Temporary Settlement

Temporary Settlement of revenue lands not included in permanent settlement. The Permanent Settlement of 1793 did not include all the lands of Bengal within its operations. Many revenue estates were settled on temporary basis. The temporary settlement lands were of two categories: lands held by proprietors but not under the permanent settlement law and khas lands or lands held not by private proprietors but by the government.

Temporary settlement of proprietary lands' Under the law of the permanent settlement all zamindars, talukdars and other landholders were entitled to engage themselves as proprietors, fix land revenue and enjoy some other privileges for ever. But many zamindars refused to engage because they could not accept the assessment of revenue on their estates and allowed them to be managed by government with ten percent malikana or proprietary allowance. These were vested estates which government managed on behalf of the respective proprietors. In this category of land, there was a settlement of land revenue, and not of land itself. The revenue assessment of the proprietary estates was variable. The government policy was to raise the revenue level of these estates by progressive increase in assessment with the increase in resources. The district collector, as settlement officer, used to conduct periodical revenue survey of these estates and revise the rates of assessment in the light of the findings of the survey.

The management of privately owned temporarily settled estates was governed by Regulation VII of 1822, Regulation IX of 1833, and some other special acts. Under these laws a proprietor was always free to come under the fold of permanent settlement if they accepted the assessment fixed by government. Since 1772, government had been resuming the invalid lakhiraj lands and brought them into rental. The law recognised the holders of resumed lakhiraj lands as valid proprietors subject to payment of revenue as assessed by government; and they were also free to engage themselves under the rules of the permanent settlement, but they were, of course, required to accede to the revenue demanded by government. The estates of proprietors unwilling to accept the assessment were managed, subject to payment of malikana to proprietors, by government under temporary settlement system.

Government estates' To this class of land belonged mainly the wastelands. The permanent settlement regulations extended only to estates of zamindars and other actual proprietors as they existed in 1793. Every estate had extensive wastelands waiting for cultivation. These were duly recognised as integral parts of the original zamindaris. But there were zones, especially jungle lands, in which the area of waste land was so large that no claim was ever made by any cultivator, not even by squatters. The districts of chittagong, sylhet, khulna and bakerganj were full of such unclaimed waste lands. The government declared those lands as public estates. The estates purchased by the government at public auctions in the absence of bona fide bidders were also added to government estates. Islands and chars formed in rivers or on the seashore - not being accretions by alluvion to existing estates, were declared as government estates. Lands escheated in default of revenue payment or absence of legal heirs were also publicly taken over as government estates.

Originally, it was a government policy to settle the revenue lands of the said descriptions on permanent settlement basis if the terms offered by government were accepted by the incumbent. But within ten years of the operations of the permanent settlement, it became clear to the government that the permanent settlement was not yielding the results expected from the system. The idea of permanent settlement was thus abandoned for the rest of British India. Even in Bengal it was resolved not to transfer normally the government estates to private ownership under permanent settlement.

Land ownership thus devolved in Bengal on two parties by and large - private landholders and government. The government estates were leased out to farmers who held the estates on temporary settlement basis. The lease period was not uniformly followed for all estates. It ranged from minimum five years to maximum hundred years depending on the circumstances and situations of individual estates. The district settlement officer was empowered by the Regulations of 1822-23 to settle the khas mahals or government controlled estates to the best advantage of the government. In safeguarding the interest of government the settlement officer sometimes sold government estates to private ownership on permanent settlement basis.

Management' The district collector, in the capacity of a settlement officer, was the authority of government held estates. Conducting periodical revenue survey of government estates was a legal necessity. Formerly, estate boundaries were always notional. The revenue surveys resulted for the first time in the clear demarcation of estates, adjustment of boundary disputes, fixing and recording of rents, recording rights and interests in the soil and many other features, which had great impact on the management of zamindari lands as well. To extend the benefits of these measures to permanently settled estates as well, the government resolved to undertake thakbast (boundary) and revenue surveys in the zamindari estates also. The General Survey Act (Bengal Act V 1875) and the bengal tenancy act of 1885 made provisions for conducting survey and settlement operations in all permanent and temporary settlement estates. These operations had far reaching impact on the agrarian relations. Consequent upon these operations the rights of various interests in land were ascertained and established. The establishment of rights in land affected the rent level. Zamindars found it difficult to enhance rent at will. The survey and settlement operations revealed that the rent level of temporarily settled estates was generally much higher than that of the zamindari estates and that the raiyats were more eager to operate in zamindari estates than in the government ones. The impersonal character of temporarily settled estates under government made the raiyats exposed to distress at times of calamities and loss of crops.

Temporary settlement in the Sundarbans' All zamindars and talukdars adjacent to the sundarbans were allowed to lay their claims on lands they could reclaim and bring under cultivation. They enjoyed this freedom until the 'Waste Land Rules' were applied in 1825. Under these rules all lands claimed and occupied by the neighbouring proprietors during the period from 1790 to 1825 were recognised as zamindari rights under the permanent settlement and the tracts beyond the boundaries of zamindari as khas or government property. The government tried to dispose of the wastelands on temporary settlement basis. Any landholder, capitalist or raiyat, who came to reclaim the Sundarban wastelands was granted settlement free of rent for ten years initially and the rent levied was nominal.

Under the Wastelands Rules of 1853 and 1863, all holders of estates of the Sundarbans area were given freedom to engage as proprietors under permanent settlement or as leaseholders under temporary settlement rules. The declaimers preferred temporary settlement, which allowed them to pay revenue at graduated rates. Under the wastelands rules of 1879, the term of the original lease under temporary settlement was fixed at forty years, and subsequently, settlement was to be renewed with new assessment of revenue after every thirty years.

The maximum area of grant was restricted to 5,000 bighas (or 669 hectares), the minimum being 200 hectares. Farmers were required not to scatter cultivation all over the area of the land, but proceed regularly through the blocks. The leases conferred a hereditary and transferable occupancy right. Thus with the change of superior right for sale or default, the occupancy right at peasant level was to continue unaffected by such change. The Wasteland Rules 1879 and Bengal Tenancy Act 1885 were the guiding manuals for the temporary settlement of lands until 1951 when the permanent settlement and all other type of settlements were abolished in favour of actual raiyats declared as malik or proprietor under the East Bengal State Acquisition Act 1951. [Sirajul Islam]