Topic outline

    • Ruling the Countryside

      Q40. What were the problems faced by the planters in the NIJ system?
      What were the problems with nij cultivation?
      Why were planters reluctant to expand the area under nij cultivation till the late 19th century?’

      Ans. The problems faced by the planters in the nij system were:

                                i.        The planters found it difficult to expand the area under nij cultivation. Indigo could be cultivated only on fertile lands, and these were all already densely populated. Only small plots scattered over the landscape could be acquired. Planters needed large areas in compact blocks to cultivate indigo in plantations.

                                ii.        Nor was labour easy to mobilise. A large plantation required a vast number of hands to operate. And labour was needed precisely at a time when peasants were usually busy with their rice cultivation.

                               iii.        Nij cultivation on a large scale also required many ploughs and bullocks. Investing on purchase and maintenance of ploughs was a big problem.

      Q41. Why did the indigo cultivators decide to rebel? How did they show their anger?
      Why did the indigo cultivators decide to rebel?
      Why did the indigo peasants decide they would no longer remain silent?

      Ans. The condition under which the indigo cultivators had to work was intensely oppressive. Finally they decided not to grow indigo. They became united and rebelled. They showed their anger in the following ways:

                              i.        Ryots refused to pay rents to the planters, and attacked indigo factories armed with swords and spears, bows and arrows.

                             ii.        Women turned up to fight with pots, pans and kitchen implements.

                            iii.        Those who worked for the planters were socially boycotted, and the gomasthas – agents of planters – who came to collect rent were beaten up.

                            iv.        Ryots swore they would no longer take advances to sow indigo nor be bullied by the planters’ lathiyals.


      Q42. What problems did Permanent Settlement pose?

      Ans. Problems

                              i.        Company officials soon discovered that the zamindars were in fact not investing in the improvement of land. The revenue that had been fixed was so high that the zamindars found it difficult to pay.

                             ii.        By the first decade of the nineteenth century the situation changed. The prices in the market rose and cultivation slowly expanded. This meant an increase in the income of the zamindars but no gain for the Company since it could not increase a revenue demand that had been fixed permanently.

                             iii.        Some had lost their lands in the earlier years of the settlement; others now saw the possibility of earning without the trouble and risk of investment. As long as the zamindars could give out the land to tenants and get rent, they were not interested in improving the land.

      Q43. Describe different stages of the production of indigo.
      How was indigo produced?

      Ans. After harvest, the indigo plant was taken to the vats in the indigo factory. Three or four vats were needed to manufacture the dye. Each vat had a separate function. The leaves stripped off the indigo plant were first soaked in warm water in a vat for several hours. When the plants fermented, the liquid began to boil and bubble. Now the rotten leaves were taken out and the liquid drained into another vat that was placed just below the first vat. In the second vat the solution was continuously stirred and beaten with paddles. When the liquid gradually turned green and then blue, lime water was added to the vat. Gradually the indigo separated out in flakes, a muddy sediment settled at the bottom of the vat and a clear liquid rose to the surface. The liquid was drained off and the sediment – the indigo pulp – transferred to another vat (known as the settling vat), and then pressed and dried for sale.


      Q44. Describe the main features of the Permanent Settlement.
      What were the terms of the Permanent Settlement?

      Ans. Main features of the Permanent Settlement

                               i.        The Company finally introduced the Permanent Settlement in 1793.

                              ii.        By the terms of the settlement, the rajas and taluqdars were recognized as zamindars.

                             iii.        They were asked to collect rent from the peasants and pay revenue to the Company.

                             iv.        The amount to be paid was fixed permanently, that is, it was not to be increased ever in future.

                              v.        It was felt that this would ensure a regular flow of revenue into the Company’s coffers and at the same time encourage the zamindars to invest in improving the land.

                             vi.        Since the revenue demand of the state would not be increased, the zamindar would benefit from increased production from the land.

      Q45. Why were ryots reluctant to grow indigo?

      Ans. Ryots were reluctant to grow indigo because of the following reasons.

                                i.        Under the ryoti system, the planters forced the ryots to sign a contract, an agreement (satta).

                                ii.        Those who signed the contract got cash advances from the planters at low rates of interest to produce indigo.

                               iii.        But the loan committed the ryot to cultivating indigo on at least 25 per cent of the area under his holding.

                               iv.        When the crop was delivered to the planter after the harvest, a new loan was given to the ryot, and the cycle started all over again.

                                v.        The price they got for the indigo they produced was very low and the cycle of loans never ended.

                               vi.        The planters usually insisted that indigo be cultivated on the best soils in which peasants preferred to cultivate rice.

                vii.        Indigo, moreover, had deep roots and it exhausted the soil rapidly. After an indigo harvest the land could not be sown with rice.


      Q46. Define the following terms: Mahal, Ryot, Satta, Bigha, Slave and Plantation

      Ans. Mahal – In British revenue records mahal is a revenue estate which may be a village or a group of villages.

      Ryot - Ryot was a general economic term used throughout India for peasant cultivators.

      Satta – Satta means an agreement.

      Bigha - A unit of measurement of land. Before British rule, the size of this area varied. In Bengal the British standardised it to about one-third of an acre.

      Slave - A person who is owned by someone else – the slave owner. A slave has no freedom and is compelled to work for the master.

      Plantation – A large farm operated by a planter employing various forms of forced labour. Plantations are associated with the production of coffee, sugarcane, tobacco, tea and cotton.

      Q47. What were the circumstances which led to the eventual collapse of indigo production in Bengal?

      Ans. The circumstances which led to the eventual collapse of indigo production in Bengal were:

                               i.        The indigo ryots felt that they had the support of the local zamindars and village headmen in their rebellion against the planters.

                              ii.        The indigo peasants also imagined that the British government would support them in their struggle against the planters.

                              iii.        The ryots saw the tour of the Lieutenant Governor as a sign of government sympathy for their plight.

                               iv.        The magistrate Ashley Eden issued a notice stating that ryots would not be compelled to accept indigo contracts.

                                v.        As the rebellion spread, intellectuals from Calcutta rushed to the indigo districts. They wrote of the misery of the ryots, the tyranny of the planters, and the horrors of the indigo system.

                               vi.        Worried by the rebellion, the government set up the Indigo Commission to enquire into the system of indigo production. The Commission held the planters guilty, and criticised them for the coercive methods they used with indigo cultivators.

                vii.        It declared that indigo production was not profitable for ryots. The Commission asked the ryots to fulfil their existing contracts but also told them that they could refuse to produce indigo in future.

                viii.        After the revolt, indigo production collapsed in Bengal.


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