Raja Todar Mal, as finance minister of Akbar, brought new system of revenue collection known as zabti system and dahshala system which was a system of taxation. Under the system he took a careful survey of crop yields and prices cultivated for a period of 10 years. The Dahsala system as instituted by by Akbar, the average produce of different crops as well as the average prices prevailing over the last ten years was calculated and one-third share of the average produce was apportioned to the state. In fact, historians believe in Mughal period, it was the most significant method of assessment. The origin of this practice is traced in Sher Shah’s reign. During Akbar's reign, the system was revised a number of times before it took the final shape. The system was adopted only in the major provinces of the Empire covering Multan, Delhi, Allahabad, Awadh, Agra, and Lahore.
As earlier mentioned crop yields and prices cultivated for a period of 10 years was carefully and comprehensively surveyed. On the basis of this comprehensive survey, tax was fixed on each crop in cash. Each province was divided into revenue circles or dastur with their own rates of revenue and a schedule of individual crops or dasture- amal. This system was put in currency only in those areas and region where the Mughal administration could survey the land and maintain careful account records. Thus Gujarat and Bengal were kept out of purview of this system.
The system of Ain-i-Dahsala, was developed by Raja Todarmal. For the clear measurement of land, bigha -60 x 60 yards- was applied as standard unit of area. A new gaz or yard, gaz-i-llahi was used as 41 digits (anguls) or 33 inches in length. In order to fix land revenue, both regularity and productivity of cultivation were taken into consideration .Thus Land which had been continuously cultivated was named polaj and lands which had been lying fallow (parauti) for a year, was made to pay full rates (called polaj) to make it cultivable . Land which had been lying fallow for 3-4 year was categorised as Chachar. This land was levied on a progressive rate and the full-rate was charged in the third year. There was another category called Banjar or cultivable waste land. In order to make Banjar cultivable, the land was charged with full rates only after it entered in the 5th year into its cultivation activities.
Furthermore, after land revenue had been assessed in kind, it was converted into cash on the basis of dastur-ul-amal (price schedules). Dastur-ul-amal was prepared at regional level or dastur (circle) level keeping into consideration food crops. To fecilitate this administrative function smoothly, the empire was segmented into a large number of regions called dastur at pargana (sub district level) clubbed on the basis of same type of productivity. The administration was responsible in the supply of dastur-ul-amal(schedule of individual crops) at t level of tehsil where, in turn, the mode of land revenue payment with detailed explanations was charted out. Subsequently each cultivator received a patta or title deed (land holding deed) and qubuliyat (deed of agreement in accordance with which the cultivator had to pay his dues).
The striking features of the zabti or dahshala system as have been described by the historians were:
• measurement of land was must under the system
• Fixed cash revenue rates known as dastur for each crop fixed.
• Total collection of revenue was done only in cash.
Historians say that from administrative point of view, the system had the following notable merits:
• With fixed and permanent dasturs system in place, the scope for uncertainties and fluctuation in levying the land revenue demand became ineffective.
• Measurement could always be re-ascertained and rechecked.
• As there fixed dasturs,so local officials could not use their discretion and the chances of misuse of position by them came to minimum level .
Historians have also traced some limitations of the zabti or dahshala system which can be described as follows:
• A cess of one dam per bigha known as zabitana was spared to bear the costs incurred in maintaining the measurement of the party thereby making the method expensive
• There were chances of misusing the authority and using fraudulent means in recording the measurement of land
• It ws not to be used if the quality of the soil laks in quality of uniformity;
• If the yield did not come up to the level of expectations, the peasants were disadvantage because under the prevalent system the responsibility of bearing the risks and loss solely lay with them.
• In words of Abul Fazal, "If the peasant does not have the strength to bear zabti, the practice of taking a third of the crop as revenue is followed."
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