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Grant, James


Grant, James is noted in Bengal history for his famous research into the land tenure system and financial accounts as they stood immediately before the acquisition of diwani by the east india company in 1765. James Grant came to Bengal not as a civilian or merchant but as an adventurer in search of fortune. He lived in Bengal between 1784 and 1789. It appears from his researches that he acquired some proficiency in Persian and Mughal methods of revenue accounting.

This was the time when the fort william authority was making extensive inquiry into the revenue resources of the country with a view to making a durable revenue settlement. Grant, who is said to have helped the Madras Government in similar inquiries in Northern Circars, was appointed in 1786 Chief Seristadar or chief revenue accountant under the board of revenue. Based on the available Persian documents James Grant prepared his famous Tract entitled An Inquiry into the Nature of Zamindary Tenures in the Landed Property of Bengal, 1791. In this tract, he argued that according to the pre-diwani accounts of the demand and collection of land revenue, there was enough scope for further increasing revenue demand. According to him, the zamindars, taking the advantage of the ignorance of the company officials about revenue affairs, could successfully conceal the revenue resources of their respective estates.

john shore, president of the Board of Revenue and a recognized revenue specialist, however, challenged Grant's arguments. Shore argued that the raiyats were already overtaxed and further increase in revenue demand would lead to catastrophic result. While concluding the Decennial Settlement, the government, however, did not raise revenue level all at once. Where found appropriate, individual zamindars were charged with a rasud or an annual increment of revenue for a certain period. The authors of the fifth report (1812) had included this Grant's Inquiry in their report as an evidence of the state of revenue demand and revenue collections during the company government up to the permanent settlement. [Sirajul Islam]