Famine and Dearth

Proceedings of the Committee of Revenue, 25th September-30th October,1783

About this text

Introductory notes

The early records preserved in the West Bengal State Archive pertains to the administration of the land revenue system by the East India Company. The Company attained the revenue rights of the Province through the Grant of Diwani in 1765. The records in the repositories of the Archive date back to the Select Committee Records in 1768. Between 1769 and 1786 the revenue administration was managed by various intermediate agencies like the Resident at the Durbar, Provincial Council of Revenue, the Calcutta Committee of Revenue. In the early the revenue administration was managed by various intermediary agencies, these committees reflect the early experiments and confusion of the East India Company over revenue collection.

On 1781 the Court of Directors decided to centralise the Committee of Revenue based in Calcutta. The office of the Provincial Councils were abolished on February 9, 1781. The Committee of Revenue was placed in full control aided by a Diwan. Collectors were appointed under the Diwan at various districts. The new Collectors were mere figure-heads, and zamindars were encouraged to pay their revenue direct into the Khalsa or Exchequer at Calcutta. The Committee of Revenue continued to operate till it was replaced by the Board of Revenue in 1786.

Selection details

On 1781 the Court of Directors decided to centralise the Committee of Revenue based in Calcutta. The office of the Provincial Councils were abolished on February 9, 1781. The Committee of Revenue was placed in full control aided by a Diwan. Collectors were appointed under the Diwan at various districts. The new Collectors were mere figure-heads, and zamindars were encouraged to pay their revenue direct into the Khalsa or Exchequer at Calcutta. The Committee of Revenue continued to operate till it was replaced by the Board of Revenue in 1786.

1.

1.1.

[Page 235]
Gentlemen,

I think it a duty highly incumbent on me to inform you that the uncommon drought which has been experienced this season in the most of the pergunnahs in this District has occasioned almost a total failure of the Rice crops, that article has consequently become remarkably dear. The commonest which sold last years for 4 Maunds the Rupee now sells at [...] Maunds for 1 .10 per Rupee, so great an encrease in the price has thrown the poor class of the inhabitants (whose sole expenditure for subsistence is on the grain) into the utmost consternation, many of them recollect with horror the melancholy effects of the Dearth of 1769/70 and are fearful of experiencing the like calamity this year. They have pointed to me in the strongest [...] their apprehensions represented the uncommon distress they now labour under, and the apparent probability of this suffering still greater hardships, unless some speedy and effectual steps are taken to prevent the exportation of Rice out of this District, Finding upon particular enquiry that vast numbers [...] here from different parts of the Country for the express purpose of purchasing [...], I have therefore thought it highly necessary as well for the present case and relief of the poor, as to avert the dreadful effects of a scarcity issued on orders to the Farmer prohibiting any further exportation of that article, suffering however such merchants to convey away whatever quantity they may have already loaded on their boats.

I hope the steps I have taken will meet with your approbation.

I am & ca
W. Douglas

1.2.

[Page 238]
Gentlemen.

I have been honored with your Letter of the 22nd ultimo.

[Page 239]

It is with infinite sorrow that I am obliged to acknowledge having rather been prematured in the hopes that I entertained when I wrote in my last owing to the showers which had fallen, and which had raised greater expectations in the Mofussil than those [...] realized, the intelligence that I received from those parts of the District , whence they occurred of their being heavy joined to my earnest and sanguine wishes induced me to trust they had been more general than the late information contain. I feel myself therefore necessitated to represent in the most urgent manner the real state of the District. Complaints of the scarcity of grain and of the highness of its price are numerous. All hopes of any produce of the paddy on the high lands [...] at an end what had been sown on the low grounds, and on those intending along the banks of the Rivers, is with the help of the water that overflowed when they were at their height, and the assistance of ………..(illegible).. [Page 240] …the Country I have hitherto not seen any season beyond that I alleged in my first letter of stopping the exports on account of the intention that prevailed of monopolizing this I have the satisfaction to observe, have been greatly obviated by the sudden measure I adopted and from its effect removed the necessity of its continuance. I enclose a translated copy of a perwannah I have [...] the circulation thro every pergunnah of my district which contain every precaution that I think for the present is necessary.

I am & ca
G.F.Grand

1.3.

[Page 451]
Chief of Purneah Gentlemen,

I have been favored with your letter of the 13th Instant I have particularly conformed to the Injunction contained in it, as soon as I am furnished with the necessary information's from the Pergunnahs I will punctually transmit them to you.

Mr Douglas in a Letter dated the 10th Instant acquainted the Committee that he had been induced by the actual Distress already felt in the District, to forbid the exportation of Grain his Reasons for taking that step appeared to me well founded, but I have thought it necessary to except from the embargo all such grain as I understand to have been purchased for publick use. The Detention or release of the Grain belonging to [...] Merchants must be left to your discretion, and request I may receive your directions on that head as soon as possible, I will hereafter do myself the pleasure of suggesting to you such measures as a more perfect knowledge of the state of the district shall dictates.

