The Permanent Settlement somewhat secured the interests of the Zamindars, post-poned those of the tenants and permanently sacrificed those of the state. Examine (250 W/ 15 M)

Mentors Comment:

The statement of the question is quite straight and expectations from the answer are clearly their. You have to discuss the impact of Permanent Settlement on Zamindars, Farmers and East India Company.

While discussing the finer points of permanent settlement and its impact on all these actors, you have to balance your answer with both positives and negatives aspects of permanent settlement and its impact.

In the intro, simply introduce the PS and its area of implementation. Then discuss the key features of PS along with its positive features.

Then pointwise, and using subheadings to demarcate the actor, discuss the impact of PS on state, farmers and zamindars. Be balanced. For example, while discussing zamindars, dont just mention how they plundered the agriculture and peasants. Do mention that with the features of PS, they lost their holdings in many cases and became landless.

Likewise, while it seemed that PS made company and state richer, but in most cases there was shortfall in revenue collection and treasury of state got affected. Similarly, while PS did affected peasants adversely, on the other hand it gave them relaxation and security because they knew the fixed revenue that they had to give irrespective of overall profit or loss and production of the crop.


Model Answer:

The Permanent Settlement was brought into effect by the Governor-General Lord Cornwallis in 1793. This was basically an agreement between the company and the Zamindars to fix the land revenue. First enacted in Bengal, Bihar and Odisha, this was later followed in northern Madras Presidency and the district of Varanasi. He envisaged the creation of a hereditary class of landlords in India. This system was also called the Zamindari System.

Key Features of Permanent Settlement:

  • Landlords or Zamindars were recognised as the owners of the land.
  • They were given hereditary rights of succession of the lands under them.
  • The amount to be paid by the landlords was fixed.
  • It was agreed that this would not increase in future (permanent in nature).
  • The fixed amount was 10/11th portion of the revenue for the government and 1/10th was for the Zamindar.
  • The Zamindar also had to give the tenant a patta which described the area of the land given to him and the rent he had to pay the landlord.
  • Zamindars being sons of the soil, it was thought that they could reach the far corners of the region and also understand local customs very well.
  • Because of the permanent nature of the system, there was a sense of security for everyone.
  • The company knew the amount it would get in revenue. The landlord also was assured of the amount.
  • Finally, the farmers also, in lieu of the patta were certain of their holdings and knew how much rent was to be paid.
  • Since the settlement was of a permanent nature, the Zamindars would have an interest in the improvement in the land thereby improving the revenue.

Impact on Zamindar:

  • In Mughal era, Zamindar was not owner of the land but only a collector of revenue.
  • With permanent settlement vesting ownership rights in Zamindar, he assumed a position that never been his before.
  • The Zamindars became wealthier.
  • Further, Zamindars were not the same old hereditary landholders, but anyone could become a Zamindar provided he had good connection in East India Company or some other hack.
  • They all became petty capitalists and they invested in trade, commerce thus some positive impact on other segments of economy was seen.
  • For East India Company, this system of New Zamindars secured the British Dominion in India.
  • A new crop of unofficial middlemen also grew between the Zamindars and Peasants.
  • A Zamindar would sublet the land to a middlemen and would relocate to big cities like Calcutta to live a luxurious life.
  • Zamindars thus turned into Absentee landlords due to permanent settlement.
  • But not everything was rosy for Zamindars.
  • Company retained the ultimate ownership and was able to sell the land via public auction if the fixed rent was not paid on due date by Zamindar.
  • The Zamindar had to deposit the collected revenue on a day fixed before sunset, if not done, he would lost part or full of estate and then the estate would be sold in open auction.
  • Many Zamindars turned defaulters and it created problems.

Impact on Company/State:

  • By this settlement, the company was sure of getting fixed revenues.
  • It also facilitated the easier method of collection of revenue through Zamindars.
  • Before this settlement, the company needed large establishment / officials to make annual / five yearly assessments.
  • However, the permanent settlement could not enhance the amount of land revenue because it was inherent in the settlement that it was permanent in terms of revenue also and company could not increase a single pie even if there was rise in the produce or prices of the produce.
  • This was one of the reason that some British authors called the settlement a blunder as it resulted in loss of enhanced land revenue in times to come.

Impact on Peasants and Productivity

  • Since the permanent settlement made Zamindars owners of land, peasants were left at their mercy.
  • The Peasants had no right over land and could be kicked out any time.
  • Zamindars got arbitrary powers to eject the cultivator and forfeit the agriculture stock for non-payment.
  • This was probably the lowest point in Indian Peasantry.
  • Since any increase land productivity was not subject to increase taxes, it was expected that Zamindars would make efforts to improve the conditions of the tenants.
  • Thus, it was clear that if the productivity of land is improved, company will have no right to demand anything in excess of what was already settled.
  • But this belief of Cornwallis was belied later because unfortunately, the increased earnings were not spent on peasants.
  • Instead this led to increased luxuries and pleasures of the Zamindars.
  • The social outcome of permanent settlement in Bengal was that the society was divided into two mutually hostile classes of Zamindars and Tenants.
  • While Zamindars were favourite children of British Imperialism, they were few in numbers in comparison to the other class of tenants. British won loyalty of a few at cost of many.

The Permanent Settlement of Cornwallis was bitterly criticised on the point that it was adopted with ‘undue haste’. The flagrant defect of this arrangement was that no attempt was made ever either to survey the lands or to assess their value. In the end, it did helped some zamindars, severely affected the farmers and the finances of State took a hit due to the permanent nature of the revenue.


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