Akbar’s Revenue Reforms

The history of Akbar’s revenue reform can be traced from 1562 when Akbar took over the responsibility of state affairs on his own had. At this time, the Zama-i-Raqmi system was in operation system was developed by Berham Khan when Akbar was on the throne.

After taking over the responsibility of state affairs in hand, Akbar started paying serious attention to revenue admin because the land revenue was the main source of state income. Aitmad Khan was appointed as Vajir by Akbar. After dismissing no other Vajir in quick successions. According to Badayani, he separated Jagir land from Khalisa land. He also affected an economy expedition to improve the finances of the state.

In 1564, Akbar appointed Mujjafar Khan as head of the revenue department (Deewan-i-Kul) & Todarmal was appointed as an assistant. Mujjafar Khan asked Quanungo in 1567 (Pargana revenue officer) to collect agrarian data such as the total amount of land under cultivation types of crops being cultivated, total production & other such details from their areas.

Based on data collected by Quanungo, a new system Zabt-i-Harsala (system of annual measurement) was implemented. Jama-Iraq was put aside. This system couldn’t perform properly because the data provided by Quanungo was much accurate. Many of Quanungo were big landowners; they deliberately suppress actual agrarian data.

Akbar’s Karori Experiments (1574)

In this system, the whole Khalisa land was divided into several revenue circles (Dastur) in such a way that every revenue unit was yielding an income of one crore Dam. Amil was the officer responsible for the collection of revenue & since he collected 1 crore dam, he was known as Karori. This system got the name Karori Experiment. Amil was a pargana level officer. This system was introduced by Akbar to collect. Proper revenue data. To measure the cultivated area. To carry out the extension of cultivation.

Ain-i-Dahsala

This system was introduced by Akbar in 1579-80. Initially, it was implemented in Khalisa land. 1581-82 Jagir land was brought under it. This system is categorized by elements of change & continuity. While some of the essential features of the revenue system of Sher Shah were continued but at the same time, several new elements were incorporated.

Mujjafar Khan & Todarmal were the brains behind this system. In this system, the land was divided into 4 categories based on the frequency of cultivation. These categories were Polaj (cultivated every year), Parati (left follow for 1-2 years after taking 1 crop), and Chachhar (left follow for 3-4 years after taking 1 crop).

Raja Todar Mal
Raja Todar Mal

Each of these categories was further subdivided into three sub-categories based on the fertility of the soil. These subcategories were known as good, middle, and bad category land. Ten yearly production data was collected for each subcategory (1569-1578). The average of each subcategory was calculated to eliminate the ill effect of fluctuation. After calculating the average of each subcategory and category of land, the final average was calculated.

This final average was fixed as standard production for Bigha for years hereafter. 1/3rd of this standard production for Bigha was demanded from peasant as Land Revenue. Hereafter only land cultivated by peasant was required to be a measure to estimate the amount of Land Revenue. There was no need to calculate the yield for Bigha for every year through sample cutting or other methods.

For the preparation of the pricelist, Akbar divided the entire Khalisa area into several zones (Dastur) in such a way the price of various commodities was uniform throughout zones. Local pricelist was prepared for each zone to take into account the average price of each article over the last 10 years. The price list so prepared was not changed hereafter. The same list was used for conversion of a kind into cash year after years.

In this system, a peasant was allowed to leave up to 12.5% of his total land uncultivated. This land was known as Nabud. Land Revenue was not demanded by Nabud. The normal rate of Land Revenue was 1/3rd of production. In Multan, the rate of Land Revenue was 1/4th. In Kashmir, the rate was 50% of production. The peasants were free to pay Land Revenue in either cash or kind.

Along with Land Revenue, Akbar collected an emergency tax from peasants. It was known as “Dah-i-Seri”. The system was progressive in nature because it encouraged the famous to bring more land under cultivation for the land brought under cultivation Land Revenue wasn’t demanded at the full rate. The rate of Land Revenue gradually increased to a full level over a period of 5 years.

The assessment of Land Revenue was carried out at the level of an individual peasant but revenue collection was carried out by taking the entire village as a unit. In case of failure of crops due to less rainfall or any other natural factor, the state granted concessions & remissions in Land Revenue loans were also given to peasantry to sustain during the crisis.

Ain-i-Dahsala wasn’t rigidly imposed on the peasantry. The state officials had instructions to accept any other system of Land Revenue assessment if peasants of any particular area demanded. Because of other systems of land revenue assessment such as Batai, Kankud, Nashq & Maqtai were also in operation simultaneously.

In Batai, the crop was shared between state & peasant. In the Kankut system, the total production was estimated through rough measurement of the field by pacing it or by guesswork. In the Nashq system, the peasants were asked to pay the same amount as Land Revenue as they were paying in past. In the Muqtai system, the lump sum amount was paid by the entire village. Along with Land Revenue peasants were required to pay other taxes as well.

Impacts of Ain-i-Dahsala

The Ain-i-Dahsala system introduction by Akbar was a significant improvement over the revenue systems developed by previous rulers. In this system, many of the limitations of the Sher Shah’s Zapti system were successfully rectified because of this, peasants, as well as the state, significantly benefited.

In this system, there was no need to measure yield for Bigha every year because the reference is standard yield was developed by the state. Only the land under the plowed (cultivated) was measured & total production was easily estimated. So Ain-i-Dahasala was easy to implement.

Akbar's Court
Akbar’s Court

The problem associated with the delay with measurement of land was tackled to a large extent because the land could be measured any time from the sowing of seeds to harvesting crops. In Sher Shah’s Zapti system land was measured only when the crop was ready to harvest. Any measurement delay resulted in extreme difficulty in the peasantry because the entire crop could get lost.

Ain-i-Dahsala system enabled state as well as peasantry to understand the amount of income or burden of Land Revenue. With the measurement of the field, the peasant could come to understand the amount of revenue to be paid to the state after harvesting of crops. In the same manner, the state used to come to know approx. income from Land Revenue for a year.

The Ain-i-Dahsala system was progressive because it increased the peasants to bring more land under cultivation. In this system, the local prices were used in the pricelist. The peasants preferring to pay Land Revenue in cash were not overburden. Ain-i-Dahsala system contained provision for an emergency time it was based on elements of foresight.

The positive impact of this system brought in the Mughal Empire in the long run because everybody’s interest was taking care of. There was hardly any scope of peasant exploitation by the hands of officials because of the use of discretionary power was negligible (Zarib – rope – price tanak).

Limitations of Ain-i-Dahasal system

Though this system was far better than any system developed by Akbar’s predecessor at the same time it mostly emphasized that the system wasn’t perfect. It had several limitations.

In this system, the land is even required to measure everyone; though it could be measured any time during sowing of seeds to the harvesting of crops still it was quite a cumbersome process. Delay was quite frequent. The peasants were required to pay for the measurement of land over and above the burden of Land Revenue. Peasants were required to pay other taxes over & above Land Revenue because of this burden on the peasantry quite high.

In case of failure of crops the revenue remission, concession, & other state assistance were often delayed because of this suffering manifested in form of a massive revolt in the Doab region in 1584-85. It was found that the main reason behind revolt was differences in the measurement of standard. At instruction by Akbar, an agriculture committee was appointed under chairman Fateh-Ulla-Siraji to search because of the peasantry.

Fateh-Ulla-Siraji was rebounded age he developed new yard, “Gaj-i-Ilahi” to create uniforms measured standard so that the suffering of the peasantry could be eliminated.