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Importance of Land revenue assignments in the Punjab. Grants of land revenue by the State to private individuals are often compendiously described as “jogirs” and muafis”. No broad distinction can be drawn between these two terms “Jagir” is usually appropriated to the larger grants and especially to those given for services of a military or official character and “uafi” to assignments of less value and importance. The subject is one of much interest in the Punjab where such alienation’s form a larger proportion of the total land revenue than in any other province in India. How this has come to pass will appear in the sequel . It is the more curious because the views which prevailed among the men who had the greatest influence on the early administration of the Punjab were not favorable to the maintenance of a privileged class and a rapid reduction of the amount of revenue diverted from public purposes was looked for. Eleven years after annexation the Financial Commissioner estimated the assigned land and revenue at 33 lakhs. Forty years later its gross amount was still much the same; but owing to the great expansion of the land revenue of the Punjab the proportion in 1928 was only 1/13th.

1. Assignments under Native Government - The Government which preceded our own found it convenient to secure the swords of brave and the prayers of pious men to pacify deposed chiefs and to reward powerful servants, by assigning to them the ruler’s share (hakimi hissa) of the produce of the land in particular villages or tracts. This was an easier mode of payment for the State than the regular disbursement of salaries or cash pensions and it was much more gratifying to the recipients. The amount which a jagirdar could take as the ruler’s share was only limited by his own judgment of the capacity of the cultivators to withstand oppression by force or to escape from it by detrain, and he enjoyed in practice most of the rights which we now regard as special evidences of ownership. Large assignees of land revenue also exercised within their own estates the power over life and limb, which is sometimes regarded as the peculiar mark of sovereignty. The system referred to above was too deep rooted for the new administration to destroy . Prudence dictated its continuance, but demanded the limitation of the drain on the resources of the State which it involved, and the removal of the encroachments which the jagirdars had made on the prerogatives of Government on the one hand and on what we conceived to be the rights of landholders on the other.

2. Subject must be tested separately for different tracts - In treating of the subject it will be convenient to deal separately with.

(a)the territories included in the Punjab state as Maharaja Ranjit Singh bequeathed it to his successors. Here a distinction must be drawn between the jagir tenures of (1) Kangra and the tract between the Beasx and Sutlej compressing the present districts of Jullundur and Hoshiarpur and (2) the districts lying to the west of Beas and Sutlej annexed later;

(b)The Cis-Sutlej territory the plains portion of which was taken under our protection in 1809 and the hill tract in 1815. This includes the present districts ofSimla ,Ambala , Ludhiana, Ferozepore (except the Fazilka tahsil) and tahsil Kaithal and pargana Indiri in karnal;

(c)The Delhi and Bhatti territories conquered in 1803 and transferred from the North – WesternProvinces to the Punjab in 1858. These comprise the districts of Hisar, Rohtak , Gurgaon , Delhi, tahsil Panipat and paragana Karnal in Karnal and tahsil Fzilka in Ferozpore.

3. Assignments under the Sikh Government. In the first Punjab administration Report it was estimated that under Maharaja Ranjit Singh more than 1/3rd of the revenues of the State was assigned to private individuals. This curious state of things was not due to any sentiment of generosity on the part of that astute ruler. It was the natural result of the process by which his power had been built up and of the convenience under a rude system of administration of making the servants of the State collect their wages direct from its subjects. Ranjit Singh was originally only the head of one of the misls or confederacies into which the followers of Guru Gobind Singh were divided. Although the made himself the master of the whole Sikh common wealth in the Punjab he felt that it was impolitic and perhaps impossible to deprive the powerful Sardars whom he converted from his equals into his vassals of the revenues they had enjoyed and the powers they had exercised within their own estates. He contented himself therefore with making their tenure conditional on furnishing contingents of horsemen to reinforce in time of war that powerful army of trained foot solders which was the real foundation of his power. The same motives led him to leave to the Rajput Rajas of the hills and the powerful Muhamadan Chief of the western Punjab whom he brought under subjection some fragments of their ancient possessions in the shape of jagirs. A part even of the regular troops was paid by assignments of land revenue and he found it convenient to remunerate in the same way the great officers of the State and to make similar grants for the support of the ladies and the servants of his household. As an Indian ruler it behaved him also to be liberal in grants to holy men and religious in situations. It was worth while to conciliate the leading men in many estates the maliks or mukaddims or chaudhris as they were called by giving them a part of their own lands revenue free or even a considerable share of the village collections. These petty grants were known as inams and where they consisted of a definite share of the revenue of an estate as chaharams.

