What is Permanent Settlement (Zamindari System)?

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

In the period of 1765-72, the Bengal Government was ran in a Dual System of governance in which Nizamat and Diwani were under the control of East India Company (EIC) and revenue & administration were under the control of Nawab of Bengal. But in 1772 Warren Hestings ended the the dual structure of governance by removing Mubaraquddaula (the then Nawab of Bengal) and acquired Revenue and Administration powers also. But they could not succeed in the front because of many glitches in revenue collection system as well as peasantry. Hence, Lord Cornwallis came with the new system of revenue collection known as Permanent Settlement, which was also called as the Zamindari System.

So, What was Zamindari System/Permanent Settlement?

Under Governor General Lord Charles Cornwallis, East India company (EIC) Government had done a revenue settlement with the local Rajas and Taluqdars of Bengal Presidency in 1793 under which, land revenue was fixed in perpetuity, which was popularly known as the Permanent Settlement. After the Permanent Settlement these Rajas and Taluqdars were known as Zamindars and hence it was also called as Zamindari System. Zamindars were actually perceived as the Revenue Collector of a Revenue Estate. Zamindars had several villages (sometimes more than 400 villages) in a Revenue Estate with them. 

These Zamindars were needed to pay a fixed amount of revenue (which was fixed  in perpetuity), which was collected from peasants. Collector (Officer appointed by the company) used to keep a close check on these revenue collectors or Zamindars. 

Sun Set Rule 

Under the Permanent Settlement a rule was made, according to which Zamindars were required to pay the fixed revenue before the sunset on the date prescribed for the payment. If a Zamindar failed to pay the revenue demand on time, than his Zamindari rights were used to be auctioned. 

  • This rule was many times heavily exploited by Zamindars, by not paying revenue demand and when auctioned again, they bought the Zamindari again in the name of his servants or relatives. 

Reasons Behind Doing Permanent Settlement

  1. After 1770s the revenue collection was dropped tremendously due to fall in the agricultural production in bengal. 
  2. Britishers thought that the settlement would result into timely payment of revenue as well as Zamindars would also be happy due to increased profit because of fixing of revenue and freedom of collection. 
  3. Britishers also thought that through Permanent settlement they would create a class of rich people, who could land small farmers for agricultural purposes and hence agricultural productivity would increase and ultimately they would be able to get more revenue.

Jotedars, Ryots and Under-Ryots 


According to a survey conducted by Francis Buchanan (also served as a surgeon of Lord Wellesly), Jotedars were big &  rich Ryots or peasants who had very large land area some of them had even more than 1000 Acres of land. 

They generally  done farming through sharecroppers (called as Adhiyars or Bargardars, and Bataidars also) who used to do farming on the land of Jotedars using their own resources such as plough, oxen & Seed and laboured on the field and shared 50% of the produce with Jotedars. There were generally several sharecroppers attached with one Jotedars.

  • Jotedars had a great influence on poor farmers/sharecroppers. They control regional trade and lending activities in the region.
  • Jotedars were also called as Haoldars, Gantidars or Mandals.

Ryots & Under-Ryots

These were small peasants who had taken land from Zamindars and generally used to do farming by own but in some cases they also leased their farmland to Under-Ryots/Sharecropers.

Implications of the Permanent Settlement 

  • It lead to the dissolution of the powers of Rajas and Taluqdars, who were now remained only Zamindar or revenue collectors or Agents of the East India company who were working under a close watch of more powerful collectors (officer appointed by the Company).
  • Zamindars (earlier Rajas/Taluqdars) lost their power of administering local justice in their estate. Now they could only manage his 'cutcheries' (courts) revenue related matters and that too under strict watch of hte collector. 
  • Zamindars' 'Troops'  (Armed men) were also disbanded. Hence, they also lost the power of local policing in their Estate. 
  • Those Zamindars who survived in the 1790s became powerful and wealthier in early 19th century due to relaxation in the payment rules and rise in the prices of crops. Since revenue was fixed Zamindars gained alot. 
  • But under this settlement Ryots  were heavily exploited by zamindars, who generally used to collect much more revenue from peasants than fixed by the government.

  • Upto 1830s Jotedars were became more powerful than the Zamindars in the countryside because they gained much more than what Zamindars gained form the rise in prices of crops.