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THE SALE OF WASTE LANDS AND REDEMPTION OF
LAND-TAX IN INDIA, &c., CONSIDERED. SOME questions of very grave
often been debated with very conimportance connected with the siderable diversity of opinion by most cherished interests of the able and experienced statesmen ; agricultural classes of India are and the subject has again and again now before the public, and are been laid aside by all practical likely to form the subject of early men, as a doubtful and debateable and perhaps warm discussion dur point which required cautious ing the ensuing session of Parlia handling. It has now been forced ment.
upon Government by an energetic It should be clearly understood but not well-informed party, which, by the Imperial Legislature that in the eager prosecution of its own the ryots of India, however sub views, and under the popular premissive to Government, whether tence of developing the resources foreign or native, in their general of India,' whatever may be the real conduct, are, on the one subject of meaning of the term, has not only their land interests, tenacious to a pushed the Local Government to degree which is scarcely credible ; the point of immature and danand that the one common cause gerous decision, but has contrived which would most probably unite to sow the seeds of dissension bethe whole population of India tween the ruling powers in Calcutta against the ruling power, would be and London. The subject is diffian ignorant interference with their cult, and may seem to be somerights in the soil, whether defined what dry to the general reader, or obscure, whether real or sup but it will certainly occupy a conposed in usage; whether dormant, siderable share of public attention; as in land out of cultivation ; or and an adventitious interest has active, as in land under the plough. been given to the discussion by the To tamper with the land or the late Minister of Finance, who has landmarks is precisely the most taken up the question as his badge critical danger to which our Go of party, and has challenged Sir vernment could expose itself. All Charles Wood and his Council to former governments have recog mortal combat in the political nised and avoided this rock of arena on this argument. offence; and there is no part of It seems desirable, then, that the legislation which should be more English public should be prepared carefully considered, or which to judge and determine, whether should be guided upon principles the Governor-General of India, in more free from the least taint of his Resolution on the sale of waste selfish or unfair decision.
lands, and the redemption of the The true incidents of the pro land-tax, or Sir Charles Wood, in perty in the public lands in India, his reply, stands upon the higher which include as a general rule the and safer ground; and we propose whole area of the country, have therefore to consider some of the
VOL. LXVII. NO, CCCXCVII.
more salient points in dispute, in a by an unauthorized act, to a scheme manner which we hope may be in which ultimately would have subtelligible to the general reader. verted the whole system of revenue We begin at the beginning.
now in force in India, and indeed On the 31st December, 1858, and have abolished nine-tenths of its again on the 16th March, 1859, the present resources; and would have Home Government of India, then affected, and as far as we underrepresented by Lord Stanley, called stand the subject, have seriously upon the Governor-General in compromised, the rights of real Council to consider and report property in land over the whole upon two points, which, in the country. Moreover, these radical words of the despatch, had been changes would appear to have been pressed upon the attention of the adopted at the suggestion and in Home Minister, 'by persons who, the interest of those identical pareither on behalf of themselves, or ties, against whose exclusive preof companies which they propose tensions the Minister of State had to establish, are desirous of obtain- distinctly cautioned the Local Going grants of unoccupied land.' vernment. Indeed, the main clauses First, the sale of waste lands in of the Resolution appear to have perpetuity, discharged from all been embodied without modificaprospective demand on account of tion from the petitions of these land revenue; second, permission enterprising capitalists. to redeem the existing land revenue Now, we waive for the moment by the immediate payment of one the intrinsic merits of the proposed sum equal in value to the revenue rules. We shall consider presently redeemed.
