Rise of landless agrarian labourers in British India | History UPSC Notes

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Rise of landless agrarian labourers in British India | History UPSC Notes


When the British took over in India, they made a lot of changes in the economic, political, and social areas. In India, the Mughal Empire fell apart in the 1750s, and new countries took its place. The British first went to India to trade, but they finally took control of large parts of the country and had a big impact on its economy, government, and culture.

• From an economic point of view, British policies were mostly made to help them, which led to the commercialization of farming and the decline of native Indian industries.

The British took advantage of India’s resources, which hurt the economy and hurt local businesses.

• From a political point of view, a number of Acts passed by the British had both good and bad effects.

But the most important thing that happened was that the British took control of the Indian subcontinent.

The growth of India’s constitution was helped by the Regulating Act of 1773, Pitt’s India Act of 1784, and several Charter Acts.

The British also made a lot of changes to the government, including the way taxes were collected, public services, police, the army, and the courts.

• The British had an effect on Indian society because of the rules they made about schooling, language, and culture. The Indian people liked some of the changes that were made, but the harsh ones led to rebellions and revolts.

The British presence in India caused a lot of changes in the country’s society, some of which were good and some of which were bad.

How did the rule of the British affect the Indian villages: Taking over the country

• When Bengal was ruled by the British, the East India Company thought of itself mainly as a trading company, even after it became the Diwan of Bengal. • However, the Company’s aggressive ways of collecting taxes caused a major economic problem in Bengal.

• All of this led to the terrible famine of 1770, which killed 10 million people, or about one-third of the population of the area.

• Seeing the need for change, many Company leaders started to push for more money to be put into agricultural land and better farming methods.

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• Several land-revenue systems, such as Zamindari, Mahalwari, and Ryotwari, were put in place to try to bring security and prosperity back to India’s rural areas.The goal of these attempts was to get people to invest in the land and make improvements to agriculture. In the end, these changes affected the economy of rural India while it was under British rule.

Permanent Settlement (Zamindari):

The East India Company started the Permanent Settlement, also called Zamindari, in 1793, when Cornwallis was the Governor-General of India.

• Under this system, rajas and taluqdars were called zamindars. It was their job to collect rent from the people and send money to the Company. The amount of money coming in was set at a fixed rate that would not go up in the future.But there were some problems with the Permanent Settlement. Officials from the company saw that the zamindars weren’t putting money into improving the land. Also, the set revenue amount was so high that many zamindars had trouble making the payments. Those who didn’t pay the tax would lose their zamindari title, which led the Company to sell off a lot of zamindaris at auction.During the 19th century, there were some improvements to the market. But this didn’t help the Company because they couldn’t raise the set revenue demand. In the meantime, the Permanent Settlement scheme was very hard on farmers in the villages.

Mahalwari settlement

• The Mahalwari deal was made because the British East India Company needed more money than what the zamindari system was giving them.In 1822, a British official named Holt Mackenzie came up with this new system. He focused on the North-Western Provinces of the Bengal Presidency, which are now mostly in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.

• Mackenzie thought that the town was an important part of the social structure of the area. So, under his direction, people went from village to village to look at the land, measure fields, and write down the habits and rights of different groups. Then, these ratings were used to figure out how much money each piece of land in a village owed.The total amount due by the village or mahal was based on how much all of the plots brought in. Unlike the zamindari system, these requests for money could be changed over time instead of being set in stone.

• In the Mahalwari system, the village headmen instead of the zamindars were in charge of collecting taxes and sending payments to the Company. This was called the Mahalwari settlement, and it was meant to give the British East India Company a more flexible and effective way to collect taxes while recognising the importance of villages in the social structure of the area.

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Ryotwari / Munro System

Captain Alexander Read and later Thomas Munro thought that there were no traditional zamindars in the south. They said that the settlement had to be made directly with the cultivators (ryots) who had worked the land for generations. Their fields had to be carefully and separately surveyed before the revenue assessment was made.

Rise of Landless Agrarian Labourers

• The rising rates of illiteracy, poverty, and seasonal unemployment in India have caused a rise in the number of people who don’t own land.

This study will look at the problems landless labourers face, such as a growing population and worries about wages in the agricultural sector. It will also talk about the customary rights of labourers working in the country and suggest ways to help solve the problem of landless labourers in modern India.

Discussion of Landless Labourers: o Landless labourers often can’t own the land they work, so they have to work for low pay on the land of others.

o Because of political and natural problems in India, the number of people without land has been going up.

o Climate change and frequent natural disasters have made it harder for people to find work on their own land.

o Also, low literacy rates in rural places and rising unemployment have made landlessness get worse over time.

o The lack of other jobs and limited policies for developing agriculture in many rural areas have caused low- and middle-level workers to lose their land. This has made the problem of landless workers in modern India worse.

Problems with Landless Labour in India: o The heavy use of machines in agriculture has left a big hole for landowners by lowering the amount of land that can be used for farming.

o Rural farmers’ lack of organisation and dependence on old ways of doing things have led to a big rise in the number of labourers without land.

o Poverty has also become a major factor in the rise of people without land in rural places. Most of India’s country areas aren’t well-developed, so farmers who can’t read or write and don’t have much money can live in chaos.

o This causes labourers to lose their land because of the high costs of keeping it up and the business loses that come with it.

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Why the number of landless Labourers in India is going up

• India’s agricultural sector is having trouble with underemployment and unemployment in rural places right now.

• This has had bad effects on landless workers, which has led to a rise in the number of them.

• Most farm workers are in debt because they don’t own land and have to work on other people’s land.

• This has made it harder for workers to get by and has made their seasonal unemployment worse.

• Family problems among farm workers, especially when they work on the same land year after year, have also made this situation worse.

A Brief Overview of Wage-Earning and No-wage Earners in Agriculture

• In India, wages are usually low because people who work in agriculture aren’t very productive.

In recent years, low wages for labourers in India have been caused by low marginal productivity in agriculture and the greater use of weedicides and machinery on agricultural lands.

Customary Rights of Landless Labourers

• Landless workers in India have had different consumer rights at different times in the country’s history.

During the time when India was ruled by feudal lords, the Ryotwari System was used to pay workers and give them rights to get out of debt.Then, in British India, the Forest Act was passed to help landless farmers. Today, the Resettlement and Rehabilitation Act 2013 protects the customary rights of labourers.

Strategies to Improve the Current Circumstances of Landless Labourers in India

• To help landless labourers, the government and other ways should be used, such as: giving landless labourers farm tools; promoting development in rural areas; and increasing the number of landless labourers who can read and write.


• In the end, the British rule in India caused big changes in the country’s economy, government, and society.

Even though the British made some good changes, the bad ones hurt India’s rural economy and led to widespread poverty, famine, and debt.

• For the situation of landless labourers to get better, the government needs to step in, support rural development, and increase the number of people who can read and write in the affected areas.