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Malzamini


Malzamini revenue settlement of murshid quli khan. The term malzamini, a derivation from the Persian mal, meaning property of any description which in the revenue practice of Bengal particularly signified rents from land, and zamin, meaning a surety or bondsman for the payment of rent or debt. It first appeared in the vocabulary of 18th century Bengal in connection with Murshid Quli Khan's revenue settlement. To bring discipline in the revenue administration, Murshid Quli Khan, the Diwan-Subahdar (1700-1727) of the Subah of Bengal is said to have insisted upon furnishing security bonds ie, pre-guarantee by the new ijaradars (lease holders) while taking yearly contracts for the collection and remittance of the stipulated revenue on time.

The absence of authentic source materials regarding the details of Murshid Quli's revenue measures has given rise to controversies about certain features of the Complete Rent Roll (1722) while revising akbar's Distributive Rent Roll (1582). To some scholars, the malzamini system has become synonymous with the revenue settlement of Murshid Quli Khan, while to others it signifies only one of the whole gamuts of his revenue reforms.

When Murshid Quli became Diwan, land revenue, the main source of income, had dwindled and the government had to depend heavily on income from customs duties. This was mainly because a considerable part of the arable land was then assigned as jagirs (tenures) to officials in lieu of salary. Besides, the hereditary zamindars who enjoyed a monopoly in the land control structure of Bengal, were in the habit of carrying forward their balances for years together, a bad practice which deprived the government of the benefit of a steady yearly income. Maximization of revenue being his main objective, Murshid Quli Khan first got the jagirs transferred from the fertile lands of Bengal to the poor quality lands in Orissa. Secondly, he fixed the rents after survey and measurement of the lands which were then farmed out to ijaradars or revenue contractors willing to furnish bonds for the payment of the stipulated amount according to the settlement arrived at in the punya ceremony marking the beginning of a new financial year. Prior to this, the custom of renewal of contracts at the Khalsa (Exchequer) by the revenue farmers was prevalent but it was a mere formality since the ijaradars or farmers of revenue had turned into hereditary landlords of various denominations, and no security bonds had to be furnished on their behalf at the time of the yearly settlement. Government officials like amils, amin, qanungos, shiqdars, patwaris were engaged in the survey of land, fixation of rent and finally the supervision of revenue collection. The faujdars (military magistrate) in charge of the sarkars (districts) used to oversee the smooth dispatch of revenue to the centre.

However, with the decay of Imperial authority, government control over revenue farmers, specially the large zamindars, diminished. Under such circumstances, Murshid Quli Khan sought to bring some changes in the land control system. He rigorously enforced the survey and measurement of land. Thereafter, the existing revenue farmers were allowed to enter into new contracts with the government after providing security bonds. Some scholars thought that the amils, being in much use during Murshid Quli's time, acted as bondsmen but it seems more likely that despite his dependence on the amils, the newly appointed chakladars (in-charge of chaklas or district) who were made responsible for the remittance of revenue from the smaller zamindaris within their jurisdiction, might have acted as bondsmen. [Shirin Akhtar]