NCERT Class 8 History Chapter 3 - Ruling the Countryside Notes

Chapter 3 - Ruling the Countryside Notes

1. The Company Become the Diwan
• The East India Company became the Diwan of Bengal on 12 August 1765. This event took place in Robert Clive’s tent with few Englishmen and Indians as witnesses.
• As Diwan, the Company became the chief financial administrator of the territory under its control.
• The Company needed to administer the land and organise its revenue resources.
• It needed to be done in a way that could yield enough revenue to meet the growing expenses of the company.

2. Revenue for the Company
• The Company’s main aim was to increase the revenue to buy fine cotton and silk cloth as cheaply as possible.
• Within five years, the value of goods bought by the Company in Bengal doubled.
• Before 1865, the Company purchased goods in India by importing gold and silver from Britain. Now it was financed by the revenue collected in Bengal.
• Soon the Bengal economy was facing a deep crisis.
• Artisans were deserting the villages as they were forced to sell their goods at low price.
• Peasants were unable to pay the dues that were being demanded from them.
• Agricultural cultivation showed the signs of collapse.
• In 1770, a terrible famine killed ten million people in Bengal. One-third of the population of Bengal was wiped out.

3. The need to improve agriculture
• The Company introduced the Permanent Settlement in 1793.
• By the terms of the settlement, the rajas and taluqdars were recognised as zamindars. They were asked to collect rent from the peasants and pay revenue to the Company.
• The amount to be paid was fixed permanently, it would not increase in the future.
• This settlement would ensure a regular flow of revenue into the Company’s coffers and at the same time encourage the zamindars to invest in improving the land.

4. The problem
• Later, the Permanent Settlement was creating problems.
• The company officials soon discovered that the zamindars were not investing in the improvement of land because the fixed revenue was very high.
• Anyone who failed to pay the revenue lost his zamindari rights.
• Numerous zamindaris were sold off at auctions organised by the Company.
• By the first decade of the nineteenth century, the situation changed. The prices in the market rose and cultivation slowly expanded.
• This meant an increase in the income of the zamindars but no gain for the Company since it could not increase a revenue demand that had been fixed permanently.
• Even then the zamindars were not interested in improving the land.
• On the other hand, in the villages, the cultivator found the system extremely oppressive.
• The rent he paid to the zamindar was high and his right on the land was insecure.
• To pay the rent he had to often take a loan from the moneylender, and when he failed to pay the rent he was evicted from the land he had cultivated for generations.

5. A new system was devised
• In the North Western Provinces of the Bengal Presidency (most of this area is now in Uttar Pradesh), an Englishman called Holt Mackenzie devised the new system which came into effect in 1822.
• He felt that the village was an important social institution in north Indian society and needed to be preserved.
• Under his directions, collectors went from village to village, inspecting the land, measuring the fields, and recording the customs and rights of different groups.
• The estimated revenue of each plot within a village was added up to calculate the revenue that each village (mahal) had to pay.
• This demand was to be revised periodically, not permanently fixed.
• The charge of collecting the revenue and paying it to the Company was given to the village headman, rather than the zamindar.
• This system came to be known as the mahalwari settlement.

6. The Munro system
• In the British territories in the south there was a similar move away from the idea of Permanent Settlement.
• The new system that was devised came to be known as the ryotwar (or ryotwari).
• It was tried on a small scale by Captain Alexander Read in some of the areas that were taken over by the Company after the wars with Tipu Sultan.
• Subsequently developed by Thomas Munro, this system was gradually extended all over south India.
• Read and Munro felt that in the south there were no traditional zamindars.
• The settlement, they argued, had to be made directly with the cultivators (ryots) who had tilled the land for generations.
• Their fields had to be carefully and separately surveyed before the revenue assessment was made.
• Munro thought that the British should act as paternal father figures protecting the ryots under their charge.

7. All was not well
• Driven by the desire to increase the income from land, revenue officials fixed too high a revenue demand.
• Peasants were unable to pay, ryots fled the countryside, and villages became deserted in many regions.
• Optimistic officials had imagined that the new systems would transform the peasants into rich enterprising farmers. But this did not happen.

8. Difference between 3 revenue system
• Permanent Settlement
→ Introduced in 1793 by Lord Cornwallis.
→ It was introduced in provinces of Bengal, Bihar, Orrisa and Varanasi.
→ The amount of revenue was fixed.
→ Zamindars were the owners and collected the rent on behalf of Company.

