1. Land revenue not a tax, but rent payable to the State. In the first edition of this work it was contended that the land revenue was a rent and not a land tax, and this view has been retained in the opening paragraphs of the fourth edition of the Settlement Manual. This is not the place to embark upon a summary of the prolonged controversy on the subject; the question was examined with care by the Indian Taxation Enquiry Committee of 1926, which was found itself unable to arrive at any agreed finding. As that committee pointed (See paragraph 53 of this Manual) out “according to the description given by Manual of the fiscal administration of an ancient Hindu State, The main source of the State revenue was a share of the gross produce of all land, varying according to the soil and the labour necessary to cultivate it. In normal times the share varied between one twelfth and one-sixth, but was liable to rise even to one-fourth in times of war or other public calamity. The revenue was collected not from individual cultivators but from the community represented by the headman…. In the early days of Muhammadan administration, the State share of the gross produce demanded by the Hindu kings was converted into the khiraj or tribute payable on land in countries under Muhammadan rule though the share taken was greater than before.” The committee found that the land revenue has ceased to represent a portion of gross produce…. That in the Punjab …….the Government demand is theoretically based on an economic rent, but actually takes many other factors into consideration…Under both Hindu and Muhammadan rule, the State never claimed the absolute or exclusive ownership of the land and definitely recognized the existence of private property in it.”(See paragraph 80 of this Manual).
The General finding of the Committee was that in some cases the revenue was a pure rent and in others it is more difficult to maintain this view. In this province, the theory still holds that the revenue is of the nature of a rent charged by the State as overlord of the land.
The term “Rent” includes the payment of land revenue and cesses on behalf of the landlord.”
2. Collector, and steward. The officer entrusted with the duty of realizing the land revenue is not a mere rent collector, especially in provinces like the Punjab, where the demand is fixed for a period only, and the State continues to have a direct and immediate interest in the improvement of the land. His position is rather that of the steward of a great landowner. As such, he is bound to respect, and preserve from encroachment by others every private right in the soil which has been created or confirmed by the state. Where the revenue has been fixed for a term only, he has not only to collect it, but also to look forward to a time when it will be revised, and to collect and record in systematic manner statistical information, which will facilitate its equitable reassessment. He must initiate and assist measures to prevent, so far as may be the loss of crops from causes which are in any degree controllable by man, and must prepare in ordinary times for those graver natural calamities which produce intense and widespread scarcity of food. In particular the collector must do everything in his power to conserve the soil of his district and to maintain its fertility. The top –soil contains most of the fertility of the land, but on sloping ground in many parts of the Punjab, especially in districts bordering on the Himalayas and in the Salt range it is being rapidly removed by erosion. Erosion is assisted by the long periods of drought, the short growing periods of grass and the heavy rainstorms characteristics of the Punjab. Conservation of soil is effected by the control of grazing, felling and lopping in uncultivated land and by the embanking and where necessary terracing of cultivated land. Fertility is maintained by ploughing, manuring, cultivation, hoeing, weeding and following, and by suitable rotations of crops. It is the first duty to a farmer to keep his land in good heart, to ensure its stability and if possible to increase its fertility. This is done by the best farmers, but many allow their land to deteriorate.
The aim of land policy is the true symbiosis, or permanent association, of man his animals and the land. It is wrong that any man, by slothful cultivation, by excessive grazing, or by exploitation of the surrounding vegetation should imperil the stability of the soil of his own or his neighbors holdings. It is his duty to hand on his fields intact to his successor. The Collector must, therefore, encourage and assist every effort made by right holders to maintain the fertility of their land, to conserve the valuable top-soil, and to develop their estates. In addition he must in co-operation with the Forest, the Agricultural, Veterinary and Co-operative Departments devise means of combating the menace of erosion throughout his district as a whole.
He must encourage and assist every effort made by right holders for the development of their estates. In many parts of the province, such as the colony districts, the State is not only supreme landowner of the soil generally, but also sole landowner of a considerable part of it, and it is the duty of its local representation to administer this property so that it may be profitable to the State as representing the people as a whole, and at the same time beneficial to the colonists, whose prosperity is the first care of a progressive Government.
3. Scope of handbook. It is the object of this book to describe how these various functions can best be carried out by the officer incharge of a district. As a revenue officer, he is legally known as the Collector, but the more familiar title of Deputy Commissioner will generally be used in this work. His functions will be described in the several capacities in which he is called upon to act: -
(i) As a recorder of agricultural statistics.
(ii) As guardian and registrar of the rights in the soil enjoyed by private persons.
(iii) As a collector of the land revenue;
(iv) As a promoter of the stability and improvement of landed property;
(v) As a custodian of State property;
(vi) As a judge between landlords and tenants.
The head of a district has many other important duties to perform, but the discussion in this work is confined to his functions in connection with the administration of the land.