duke U Press (1996) ISBN 0-8223-1771-0

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Игры ⚽ Поможем сделать НИР

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Permanent Settlement — Das Permanent Settlement war die 1793 von der East India Company dauernde Festlegung der Grundsteuer in den von ihr verwalteten Gebieten Bengalens. In Indien in vorkolonialer Zeit gab es eine Vielzahl von Formen des kommunalen Landbesitzes und… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • permanent settlement — recognized and institutionalized residential area …   English contemporary dictionary

  • Settlement — steht für Settlement (Finanzwesen) Cash settlement Finanzbegriff Permanent Settlement, Steuerbegriff Siehe auch Act of Settlement Latin Settlement The Settlement Selkirk Settlement Settlement Indians …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Permanent Resident of Norfolk Island visa — A Permanent Resident of Norfolk Island visa is a type of Australian immigration visa granted on arrival in Australia to a non citizen who is a permanent resident of Norfolk Island. Norfolk Island is the only inhabited Australian territory that is …   Wikipedia

  • Permanent residency — refers to a person s visa status: the person is allowed to reside indefinitely within a country despite not having citizenship. A person with such status is known as a permanent resident. Countries with permanent residency systems Not every… …   Wikipedia

  • settlement — set·tle·ment n 1: the act or process of settling 2 a: an agreement reducing or resolving differences; esp: an agreement between litigants that concludes the litigation the states finally agreed upon a settlement and a consent decree W. J. Brennan …   Law dictionary

  • Permanent Court of Arbitration — Cour permanente d arbitrage Seal of the court Established 1899 Jurisdiction …   Wikipedia

  • Settlement — may refer to:* Consolidation (soil), settlement in soil * Human settlement, permanent community where people live ** Israeli settlement, communities inhabited by Israeli Jews in territory that came under Israel s control as a result of the 1967… …   Wikipedia

  • Settlement — Set tle*ment, n. 1. The act of setting, or the state of being settled. Specifically: [1913 Webster] (a) Establishment in life, in business, condition, etc.; ordination or installation as pastor. [1913 Webster] Every man living has a design in his …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • permanent injunction — ➔ injunction * * * permanent injunction UK US noun [C] ► LAW a permanent order given by a court of law that tells someone either to do or not do something: seek/grant/obtain a permanent injunction »They obtained a permanent injunction against the …   Financial and business terms

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”