• Mahalwari System
→ Devised by Holt Mackenzie in 1822 and further by William Bentinck in 1833.
→ It was introduced in Central Province, North-West Frontier, Agra, Punjab, Gangetic Valley, etc of British India
→ The amount of revenue was not permanently fixed.
→ Village headmen collected the revenue on the behalf of the Company.

• Ryotwari System
→ Developed by Alexander Read and Thomas Munro in 1820 during the time of Lord Hastings.
→ Major areas of introduction include Madras, Bombay, parts of Assam, and Coorgh provinces of British India.
→ The amount of the revenue was not permanently fixed.
→ The cultivators or ryots directed paid to Company.

9. Crops for Europe
• By the late eighteenth century, the Company tried to expand the cultivation of opium and indigo.
• The Company forced cultivators in various parts of India to produce other crops:
→ Jute in Bengal
→ Tea in Assam
→ Sugarcane in the United Provinces (now Uttar Pradesh)
→ Wheat in Punjab
→ Cotton in Maharashtra and Punjab
→ Rice in Madras

10. Does colour have a history?
• The rich blue colour was produced from a plant called indigo.
• It is likely that the blue dye used in the Morris prints in nineteenth-century Britain was manufactured from indigo plants cultivated in India.
• For India was the biggest supplier of indigo in the world at that time.

11. Why the demand for Indian indigo?
• The indigo plant grows primarily in the tropics.
• By the thirteenth century Indian indigo was being used by cloth manufacturers in Italy, France and Britain to dye cloth.
• However, only small amounts of Indian indigo reached the European market and its price was very high.
• European cloth manufacturers therefore had to depend on another plant called woad to make violet and blue dyes.
• Being a plant of the temperate zones, woad was more easily available in Europe. It was grown in northern Italy, southern France and in parts of Germany and Britain.
• Worried by the competition from indigo, woad producers in Europe pressurised their governments to ban the import of indigo. Cloth dyers, however, preferred indigo as a dye.
• Indigo produced a rich blue colour, whereas the dye from woad was pale and dull.
• By the seventeenth century, European cloth producers persuaded their governments to relax the ban on indigo import. The French began cultivating indigo in St Domingue in the Caribbean islands, the Portuguese in Brazil, the English in Jamaica, and the Spanish in Venezuela. Indigo plantations also came up in many parts of North America.
• By the end of the eighteenth century, the demand for Indian indigo grew further. Britain began to industrialise, and its cotton production expanded dramatically, creating an enormous new demand for cloth dyes.
• While the demand for indigo increased, its existing supplies from the West Indies and America collapsed for a variety of reasons.
• Between 1783 and 1789 the production of indigo in the world fell by half.

12. Britain turns to India
• In Europe, the demand for indigo was high, so the Company in India looked for ways to expand the area under indigo cultivation.
• From the last decades of the eighteenth century indigo cultivation in Bengal expanded rapidly and Bengal indigo came to dominate the world market.
• In 1788 only about 30% of the indigo imported into Britain was from India.
• By 1810, the proportion had gone up to 95%.
• As the indigo trade grew, commercial agents and officials of the Company began investing in indigo production.
• Over the years many Company officials left their jobs to look after their indigo business.
• Attracted by the prospect of high profits, numerous Scotsmen and Englishmen came to India and became planters. Those who had no money to produce indigo could get loans from the Company and the banks that were coming up at the time.

13. How was indigo cultivated?
• There were two main systems of indigo cultivation - nij and ryoti.
• Within the system of nij cultivation, the planter produced indigo in lands that he directly controlled.
• He either bought the land or rented it from other zamindars and produced indigo by directly employing hired labourers.

14. The problem with nij cultivation
• The planters found it difficult to expand the area under nij cultivation as indigo could be cultivated only on fertile lands, and these were all already densely populated.
• Only small plots scattered over the landscape could be acquired.
• Planters needed large areas in compact blocks to cultivate indigo in plantations.
• They attempted to lease in the land around the indigo factory, and evict the peasants from the area but this always led to conflicts and tension. Nor was labour easy to mobilise.
• A large plantation required a vast number of hands to operate. And labour was needed precisely at a time when peasants were usually busy with their rice cultivation.
• Nij cultivation on a large scale also required many ploughs and bullocks.
• One bigha of indigo cultivation required two ploughs meaning that a planter with 1,000 bighas would need 2,000 ploughs.
• Investing on purchase and maintenance of ploughs was a big problem. Nor could supplies be easily got from the peasants since their ploughs and bullocks were busy on their rice fields, again exactly at the time that the indigo planters needed them.
• Till the late nineteenth century, planters were therefore reluctant to expand the area under nij cultivation.
• Less than 25 per cent of the land producing indigo was under this system. The rest was under an alternative mode of cultivation - the ryoti system.

