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Deccan Riots Commission, stock was taken of the gross produce of the village of Nepti, which was found to value Rs. 12,001 in a favourable season. The assessment amounted to Rs. 2,392. The cash expenses of cultivation, and the cost of bare family maintenance, were proved to amount to Rs. 14,352. There was therefore not only no net produce whatever, but a clear deficit of Rs. 2,351. In another village named Chas, the gross produce was proved to be worth only Rs. 7,939, whereas the cost of cultivation, including bare maintenance, amounted to Rs. 12,136. In both these cases it was found that the deficit was made up, and the whole assessment paid, by the earnings of labour apart from agriculture altogether, by carrying grass and firewood, by working on the roads, by cart-hire, and the miscellaneous employments rendered possible by the vicinity of a large town. No wonder that Sir William Muir, when Lieutenant-Governor of the North-Western Provinces, had occasion to write as follows in a memorandum dated 1874:
Whenever his camp passed through districts in which the land-tax had been materially increased, the Lieutenant-Governor was assailed by bitter complaints of loss and hardship among the people.
About the same time Mr. (now Sir) C. Bayley spoke as follows in the Council at Calcutta :
He believed that he was within the mark when he said that, in three-quarters of a century, during which our Government has held the North-Western Provinces, there was scarcely a district in those provinces which had not suffered, wholly or partially, from over-assessment.
Sir G. Campbell, in his chapter on Tenure of Land in India,' in the Cobden Club Series, quotes the following from a Report of the Madras Board of Revenue :
The bulk of the people are paupers. They can just pay their cess in a good year, and fail altogether in a bad.
Sir Bartle Frere is admitted by John Indigo to be the classical authority on the Revenue Settlement of the Maratha country. He was himself pars magna in regulating the Settlement Department, and is a witness naturally biassed in favour of its operations. Yet, in a Minute dated 1875, he at once accounts for all this poverty by plainly stating that throughout India the Secretary of State's Rule is habitually ignored, and has, in fact, become 'a mere paper iiistruction. He frankly declares that, so far from only taking Lalf of the net produce, the assessments made on the miserable ryots really resolve themselves into three very different categories: namely, first,
a land-tax, fixed more or less arbitrarily, absorbing a varying proportion of the net produce;' second, a full rent, leaving nothing to the cultivator but the wages of his labour and the interest on his capital;' and third, a full rent and something more, sometimes
trenching on the wages of labour or the profits of capital.' 3 Shortly after this Minute was penned, Sir Louis Mallet, as Under-Secretary of State for India, officially reviewed it, and, instead of subtracting anything from the above description, he himself added the following, as a fourth category, to Sir Bartle Frere's three :
In many cases lands have been assessed which yield no rent at all, and barely pay the cost of cultivation.
Finally, Sir W. Wedderburn, who is the best witness of all, being an experienced officer in the Bombay Civil Service, in a recently published pamphlet called "Revenue Enhancements,' reviews both Sir Bartle Frere's and Sir Louis Mallet's statements, and himself adds yet one more to the above four miserable categories of ryots extortionised by our paternal Government, in the following words:
We must regretfully add yet a fifth and still more grierous case: namely, Class V., where the total crop is insufficient to pay the cost of cultivation, and where the assessment must be paid out of wages earned elsewhere, or from cash obtained from the money-lender.
It may well be asked, How can even our enthusiastic Revenue officers, enjoying comfortable salaries, and with their whole interests inclining them to take a cheerful view of the ryot's prosperity and power to pay, succeed in so utterly ignoring the rule which should form the very foundation of their labours? The question is all the more pertinent as the Secretary of State, aware that the Settlement Department, while ignorant of agriculture, is ever interested in justifying its own existence by increasing the public revenue, has insisted on practical checks being applied to its operations, and, with this view, has long ago ordered the Governments of the different provinces to inaugurate a system of crop experiments, with the object of testing what proportion the assessment bears to the true rent, or net produce, after defraying the costs of cultivation.
In order to carry out the Secretary of State's instructions with regard to any given holding, three separate points have obviously to be determined : namely
1st. The real quantity of the gross produce of the holding.
2nd. The amount in money for which the gross produce can be sold.
3rd. What part of that amount is swallowed up in the costs of cultivation, including the bare maintenance of the cultivator and his family.
The third of these amounts being deducted from the second, the remainder will be the value of the net produce, or the true rent of the land, one-half of which Government might justly take to itself, under the Secretary of State's ruling.
The importance of strict accuracy and impartiality in the conduct of the above-named crop experiments will be patent to everyone. Let us see what steps are taken to secure such a desirable result. The Indian Government, no doubt sincerely desirous of supporting the proceedings of a department so valuable to it, bas entrusted these test experiments, which are intended solely as a check on the Survey and Settlement Department, to that Department itself, exactly on the principle of setting down one's manager to audit his own accounts. It need hardly be said that the results arrived at are such as to bear out the previous guesses of the officers themselves. The Department accordingly, from time to time, solemnly gives judgment in its own favour, declaring that the crop experiments' clearly prove that the assessment errs, if anything, on the side of ieniency.
3 Faxine Commission Report, Appendix I., p. 139.
The nature of these experiments, as carried on throughout the length and breadth of India, must now be explained. Obviously the first thing required is to discover what is the real quantity of the gross produce. To effect this the Settlement officer stands by the side of a field, perhaps 15 acres in extent, covered, say, with ripe millet, every stalk of which stands eight feet high, and endeavours to select by the eye' a small patch one-eighth of an acre in extent, ' which shall correctly represent the average of the whole field.” Having performed this extraordinary feat, admitted to be impossible even by the most practised agriculturist, he reaps and measures the corn on the little plot, and, multiplying the result by 120, he records that he has got the figure of the crop of the whole 15 acres.
