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The essence of Alauddin Khilji’s agrarian reforms was to bring the villages in closer association with the government in the area extending from Dipalpur and Lahore to Kara near modern Allahabad. In this region, the villages were to be brought under Khalisa, i.e. not assigned to any of the nobles as iqta. Lands assigned in charitable grants were also confiscated and brought under Khalisa. Further, the land revenue (kharaj) in this area was fixed at half of the produce, and assessed on the basis of measurement. Barani, who is our main source of information, does not tell us about the method and mode of the measurement of the fields. On the basis of the measurements of the area under cultivation, and a standard of expected production per bisiwa (1/20 of the bigha), the share of the state was determined. Apart from this, no extra cesses were to be levied, except a grazing tax (charai) on cattle and ghari on houses. Both these taxes had been levied earlier and were traditional. The land revenue was calculated in kind, but demanded in cash. For the purpose, the cultivators had either to sell the produce to the banjaras, or take it for sale to the local market (mandi).
We do not know to what extent Alauddin’s demand of half of the produce marked a rise in the land revenue demand since we have no information about the actual incidence of land-revenue earlier, either under the Rajput rulers or the early Turkish rulers. Although the Dharmashastras prescribed a land-revenue of one-fourth to one-sixth which could rise to half in times of emergency, there were a lot of sanctioned taxes in addition to the land-revenue whose incidence is not known. Thus, the formula used for assigning land to nobles was bhaga, bhog, kar, i.e. land-revenue, cesses and taxes. These must have continued under the early Turkish rulers. Whether Alauddin merely consolidated all these taxes into one or raised the total amount payable by the cultivator is something we do not know. Likewise, measurement was an old system, but had apparently fallen into disuse in north India. It may have been revived in some areas by earlier rulers, such as Balban, because Barani does not refer to it as a totally unknown system. However, its systematic application over a wide area was a significant contribution of Alauddin. The bringing of doab under khalisa, and establishing direct relations with the cultivators, did not imply that all intermediaries were removed. Since long there was a hierarchy of intermediaries in the rural areas, with the Rai, Rana, Rawat standing at the top. These are called chiefs. A chief sometimes controlled a considerable tract of land which was parceled out to his clan and other supporters for collecting land-revenue. At the village level there was the village head, called chaudhari or muqaddam.
As the Turkish sultanate consolidated itself in the doab, the power and authority of the rais and ranas was eroded, and some of them were displaced. In the process, there was the rise of a new set of intermediaries who operated at the pargana or shit (district) level. These apparently, were the people whom Barani called Khutsand for whom the word zamindar is used for the first time by Khusrau. The word zamindar began to be used widely later on for all types of intermediaries. Alauddin’s agrarian reforms implied putting greater pressure for the displacement of the rais or ranas. However many of the chiefs who paid a lump-sum of money to the state as land-revenue, the lands dominated by such chiefs were not brought under khalisa.
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