4. Insecurity of tenure of assignments under Sikh Government - There was of course no security of tenure. Each grant was held at the leisure of Maharaja which usually meant for so long as the recipient was worth conciliating. More especially every assignment was in practice open to reconsideration on the death of the holder and when renewed a fine or nazrana was often exacted which sometimes equaled the collections of several years.

5. Position of assignees under Sikh Government - Assignees were entitle to the States’ share of the Produce and took it, as the State usually did in kind that is by actual division of crop or by appraisement. Where the grants consisted of whole villages the grantee exercised the right of extending cultivation by bringing in tenants to break up the waste. He sunk wells and planted gardens and if he was strong enough turned out existing cultivators who fell under his displeasure. The larger jagirdars also held the powers comprehensively described as faujdari that is to say they carried out so far as their power of their disposition led them the rude system for the exaction of fines or the lopping off of limbs as a penalty for crime or the enforcement of arbitration in civil cases which then constituted criminal and civil justice. They in their turn made grants within their own estates to the men who fought for them in the field or prayed for them at home.

6. Assignments in districts annexed in 1846. The territory ceded by the Lahore Darbar in 1946 was known in official literature as the “Trans Sutlej States”. In the hill tracts the jagirs were held by the Rajput Rajas who had been deposed by Ranjit Singh and who were not restored to independence when we took their country. The Rajas of Mandi and Suket were never reduced to the status of Jagirdars by the Sikhs though the former suffered much at their hands and their territories continued to be separate chiefdoms under the suzerainty of the British Government. In the plains the Kapurthala Chief occupied a similar position for Ranjit Singh’s ally. Sardar Fateh Singh Ahluwalia had managed with difficulty to maintain his rights But the other Sikh Sardars between the Beas and the Sutlej had been reduced to subjection like their brethren to the west of the Beas and held their estates on condition of furnishing horsemen in time of war. Other Jagirdars of the Cis-Sutlej States had received their Jagirs as rewards for services rendered to the Lahore Darbar.

7. Orders issued by Lord Hardinge - Lord Hardige’s orders regarding the treatment of revenue free tenures in the Trans-Sutlej States may be reproduced as they were adopted with some modifications in the instructions given by Lord Dalhousie to the Board of Administration after the annexation of the rest of the Punjab. He prefaced the rules which he laid down by remarking “there is certainly no reason why we should maintain in perpetuity an alienation of the Government revenues which would not have been maintained by the power we have succeeded . * * * All grants were resumed by the Sikh rules at will without reference to the terms of the grants whenever State exigencies or even caprice dictated. On the death of the granter they lapped as a matter of course, and were only renewed on payment of large nazrana equal in some instances to may year collections ****** The decision of the British Government on these claims will give a permanency validity and value to the tenures hitherto unknown not withstanding sanads from Native Governments of perpetual release from all demands which the holders know mean nothing.” The rules, seven in number were as follows :-

1st –All grants for the provision or maintenance of former rulers deposed or former proprietors dispossessed to be maintained on their present tenures in perpetuity.

“2nd – All endowments , bonafide made for the maintenance of religious establishments or buildings or buildings for public accommodation to be maintained as long as the establishments or buildings are kept up.

“3rd – All persons holding villages or portions of villages free of rent or money payment and for which no service was to be reddened by grants made by Maharajas Ranjit Singh Kharak Singh or Sher Singh to be maintained in their holding free of rent during their lives each case to be open to the consideration and orders of Government on the death of holder to be decided according to its merits.

“4th – All persons holding land or grants as above, subject to a payment of nazrana, peshkash or the like to hold for their lives subject to the payment of quarter jama and on the death of the holders the land to be resumed or assessed at full jama.

“5th – All persons holding land for which service of any kind was to be rendered to the Sikh rules including Bedis and Sodhis who were expected to perform religious services for the benefit of the donors to hold for life subject to a payment of ¼ jama the case of each such tenure to be reported for the consideration of Government on the death of the holder.

“6th – Grants made by persons not having authority to alienate the Government revenues to be resumed.

“7th- Where no sanad exists a holding for three generations to constitute a title and entitle the holders to have his case adjudicated by the foregoing rules.”

8. Treatment of Jagirs in tract between Beas and Sutlej. Jagirs in the Trans-Sutlej States which the ancestors of existing holders had won by their swords before Maharaja Ranjit Singh Established his ascendancy were known as “Conquest Jagirs”. In the case of the assignments held by the Sikh Sardars in the plains the policy at first followed appears to have been to resume a portion considered equivalent to the military service which was no longer required and to maintain the remainder for life. A large number of these life tenures were afterwards reconsidered in pursuance of orders passed in 1856 and were ultimately released in perpetuity. The question then arouse whether succession should be confined to the heirs of the persons in whose favour the perpetuity grant was made or of the person in possession when the first enquiry after annexation took place. The latter alternative was adopted and it was decided to apply to the Trans-Sutlej Conquest Jagirs the following five rules which were modeled on those laid down some years previously in the case of Cis-Sutlej jagirs :-

“I – That no window shall succeed to a jagir share.

