HC Deb 16 August 1883 vol 283 cc715-7

asked the Under Secretary of State for India, Whether he can state approximately the extent of land in British India which has been re-assessed since the expiry of the last thirty years' settlement; whether the general result of the re-assessment has been greatly to increase the Government demand as compared with the demand under the former settlement; and, if so, what is the average percentage of increase; whether there was enacted in the Bombay Presidency in 1879 a new Land Revenue Code, with much more stringent provisions against tenants than the Code of 1827 formerly in force; whether it is the case that a tenant can now be taxed in excess of the amount of his fixed assessment on any improvements he may make which are of the nature of availing of any natural advantage, and whether this proviso subjects him to a largely increased land tax on any fields which he may irrigate by water from a well dug entirely at his own cost; whether the Code of 1879 contains a provision enabling the British Revenue Authorities not only to sell up a defaulting cultivator in order to obtain payment of arrears, but to confiscate the holding, with all its produce, for a similar purpose, irrespective of how much its value may exceed the amount of the said arrears; and, if such provision exists, can he state the number of instances in which it has been enforced; and, whether he will lay upon the Table copies of the Code of 1879, and of the former one which it superseded?


Sir, the extent of land in British India which has been re-assessed since the expiration of the last 30 years' settlement is approximately 135,000 square miles. The average percentage increase of assessment effected by the revisions is about—in the North-West Provinces, 14 per cent; in the Punjaub, 7 per cent; and in Bombay, 32 per cent. Some explanation of these enhancements may be necessary. In Upper India—that is, the North-West Provinces and the Punjaub—the assessment is a proportion of the rental value of the estate. Under the expired settlements this proportion was two-thirds. Under the revised settlements it is half of the rental value. But the rental has increased so much that the lower proportion now yields more revenue than the higher proportion yielded formerly. There are three reasons for this increase—extension of cultivation, rise of prices, and improvements, such as canals made by Government. In the Bombay Dec-can, where the landowners hold direct from Government, the original settlement, made about 1840, reduced the old Native assessments nearly 50 per cent. or from about 1 rupee to about 8 annas an acre. The latter assessment was then equal to about 15 per cent of the value of the produce. The revised assessment is equal to about 12 per cent. so that the real incidence of the new settlement is lighter than that of the original settlement when introduced. Bombay Act 5 of 1879 consolidated and amended the Land Revenue Law in force at that time. The greater part of the Code of 1827 relating to land had already been repealed. Act 5 did not enact more stringent provisions against tenants; the cultivators of Bombay are not tenants, but proprietors under Government, and their legal position has been greatly improved since 1827. A Bombay landholder cannot be taxed on his own improvements, nor, if he digs a well, can his assessment be increased on that account, either during the currency, or on the expiration of the settlement. The case is contained in Sections 106–107 of Act 5. By Section 153 of Act 5, land, the revenue of which is in arrear, is liable to forfeiture and sale to realize the amount of arrear. Should the proceeds exceed the arrear the balance is credited to the defaulter. There is no objection to present a copy of the Bombay Revenue Code, 1879; but I cannot lay on the Table the law which is superseded, as it is contained in, I think, 19 separate enactments.