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Patta a pre-modern institution under which a zamindar as a rent collecting agent of the state used to issue a letter on behalf of the state offering a bloc of land to a raiyat under certain terms and conditions. A kabuliyat or consent was given by the concerned raiyat if he accepted the offer. The terms of patta included the boundaries of land, quality and quantity of land, lease period, rate of rent, and mode of payment of rent. A peasant holding a patta and giving a kabuliyat, in turn, was known as pattadari raiyat. To collect rent from the pattadars, there was a class of official called patwari.

Pattadari raiyats were privileged in the sense that they paid rent according to the patta direct to the state agents and that their rent was unalterable during the term of the patta and kabuliyat. The villages in most parts of Bengal were either very small or scattered households. Rent collection from those villages was normally done through the village headman locally called pradhan, paramanik, basunia, chowdhuri, bera, mukaddam, matbar and so on. Whatever might be their local designations, their general function was to keep the raiyats under control and collect rent from them on behalf of the state. The takavi or agricultural loan was also disbursed and collected through the agency of patwari. The village headman held a community patta from the government on behalf of the raiyats who were his clients. The patta gave the village chief an extraordinary status, which the headman used in collecting rent from raiyats and controlling them socially. The patwari collected state revenue from the pattadar raiyats and village headmen. While most pattas were issued for a definite term only, there were certain pattas that conferred rights to their holders for unspecified period. The holders of these pattas were known as kayemi or permanent raiyats. Customarily their rent was seldom changed.

Under the rules of the permanent settlement zamindars were debarred from issuing pattas for a term of more than ten years at a time. But the zamindars raised objections to the Patta Regulation (1793) on the ground that it infringed on their rights as absolute proprietors of land under the Permanent Settlement. Under Regulation V of 1812, the ten-year limit was relaxed and under Regulation VIII of 1819, issuing patta was made a discretion of zamindars. The government was insisting on issuing pattas because it conferred some rights to the raiyats. But the zamindari pressure proved to be too formidable to sustain the original policy of the government. Under the bengal tenancy act of 1885, it was made obligatory on the part of the zamindars to issue patta to resident raiyats. The khatiyan or record-of-right prepared by the survey and settlement operations is the modern version of the pre-British patta. [Sirajul Islam]