History of 12th August – From Company to Diwan

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12th August

Explore the history of 12th August highlighting the Treaty of Nöteborg’s, Christopher Columbus’ arrival in the Canary Islands, and the pivotal role of the East India Company as the Diwan of Bengal. Delve into the events which followed the Diwani.

The history of 12th August takes us back to the year 1323 when the Treaty of Nöteborg was signed between Sweden and Novgorod (Russia). This treaty was the first of its kind in the world which regulated the border.  So one can say this was the parent for what we know today as Visa.

Moving on with the history of 12th August we see that it was this day in the year 1492 when Christopher Columbus arrived in the Canary Islands on his first voyage to the New World.

With this I come to the feature story from the history of 12th August.

The Company Becomes the Diwan:

The history of 12th August takes us to the year 1765, when Mughal Emperor appointed The East India Company as the Diwan of Bengal. As the Diwan, the East India Company became the chief financial administrator of the territories under its control, ushering in a series of transformative changes that impacted administration, revenue, and agricultural practices. The events which unfolded following this are as follows:-

The Challenge of Administration and Revenue Generation

Having acquired the role of Diwan, the Company faced the intricate task of governing the land and effectively organizing revenue resources. This was not merely a matter of financial administration but an intricate dance that necessitated a balanced approach. As a trading company turned administrative power, it was crucial for the Company to generate revenue while maintaining its capacity to buy the products it needed for trade.

Initially, the Company opted for revenue generation strategies that aimed to maximize its income without instituting a systematic assessment and collection mechanism. This approach led to a doubling of goods purchased by the Company within a mere five years. However, this strategy soon brought the Bengal economy to the brink of crisis. Artisans were abandoning their villages, peasants struggled to meet the demanded dues, and both artisanal production and agricultural cultivation were in decline.

The catastrophic famine of 1770 served as a tragic reminder of the pressing need to improve agricultural practices and invest in land to ensure a stable revenue stream.

The Introduction of Permanent Settlement

To address the challenges of revenue collection and agricultural improvement, the Company introduced the Permanent Settlement in 1793. This significant policy change recognized rajas and taluqdars as zamindars, responsible for collecting rent from peasants and paying revenue to the Company. The fixed revenue amount aimed to provide stability and encourage investment in land improvement. However, this seemingly pragmatic solution was not without its issues.

The fixed revenue demands placed on zamindars often proved too high, leading to land losses and auctions organized by the Company. The Permanent Settlement initially failed to foster agricultural improvement and instead resulted in the zamindars’ focus on rent collection rather than land enhancement.

Evolution of Revenue Systems

Recognizing the flaws in the Permanent Settlement, the Company officials sought more adaptable revenue systems that could meet the evolving needs of administration and trade. In the North Western Provinces, Holt Mackenzie devised the mahalwari settlement in 1822, focusing on the village as a crucial social institution. This system involved periodic revisions of revenue demands and tasked village headmen with revenue collection, bypassing the traditional zamindars.

In the South, the ryotwari system emerged, where direct agreements were signed with cultivators, acknowledging their rights and surveying lands for accurate assessments. Thomas Munro’s efforts in this regard aimed to protect the ryots, but challenges remained as high revenue demands led to peasant distress and deserted villages.

See Also

The Indigo Saga: A Tale of Imperialism and Rebellion

The Company’s transformation of Bengal’s landscape extended beyond revenue administration. Recognizing the demand for indigo in Europe, the Company worked to expand its cultivation in India. This expansion, however, led to the exploitation of ryots and the establishment of oppressive indigo cultivation systems.

In the late 1850s, the indigo ryots rebelled against the harsh conditions imposed by the planters, igniting what became known as the “Blue Rebellion.” This uprising was fueled by the support of local zamindars and village headmen, who were increasingly unhappy with the planters’ growing power. The rebellion prompted government intervention, an Indigo Commission investigation, and ultimately the decline of indigo production in Bengal.

The Complex Legacy

The East India Company’s appointment as the Diwan of Bengal triggered a series of transformations that left a complex legacy. It navigated the fine balance between revenue generation and trade, while also navigating the intricate relationships with indigenous power structures. The story of indigo production and the subsequent rebellion served as a testament to the tensions and inequalities inherent in the colonial rule.

These historical events stand as a reminder of the intricacies of imperial administration, economic exploitation, and the indomitable spirit of those who resisted oppression. The echoes of these events continue to resonate through the annals of history, shaping our understanding of power dynamics, economic systems, and the human capacity for resilience and rebellion.

That’s all from the history of 12th August.

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