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Chakla System

Chakla System a method of district revenue administration. The term chakla literally meaning a district or a large administrative division, gained currency in the Mughal subah (province) of Bengal since the early 18th century. The introduction of the chakla system is credited to murshid quli khan, the Diwan-Subahdar of Bengal. Its objective was the maximization of public revenue and its regular remittance to the Exchequer. In order to achieve the goal, the previous division of the subah into 34 sarkars (districts) was replaced by 13 chaklas, namely, Bandar Baleswari, Hijli, Murshidabad, Burdwan, Hughli (which included Calcutta/Kolkata), bhusna (Faridpur) Jessore, Akbarnagar, Ghoraghat, Kuribari (Kutch Bihar and Assam), Jahangirnagar, Sylhet and Islamabad (Chittagong). Each of these chaklas was placed under a chakladar. As in the previous sarkar administration, a faujdar (military governor) was given the overall charge of the maintenance of peace and security of the chakla under his jurisdiction. The unhindered collection and remittance of the revenues to the centre also fell under his purview. A qazi and a kotwal were posted in each of the chaklas.

Under the Chakla system, numerous smaller zamindars were placed under the supervision of a handful of chakladars who were none other than a few chosen big zamindars. By such a policy of agglomeration of zamindaris under a few elite landed interests, the amount of revenue, which in the past had remained uncollected from defaulting zamindars, could be now recovered and the cost of revenue collection was also reduced substantially. The measure also cut down the cost of peace-keeping, a function obligatory to all categories of zamindars.

The chakladars, installed as stewards over their inferiors, were to ensure the collection of government revenues right in time. The appointment of the big zamindars as chakladars to act as revenue officials further added to their traditional powers and privileges. The chakladars eventually enormously expanded their domains by various irregular means including the use of force against neighbouring zamindars and taluqdars. As a result of the policy of agglomeration during the heyday of the chakladari system, nearly 60 percent of the land revenue of Bengal was paid by 15 large zamindaris at the time of the assumption of the Diwani administration by the English east india company (1765). [Shirin Akhtar]