А moment's consideration will show that the principle of this experiment' amounts to deliberately turning the law of averages upside down. To thresh out and measure the corn of the whole 15-acre field, and divide the total by 120, would correctly determine the outturn of an average plot of one-eighth of an acre. But the converse operation is opposed to all principles of arithmetic and common sense, and is only useful in giving the greatest possible latitude to the carelessness and personal bias of Settlement officers, seeking diligently for means to justify the exactions of their own department
Obvious as these facts are, it may, nevertheless, perhaps be alleged that well-meaning stupidity alone has dictated or invented the absurd process just described. Such an allegation might have been fairly made but for the awkward facts, that the erroneous character of the process has already been thoroughly exposed, and that the authorities have notwithstanding taken no steps to alter a system which adapts itself so wonderfully to the exigencies of their revenue accounts. The reports of these experiments, on the face of them, show results so contradictory as inevitably to arouse suspicion in every unbiassed mind. Their outcome is, in fact, just what might naturally be expected. The crop is largely over-estimated by select
ing too favourable a specimen for experiment, and the flagrantly erroneous system adopted multiplies the original error just 120-fold. At any time the Local Governments could have checked their Settlement officers by causing several whole fields to be reaped and measured; but they have carefully avoided taking any such step. Nay more, they have deliberately shut their eyes to the results produced by a highly trustworthy practical farmer belonging to their own service, who, free of all departmental interest or bias, carried out a series of similar experiments to completeness, with the special object of testing their accuracy. The experimenter is Mr. Stormont, of the Government Farm in Khandeish, Bombay Presidency. With all the skill at the command of a trained agriculturist he selected, according to his very best judgment, specimen plots in seven different fields. Having first made the customary calculations based on the produce of the specimen plots, he reaped and measured the crop of the whole fields, in order to check the operation. The result of his carefully conducted experiments was such as to cover the whole system with absolute ridicule. The specimen plots gave an average value to the crop of 21. 58. per acre, whereas the actual outturn of the fields proved to value only 198. 6d. per acre. These facts are well known to the Revenue authorities, yet the iniquitous system still goes steadily on.
The second thing required is to estimate the value in money of the supposed gross outturn of the ryot's field, in order to see whether, after deducting the cost of cultivation, his assessment will not exceed one-half of the remainder, as required by the Secretary of State's ruling. To do this, an ingenious system is adopted. A record is made of the mere nominal prices of grain in all the chief villages of the district, ignoring altogether the quantities sold in each place. A fallacious average is then made by simply adding the prices together, and dividing by the number of villages. This method always tells severely against the ryots. On the ordinary principles of supply and demand; the lowest price of course obtains where the most corn is offering, and the highest in small and remote places where little or no grain exists, and where prices are merely nominal. Five years ago, Mr. Dádábhái Náoroji proved to the India Office that this palpable misapplication of the principle of averages, habitually applied by the Government of India, has the effect of totally misrepresenting the real price of grain. Taking, by way of example, their own figures of prices in the Central Provinces, he proved that, by correctly averaging them according to the amounts sold at each place, the real average price realised by the cultivators was proved to be only 38. per maund: whereas, by means of the erroneous system adopted—and deliberately sustained to this day—the price was sbown to be no less than 5s. 6d. per maund. Thus the experimenter, having, as already shown, first injured the ryot by overestimating the
quantity of the crop, further injures him by largely overstating its
The third and last thing necessary to determine the extent of net produce, or true rent, is to get a fair idea of the average cost of cultivation of the ryot's holding. True to their character, the Settlement Department have adopted the following method. Having already overstated the amount, first of his gross produce, and next of the price he obtains for it, they now, in the last place, ignore the fact that he has a wife, and on an average three children, and that these, as well as his pair of draught bullocks, must have their daily food during twelve months,whether he possesses a holding of 5 or 20 acres. They accordingly allow to a holding of the average size of 10 acres only the cost of sustenance of half a man and one bullock during nine months of the year, instead of that of five persons and two bullocks for twelve months, an allowance which only represents about one-seventh part of the real cost of cultivation. Then, deducting this last erroneous result from their own previous fallacious estimates of both bulk and value of the gross produce, they gravely allege that the fictitious remainder represents the net produce, and then proceed to fasten on the wretched ryot as his land-tax one-half of the apocryphal figure so arrived at.
We can now have an exact statement both of the alleged and of the real position of a ryot with a bolding of the average extent of 10 acres, yielding, say, 400 lbs. per acre. By the fallacious system of
crop experiments,' the amount of his produce is set down at 113 maunds of 82 lbs. instead of 49 maunds. By the erroneous system of averaging prices, its value is placed at 58. 6d. per maund instead of 38., and lastly, his costs of cultivation are only reckoned at 21. 198. instead of 161. 28. Accordingly the ryot is compelled to pay his taxes to Government, not from the proceeds of his land at all, but from the wretched earnings of his wife and children, whom he hires out to labour in the fields of some more fortunate neighbour.4
Last November I caused a careful examination to be made of the
4 The following are the calculations given in the text reduced to tabular form, taking the maintenance of adults at 6s. 6d. each, children at 3s. 3d. each, and a pair of bullocks at 4s. 2d. per month:
Weight of crop
deficit surplus, Cost of
being net bullocks
ing cost of produce, or
cultivation true rent
S. d. £
By the Govern-
9,2+0 112.68 5 6 30 19 9 1 14 01 5 0 28 0 9
8 lõ 8
63.90 2 6 23 13 11 18 01 50