15. Indigo on the land of ryots
• Under the ryoti system, the planters forced the ryots to sign a contract, an agreement (satta).
• Sometimes, they pressurised the village headmen to sign the contract on behalf of the ryots.
• Those who signed the contract got cash advances from the planters at low rates of interest to produce indigo but the loan committed the ryot to cultivating indigo on at least 25 per cent of the area under his holding.
• The planter provided the seed and the drill, while the cultivators prepared the soil, sowed the seed and looked after the crop.
• When the crop was delivered to the planter after the harvest, a new loan was given to the ryot, and the cycle started all over again.
• Peasants who were initially tempted by the loans soon realised how harsh the system was. The price they got for the indigo they produced was very low and the cycle of loans never ended.
• The planters usually insisted that indigo be cultivated on the best soils in which peasants preferred to cultivate rice.
• Indigo had deep roots and it exhausted the soil rapidly as a result after an indigo harvest the land could not be sown with rice.

16. How was indigo produced?
• The indigo villages were usually around indigo factories owned by planters.
• After harvest, the indigo plant was taken to the vats in the indigo factory.
• Three or four vats were needed to manufacture the dye. Each vat had a separate function.
• The leaves stripped off the indigo plant were first soaked in warm water in a vat (known as the fermenting or steeper vat) for several hours.
• When the plants fermented, the liquid began to boil and bubble. Now the rotten leaves were taken out and the liquid drained into another vat that was placed just below the first vat.
• In the second vat (known as the beater vat) the solution was continuously stirred and beaten with paddles. When the liquid gradually turned green and then blue, lime water was added to the vat.
• Gradually the indigo separated out in flakes, a muddy sediment settled at the bottom of the vat and a clear liquid rose to the surface. The liquid was drained off and the sediment - the indigo pulp - transferred to another vat (known as the settling vat), and then pressed and dried for sale.

17. The “Blue Rebellion” and After
• In March 1859 thousands of ryots in Bengal refused to grow indigo. As the rebellion spread, ryots refused to pay rents to the planters, and attacked indigo factories armed with swords and spears, bows and arrows.
• Women turned up to fight with pots, pans and kitchen implements. Those who worked for the planters were socially boycotted, and the gomasthas (agents of planters) who came to collect rent were beaten up.
• Ryots swore they would no longer take advances to sow indigo nor be bullied by the planters’ lathiyals (the lathi-wielding strongmen) maintained by the planters.
• The indigo ryots felt that they had the support of the local zamindars and village headmen in their rebellion against the planters.
• In many villages, headmen who had been forced to sign indigo contracts, mobilised the indigo peasants and fought pitched battles with the lathiyals.
• In other places even the zamindars went around villages urging the ryots to resist the planters. These zamindars were unhappy with the increasing power of the planters and angry at being forced by the planters to give them land on long leases.
• The indigo peasants also imagined that the British government would support them in their struggle against the planters.
• The Lieutenant Governor toured the region of indigo districts in the winter of 1859. The ryots saw the tour as a sign of government sympathy for their plight.
• When in Barasat, the magistrate Ashley Eden issued a notice stating that ryots would not be compelled to accept indigo contracts, word went around that Queen Victoria had declared that indigo need not be sown.
• Eden was trying to placate the peasants and control an explosive situation, but his action was read as support for the rebellion.
• As the rebellion spread, intellectuals from Calcutta rushed to the indigo districts. They wrote of the misery of the ryots, the tyranny of the planters, and the horrors of the indigo system.
• The Company brought in the military to protect the planters from assault, and set up the Indigo Commission to enquire into the system of indigo production.
• The Commission held the planters guilty, and criticised them for the coercive methods they used with indigo cultivators.
• It declared that indigo production was not profitable for ryots.
• The Commission asked the ryots to fulfil their existing contracts but also told them that they could refuse to produce indigo in future.

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