NCERT / CBSE NOTES | Class 8th (VIII) : Chapter Summary
Ruling the Countryside
On 12 August, 1765, the East India Company was granted the Diwani of Bengal and was now the chief financial administrator of Bengal. The company now had rights to collect revenues in Bengal.
They hence forced the peasants to pay heavy dues as land taxes and forced artisans to sell their goods at very cheap rates. This drove the peasants and artisans away from their villages, which consequently led to a decline in the production of artisanal goods and agricultural crops. The economy of Bengal collapsed.
Bengal was struck by a terrible famine in 1770, which killed ten million people. The company therefore introduced many land revenue systems. In 1793, the Permanent Settlement system was introduced by Lord Cornwallis, the Governor-General of India.
Under this system, zamindars were given the responsibility of collecting rent from the peasants and in return paying revenue to the Company. This revenue would remain fixed throughout. However, the system failed.
Another system introduced by Captain Alexander Read was called the ryotwari. The system was further developed by Thomas Munro, the Governor of Madras and came to be known as the Munro system. In 1822, another revenue system called the ‘mahalwari’ system devised by Holt Mackenzie came into effect in the north western province of the Bengal Presidency. However, all the land revenue systems introduced by the company failed miserably.
Crops for Europe
The East India Company introduced many land revenue systems and forced cultivators to grow opium, tea, sugarcane, jute, rice, cotton, wheat and indigo for export to Europe.
Indigo cultivation was the most popular due to its high demand in the European markets during the British Rule. As it was priced high, only small amounts reached these countries, and so the Europeans had to use the dye from a plant called woad.
However, between 1783 and 1789 the indigo supply from America and West Indies almost came to an end, and the indigo production in the world fell by half.
To meet the excessive demand for indigo in Europe, the Company encouraged indigo farming in Bengal. Indigo from Bengal became famous the world over and the share of Indian indigo in the total indigo import of Britain increased from 30% in 1778 to 95% in 1810.
Expansion in the indigo cultivation prompted many Company officials to start indigo business in India.
Systems of Indigo Cultivation
Towards the end of the 18th century, the East India Company was trying to expand its Indigo cultivation in India to support the growing textile industry in England.
There were two systems of indigo cultivation namely nij and ryoti being practiced. Nij constituted less than 25% of the total land under indigo cultivation and ryoti constituted 75%.
Under nij cultivation system, indigo was grown on lands directly under the control of the planters who either rented or purchased it from zamindars and then hired labourers to work on it.
The planters were finding it difficult to expand indigo plantations under this system as the indigo cultivation needed fertile lands, most of which were already densely populated. It also required a large compact area and only small scattered plots of land were available.
The time for indigo cultivation coincided with that of rice cultivation causing another hindrance.
In the ryoti system, cultivators or ryots were forced to sign an agreement called satta and were given loans at low interest rates to grow indigo.
Though initially the low interest rates looked attractive, the ryots weren’t getting a good price for their indigo and so were unable to repay the loan. After an indigo harvest, the ryots were unable to grow rice on these fields which was very unprofitable for the ryots.
The indigo cultivators were exploited by the planters, which eventually led to a revolt in 1859.
The Blue Rebellion
In Bengal in March 1859, with thousands of ryots started a rebellion against indigo cultivation known as the blue rebellion or the indigo revolt. The ryots armed with spears, bows and arrows and swords attacked the indigo factories and planters.
The blue rebellion began just two years after the great revolt of 1857 and it worried the British.
The rebellion prompted the government to bring in the military to safeguard the planters and to set up the indigo commission to investigate further into the situation.
After the blue rebellion, indigo production in Bengal collapsed, and the indigo planters shifted base to Bihar.
In 1917, Gandhiji visited Champaran in Bihar and moved by the plight of the ryots, initiated a movement against the indigo planters, known as the Champaran movement.