Mahalwari System: Features, Advantages, and Disadvantages Explained

The Mahalwari System was indeed a significant land revenue system implemented by the British in India. Introduced by Holt Mackenzie in 1822 and developed further under Lord William Bentinck in 1833-34, it was applied in the western part of the United Provinces, Punjab, and parts of the Central Provinces. The term “Mahal” refers to a village or a community made from a group of villages.

Features of Mahalwari Settlement

1. Land revenue settlement was made with the Mahal or gram. The local zamindar or lambardar was responsible, on behalf of all peasants, for the payment of land revenue.

2. Initially, in 1833, two-thirds of the net produce was fixed as land revenue, but later it was reduced to one-half of the net produce.

3. The peasants had to deposit the revenue to the zamindar. The percentage that each peasant had to pay was the same, but the quantity varied.

4. The peasant was free to sell or mortgage their land.

5. The settlement was made for thirty years and in some places for twenty years.

Advantages to the Government

1. Collection of land revenue from one person instead of all the peasants of the village was easier and cheaper for the Government.

2. The system was already prevailing in some areas; therefore, the Government had no problem implementing it.

3. The Government was assured of its income for the next 20-30 years.

Disadvantages for Peasants

The peasants, on the other hand, had very little to cheer about. They could take solace from the fact that they were saved from possibly corrupt revenue officials of the Government and that they had better control over their land. But they had to face some real difficulties which are given below:

1. High rate of taxation, which was fifty per cent of the 'net produce'.

2. The idea of net produce was very vague, as we have discussed in the previous section on the Ryotwari Settlement.

3. The zamindars and the lambardars were present to exploit the peasants.

4. The moneylenders, by clever means, captured the mortgaged land.

The Mahalwari System combined elements of the Zamindari System and Ryotwari system, with the land divided into Mahals for tax assessment purposes1. It aimed to integrate village autonomy within the revenue collection framework, but it also led to several challenges for the peasants, including high taxation and potential exploitation.

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