By introducing the practice of the measurement of land as a preliminary to land settlement, Alauddin Khilji became the first ruler of the Delhi Sultanate to establish direct relations with the peasants in order to know the actual amount paid by them towards land revenue, writes Salma Ahmed Farooqui in ‘A Comprehensive History of Medieval India: From the twelfth to the mid-eighteenth century’ (www.pearsoned.co.in).
The land tax that was imposed amounted to half the produce (in weight or value) on each individual peasant’s holding, regardless of the land size, and this was to be supplemented by a house and cattle tax, the author notes. She adds that these revenue resources were constituted into iqtas, or different territorial units of land, which were distributed among the nobles.
Interestingly, the nobles did not have an absolute control over their iqtas, because they had to submit periodic statements of their income and expenditure and send the balance amount to the sultan’s treasury. The sultan already had an account of the estimated produce from each iqta, and so it was impossible to deceive him, one learns. “State agents, called the amils, collected the revenue helped by the local chiefs – the muqaddams and khuts. Land revenue was collected in kind; and the collected food grains were transported to the towns.”
The book speaks of how Alauddin controlled the prices of food grain, sugar, horses, cattle, slaves, perfume, cloth and other daily necessities, so as to enable his soldiers to live on the pay fixed by the state. “The peasants were to sell their produce only to the merchants who were bound by the state to sell their wares on fixed price only. A ‘Superintendent of Markets’ was appointed, who strictly enforced fixed prices with the help of a team of assistants. Punishments for breach of regulations were severe and even barbarous…”