whether the sale of waste lands in It is quite clear, from the tenor fee simple, and the redemption of of these two despatches, that the land revenue, as measures, were important subjects thus proposed wise or unwise, practicable or imfor consideration were only in- practicable, fair or unfair, legal or tended for preliminary inquiry and illegal: all' these points are debatereport, and that no power was able; but it certainly does appear given to the local authority to take to be a radical mistake at starting, any independent or final action in that a deliberative Government, measures of such moment. The with limited power, but placed in last words of the despatch of the a position of peculiar delicacy and 31st December seem to be conclu- responsibility, should thus have sive on this point:- But I parti- needlessly embarrassed the Impecularly request, in any suggestions rial Legislature, and wounded its or recommendations which you may own prestige and authority, by submit to me, you will be especially suddenly passing a resolution so careful not to confine them to such comprehensive in its provisions, as may be calculated for the exclu without awaiting the sanction of sive advantage of European settlers, the Home Government. and which cannot be equally par It is argued by those who are ticipated in by the agricultural eagerly desirous to enter in and community generally; and in the take possession of this land of prosecond despatch there is an equal mise, and by their advocate, Mr. restriction of power, and a more Laing, that the interference of the careful and distinct recognition of Minister of State and his Council the priority of claim in the soil should be strictly confined to the held by the native inhabitants. main principles of government,
Nevertheless, on the 21st Decem and that all details of administraber, 1861, a resolution was passed tion should be left to the Local in council by his Excellency the Government. We do not dispute Governor-General, without any the position; but we think a carefurther communication with the ful review of the Resolution, takeri Home Government, which com- in connexion with the existing mitted her Majesty's Government, state of affairs in India, would in so far as it could be committed satisfy any impartial person that
the Resolution embraced questions inight require other grants of equal of vital principle; and that in dis extent to be reserved for his beneallowing in part or in whole the fit on certain conditions, and this act of the Local Government, the without limit in number. Prior Minister of State has not infringed claims to or on the estate were upon those limits in the exercise of chiefly to be disposed of by the his authority, which are assigned collector's register. Thirty days' by the persons who question his notice was to be given, after which right.
the deed was to be issued, and no Let us consider the matter as it claim was subsequently to disturb comes before us.
the title to the estate; but if a The Resolution in the preamble prior right was established, the sets forth that the ablest and most Government undertook to compenexperienced officers concurred in sate the original landowner, should opinion with private settlers, that his claim be proved within one substantial advantages would fol year. The whole of the waste land low the adoption of the sale of of India was divided into cleared waste lands, but there was great and uncleared. The cleared land diversity of opinion as to the ex was to be sold at five rupees (ten tent; and then, with a view to in- shillings) per acre, the uncleared at clude European speculators and two and a half (five shillings.) exclude native purchasers, undoubt- Grants held under old rules were edly the most beneficial proprietors, to be entitled to the benefit of the it is added that, 'as regards the new regulation, but at a slightly sale of waste lands, there can be no enhanced price. Lands on which question of the substantial benefit assessment has been fixed, if unocwhich must follow the establish- cupied, might be sold for twenty ment of settlers who will introduce years' purchase of the rate fixed; profitable and judicious cultivation but villagers to have a prefeinto districts hitherto unreclaimed;' rential right to purchase. 37, and the Governor-General 'confi the concluding clause, provides dently expects that harmony of in The tenure of all waste lands terests between permanent Euro- granted under this Resolution, will pean settlers and the half-civilized be that of an hereditable and transtribes by whom most of these waste ferable property held in perpetuity, districts, or the country adjoining free from all claims of the Governthem, are thinly peopled, will con ment or of third persons, prior to duce to the material and moral im or inconsistent with the grant.' provement of large classes of the It will probably occur to the Queen's Indian subjects.'
reader that large landed estates, And this is affirmed in spite of in a fully populated country, where our sixty years' experience in the land is invariably liable to a cerindigo districts, and in the face of tain tax or rent to support the the agrarian rising which is spread public revenue, were never offered ing like a cancer wherever our tea to foreign speculators on easier plantations extend.
terms. We proceed to give in an
The second and still more imabridged form the main conditions portant rule decreed under this on which waste land-by which is sweeping Resolution was, that the understood all land that had been land revenue was to be made refive years unoccupied—was to be deemable all over India; the price bestowed in fee simple.
was fixed at 'twenty years' purThe grant was to convey all chase of the existing assessment.' rights of forest, pasturage, mines, This privilege, however, was limited fisheries, and all other property of to one-tenth of the whole revenue; Government in the soil ; the grantee that is to say, only one-tenth of was relieved from any condition to the whole revenue could be thus. bring the land under cultivation. redeemed. Each grant was limited to three As the sole object and intent of thousand acres, but à grantee the resolution was professedly di