“II – That no descendants in the female line shall inherit.

“III- That on failure of a direct male heir a collateral male heir may succeed, if the common ancestor of the deceased and of the collateral claimant was in possession of the share at or since the year of primary investigation of the jagir tenure which in theTrans –Sutlej States in ordinarily 1846.

“IV – That allegation by the Jagirdar of portion of his holding whether to his relations or strangers shall neither be officially recognized nor officially recorded.

“V – That one or more sons of a common ancestor in possession at the period of the first investigation being entitled to the whole share possessed by such common ancestor shall be held and be declared responsible for the maintenance of windows left by deceased brothers who had they lived would have shared with such son or sons.

The Jagirs of the hill Rajas of Kangra were upheld in perpetuity .

Assignments in territory west of the Beas.

9. Treatment of assignments in territory west of Beas - When the annexation of the Punjab was proclaimed on the 30th March, 1849 the members of the newly constituted Board of Administration were instructed by Lord Dalhousie that “the very first object to which they should direct their attention was the determination of all questions affecting the validity of grants to hold land rent free.” It was obvious that annexation must be followed by a great reduction in land revenue assignments . The British Government had no need of the military contingents of the Sardars and it paid its servants by drafts upon the treasury. But it was also a fixed part of Lord Dalhousie’s policy to lower the position of great Sardars and to trust to the contentment of the common people and to the presence of a sufficient military force to secure the peaceful development of the new province. Of the two great brothers who were the leading members of the Board of Administration sir Henry Lawrence accepted with reluctance a policy which differed widely from his own views while Sir John Lawrence welcomed it because he was himself convinced of its soundness. This is not the place to discuss the merit’s of the course which was actually followed. It is enough to note that the settlement made was not in fact an illiberal one. It is also the case that men’s faith in this , as in some other parts of Lord Dalhousie’s policy was a good deal shaken by the events of 1857 and that in many cases the original conditions of the Jagirs grants to leading families in the Punjab have been revised as opportunity offered in generous spirit.

10. Lord Dalhousie’s Views. Lord Dalhousie laid down emphatically that by our occupation of the country after the whole Sikh nation had been in arms against us . We have acquired the absolute right of conquerors and would be justified in declaring ever acre of land liable to Government assessment.” He ordered the resumption without exception of grants held by men who had taken up arms against the British Government, whether by choice or compulsion . He repeated Lord Hardinge’s description of the insecurity of the tenure of jagirs under the Sikh Government and of the increased value which the decision of the British Government would give to any assignment that was maintained. Every assignee whose tenure was upheld was to give up all deeds of grant which he held from former Governments and to receive instead a sanad from the Board declaring that the assignment was the free gift of the British Government. Except in a few special cases the Jagirdars were to be deprived of all policy powers and every assigned estate was to be assessed “so that the jagridars or other holder should not be allowed to rack rent his tenants or derive more from the land than would be taken by the Government whose place he occupies.” Where grants held on condition of service were maintained a cash commutation for the aid which was no longer required was to be fixed.

11. Rules issued by Lord Dalhousie - Loard Dalhousie reproduced Lord Hardinge’s seven rules with some modifications and added one of his own . In the first flue for the words “on their present tenures in perpetuity” the words “ on their present terms subject to future diminution after the death of incumbents” were substituted . This alternation was not without significance. To the second rule a rider was added providing for the reduction of endowments which appeared to be exorbitant and it was remarked that when grants of great value have been conferred for the maintenance of the State religion…. They should be restricted to a smaller amount from obvious motives of political expediency.” An addition was made to rule 3 to the effect that long occupancy would of course receive the consideration of Government. The alterations in the other rules were only verbal. The additional rule was as follows :-

“8. Where chiefs or other hold lands rent free which were not granted by Maharaja Ranjit Singh or any other ruler but won by their own swords they will deserve consideration and their cases should be specially reported to Government with the Board’s Recommendation in each case. Any particular cases not provided for in the foregoing rules to be reported separately to government for special orders.

Land Dalhousie added :-

“Should cases of individual hardship arise from a strict observance of these rules whether from indigence infirmity age or sex the Governor –General on such being represented will be happy to relax the severity of the rules or confer a pension upon the object.”

Hon'ble Revenue Minister


Special Chief Secretary, Department of Revenue, Rehabilitation and Disaster Management

Sh.  K A P Sinha, IAS

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