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Batta


Batta a premium or fine on the non-standard rupee current in the market during the Mughal and pre-Mughal periods. Batta system has been traced as early as the Sultani period when variety of silver coins of local and extraneous origins appeared in the money market. By means of batta the currencies of unequal values were equalised with the standard currency. Batta as a product of multi-currency economic relations seems to have achieved considerable complexity during the Mughal period. As a political measure and also as a currency policy, a new emperor during the Mughal period used to issue new coins called sicca (from rupa or silver) inaugurating his accession. Customarily, the coins of the previous regimes were declared as sanaut or non-current and were not received at the treasury without an indemnifying batta or premium. With the change of regimes individuals thus procured new siccas from the treasury or from the sarrafs (moneychangers) at a batta fixed by the individual mint authorities. Politically, the batta system worked as a notice to raiyats about the accession of a new ruler, on the one hand, and provided an instant source of revenue, on the other.

Batta assumed utmost complexities in the 18th century. Under the influence of the business activities of the European companies currencies from all other mints of India were brought into Bengal by traders, which created a total chaos in the currency market. Besides sicca rupee, which was coined in Murshidabad mint, there were many other rupees in the market, such as, Madras rupees, Arcot rupees, Patna rupees etc. All these rupees differed in weight and fineness. All such coins other than those of Murshidabad mint were declared as sanauts. Even Murshidabad sicca was termed sanaut after three years of its release. The deficiencies of all these currencies had to be adjusted with sicca rupee on payment of batta. Revenues were collected in sicca rupee. The revenue payers were thus compelled to exchange their sanauts with sicca on payment of batta. This led to the dominance of the money changing sarrafs in the countryside. They dictated the rate of batta, because it was they who decided the rate, of course according to market forces. The problem of batta in the money market disappeared with the introduction of promissory bank notes first and then regular issue of guaranteed paper currency by the Reserve Bank of India under the India Act of 1893. [Sirajul Islam]