I am & ca
J. Heatly
[Page 452]

1.4. Answer as follows

We have received your Letter of the 21st Instant We entirely disapprove of any obstruction being given to the free exportation of Grain one district to another & we positively direct that you withdraw every order that may have been circulated by your or by Mr Douglas for the purpose of preventing the Exportation of Grain from Purnea.

We are &ca

[Page 465]

1.5. Agreed the following Letter be written to Messrs- Grame & Grande

Sir,

We have read yours of the 18th September.

We entirely disapprove of your having interrupted in any degree the free exportation of grain from the Districts under your charges and we direct you to pay implicit obedience to the order which Mr Shore has already issued & to all others which he may think necessary hereafter to issue for the relief of the inhabitants of Beyhar in general.

We are & ca
[Page 471]

1.6. Read the following letter from the Board

Gentlemen,

We have received your Letter of the 27th Instant We approve of the measures which Mr Shore has taken for the relief of the Distress of the Inhabitants arising from the scarcity of Grain and we direct you to invest him with the Authority he requires and to acquaint him at the same time that he is to communicate to the Committee of Grain, at the Presidency such steps as he may from time to time judge necessary to take & that he is to attend very particularly to any Directions they may think it necessary to give him.

We are & ca
Warren Hastings John Macpherson John Stables
[Page 472]

1.7. Agreed we write to Mr Shore as follows

Sir,

Inconsequence of our address to the Hon'ble Board on the subject of your letter of the 19th they have been pleased to approve entirely of the measures you have taken for the relief of the Inhabitants & have directed us to invest you with the authority you required in all cases where you may think necessary to apply for the same purposes.

The Hon'ble Board have further desired that you will communicate to the Committee of Grain at the Presidency such steps as you may from time to time judge necessary to take and that you will attend particularly to any Directions they may think it necessary to issue on the subject of duties they are entrusted with.

Enclosed we transmit a copy of a Letter from Major Hardy which has been sent us by the Paymaster General & request you will take measures to procure a sufficiency of money from the Collectors in Beghar to enable him [Page 473] to discharge the Arrears due to the late Militia Seapoys which were ordered to be disbanded.

[Page 473]

1.7.1. Agreed the following Circular Perwannah be written

In consequence of the want of Rain in many Districts of Bengal and of the Distress to which the inhabitants may be exposed from a scarcity of grain the Governor General & Council

I have thought it necessary to issue orders for the purpose of remedying this evil I have appointed a Committee of 4 Gentlemen to conduct this business.

You are therefore to pay particular Attention to the orders which are now given you and in failure of any the least of them you will be remove from your office and severly punished.

1st- The Governor General & Council having taken off all Duties upon grain of every sort you are ordered to be particularly carefull that no Demand for duties be made upon the Merchants Beparries & ca & that no Obstruction be given to the Exportation of Grain of all kind from one District to another [Page 474] which must pass without Interruption and may be carried without Rowannah.

2nd- If any person without the District under your charge shall demand duties upon grain of any kind give interruption to the passage of Grain either by Water or Bullocks you will immediately seize such persons and send them to [...] with a Suruthaul of the Case and the evidence you may obtain of the offence.

3rd- As the Merchants and Beparries may upon the present occasion take advantage of the Rise in the price of Rice and keep it back from the publick Markets you will immediately publish in the District that any person doing so will forfeit his Grain and be severely punished & you will give immediate information to the Committee of Grain of any person doing so & send the Letter for them to us you will likewise transmit four times in every month a price current of Grain of all sorts & at any time the price of grain should suddenly rise very high you will immediately inform the Committee of Grain as above.

Upon [Page 475] a proper execution of these orders your [...] will depends any deviation from them you will incur severe Punishments.

This is a selection from the original text

Keywords

class, dearth, distress, grain, poor, rice

Source text

Title: Proceedings of the Committee of Revenue, 25th September-30th October,1783

Original date(s) covered: 1783

Provenance/location: This text was transcribed from manuscripts at the West Bengal State Archives. Original date(s) covered: 1783

Digital edition

Language: English

Selection used:

  • 1 ) page 235
  • 2 ) pages 238 to 240
  • 3 ) pages 451 to 452
  • 4 ) page 465
  • 5 ) page 471
  • 6 ) pages 472 to 475

Responsibility:

Texts collected by: Ayesha Mukherjee, Amlan Das Gupta, Azarmi Dukht Safavi

Texts transcribed by: Muhammad Irshad Alam, Bonisha Bhattacharya, Arshdeep Singh Brar, Muhammad Ehteshamuddin, Kahkashan Khalil, Sarbajit Mitra

Texts encoded by: Bonisha Bhattacharya, Shreya Bose, Lucy Corley, Kinshuk Das, Bedbyas Datta, Arshdeep Singh Brar, Sarbajit Mitra, Josh Monk, Reesoom Pal

Encoding checking by: Hannah Petrie, Gary Stringer, Charlotte Tupman

Genre: India > official correspondence > state archives > West Bengal

For more information about the project, contact Dr Ayesha Mukherjee at the University of Exeter.

Acknowledgements