NCERT Class 8 History Chapter 3: Ruling the Countryside YouTube Lecture Handouts

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  • 12 August 1765: Mughal emperor appointed East India Company as Diwan of Bengal – happened in Robert Clive’s tent

  • As Diwan – Company became financial administrator of the territory – it could buy what it needed and sell what it wanted

  • Company had to pacify the rulers of the past

Revenue for Company

  • Wanted large revenue assessment and collection system

  • Increase revenue but buy cheap cotton and silk

  • In 5 years, value of goods bought by Company in Bengal doubled

  • Before 1865, Company purchased goods in India by importing gold and silver from Britain & now the revenue collected in Bengal could finance the purchase of goods for export

  • So, Bengal economy went into crisis, artisans were deserting villages & peasants were not able to pay dues

  • 1770: Famine in Bengal killed 10 million people & 1/3rd population was wiped off

Improve Agriculture

  • After 20 years, new concept came up

  • Cornwallis introduced Permanent Settlement in 1793 - settlement, rajas and taluqdars were recognized as zamindars and asked to collect rent from peasants and pay revenue to the Company. Amount to be paid was fixed permanently – regular income for company and encourage Zamindar to invest in land

  • Problems – revenue was too high to be paid & zamindars were not investing in land improvement

  • Those who failed to pay tax, lost zamindari & land was sold in auction to Company

  • In 1st decade of 19th Century – price of market rose & cultivation expanded but no gain for company

  • Villagers found the system oppressive as they had to pay very high rent

New System

  • Holt Mackenzie devised new system in 1822 – explaining fixed revenue system as incorrect

  • Estimated revenue of each plot within a village was added up to calculate the revenue that each village (mahal) had to pay – this was revised periodically and not fixed permanently

  • In British revenue records mahal is a revenue estate which may be a village or a group of villages

  • Mahalwari Settlement – charge of collecting revenue shifted to village headman rather zamindar – became popular in North India

Munro System

  • Ryotwari System: In south India, tried by Captain Alexander Read in areas of Tipu Sultan & later developed by Thomas Munro

  • Settlement made directly with cultivators (ryots) & British should act as parental father figure. There were no Zamindars in South India.

Crops for Europe

  • Realized that countryside is not meant only for revenue but can grow crops that Europe needs

  • In 18th century – trying to grow opium & indigo

  • Indigo: blue dye used in the Morris prints in 19th century Britain - cultivated in India & India was biggest supplier of indigo in the world at that time.

  • Persuaded to produce jute in Bengal, tea in Assam, sugarcane in United Provinces (now UP), wheat in Punjab, cotton in Maharashtra and Punjab, rice in Madras

Indigo

  • Grows in tropics

  • Used in cloth manufacturing in France, Italy and Britain by 13th century – small amount reached with high price

  • European depended on plant woad (temperate crop in northern Italy, southern France and Germany and Britain) for violet and blue dyes – pale and dull.

  • Woad cultivators were afraid of competition by indigo and wanted to ban indigo

  • Dyers preferred indigo due to bright blue color

  • 17th century – ban on indigo was relaxed

  • French cultivated indigo in St Domingue in Caribbean islands, Portuguese in Brazil, English in Jamaica, and Spanish in Venezuela.

  • Indigo plantations (large farm with forced labor) started in North America

  • Demand increased and supplied from West Indies and America collapsed & b/w 1783 & 1789 production reduced to half and people were looking for new sources

  • 1791, African slaves in plantation rebelled and slavery abolished in French colonies in 1792 – leading to collapse in plantation

  • From last decade of 18th century – indigo plantation started in Bengal (1788-30% indigo export from India increased to 95% in 1810)

  • Company invested in indigo & officers left job to look after indigo plantation business with huge profits

  • Company was giving loan to produce indigo

Indigo Cultivation

  • 2 systems – nij and ryoti

  • Nij Cultivation

  • Cultivation on ryot’s land

  • Planters produced indigo in lands that he directly controlled & employed hired labourer

  • Indigo can be cultivated only on fertile areas but these were already densely populated – only small plots could be acquired

  • They attempted to lease in land around the indigo factory, and evict the peasants from the area. But this always led to conflicts and tension

  • Mobilizing labor was not easy

  • Peasants were interested in rice cultivation

  • 1 bigha required 2 ploughs – investment and maintenance was big issue

  • Less than 25% land was under this system

  • Ryoti Cultivation

  • Cultivation on planter’s own land

  • Planters forced the ryots to sign a contract agreement (satta)

  • Sometimes village headman was forced to sign the contract

  • Those who signed got cash advances at low rates of interest

  • Loan committed them to cultivate indigo on 25% of the land

  • Planter provided seed and the drill, while cultivators prepared soil, sowed seed and looked after the crop

  • Price for indigo was low and cycle of loan never ended

  • Indigo has deep roots and exhausted soil, so no rice could be grown

Manufacturing of Indigo

  • Taken to Vat or fermenting vessel

  • Vat beater had to remain in waist deep water for 8 hours

  • 1st vat: Leaves stripped off the indigo plant were first soaked in warm water in a vat for several hours. Liquid began to boil & rotten leaves were taken out. Liquid was drained into another vat that was placed just below the first vat.

  • 2nd Vat or beater vat: Solution was continuously stirred and beaten with paddles, it turned green and then blue. Lime water was added & indigo was separated out in flakes, a muddy sediment settled at the bottom & clear liquid rose to the surface

  • 3rd Vat or Settling vat: Liquid was drained off and the sediment, indigo pulp transferred to another vat & then pressed and dried for sale.

Blue Rebellion

  • 1859: Ryots rebelled to grow indigo – didn’t pay rent to planters and attacked indigo factories

  • Those who worked for planters were socially boycotted, and gomasthas (agents of planters) who came to collect rent were beaten up

  • Indigo system was oppressive

  • Ryots had support of local zamindars and village headman & fought with lathiyals (lathi-wielding strongmen maintained by the planters)

  • Britishers were worried about another rebellion after 1857

  • When in Barasat, magistrate Ashley Eden issued a notice stating that ryots would not be compelled to accept indigo contracts, word went around that Queen Victoria had declared that indigo need not be sown. Eden action came as support to rebellion

  • Government brought in military to protect the condition

  • Commission held planters guilty and declared that indigo production was not profitable for ryots – they were asked to continue the existing contract but can refuse for future

  • After revolt, indigo production collapsed in Bengal and shifted to Bihar – business was affected by synthetic dyes

  • Mahatma Gandhi’s visit in 1917 marked the beginning of the Champaran movement against the indigo planters