Land Revenue System of Sher Shah Suri

The historical importance of land revenue system of Sher Shah Suri (Sher Khan) lies in the fact that they formed the starting point of the series of experiments what marked the first half of Akbar’s reign.

Land Revenue System of Sher Shah: Before Sher Shah, the land rent was realized from the peasants on the basis of estimated produce from the land but this system did not seem to be faultless as the produce was not constantly the same. It increased or decreased year after year. Sher Shah introduced a number of reforms in the fields of revenue. These are as follows.

  1. Sher Shah was the first Muslim ruler who got the whole of the land measured and fixed the land-tax on it on just and fair principles.
  2. The land of each peasant was measured first in “bighas” and then half of it was fixed as the land tax. According to More land  in certain portions of the empire such as Multan the land tax was however one-fourth of the total produce.
  3. The settlement made between the Govt. and the peasant in respect of the land revenue was always put in black and white. Every peasant was given as written document in which the share of the Govt. was clearly mentioned so that no unscrupulous officer might cheat the innocent peasant. This is known as ‘Patta’.
  4. Each and every peasant was given the option to pay the land-tax either in cash of in kind. The subjects of Sher Shah used to Kabul (Promise) that they should pay taxes in lieu of Patta.
  5. The peasants were required to credit the land-tax direct into the Govt. treasury, to be on the safe side, so that the collecting officers might not charge them any extra money.
  6. Strict orders had been issued to the revenue authorities that leniency might be shown while fixing the land tax, but strictness in the collection thereof should be the inevitable rule.
  7. But suitable subsidy was granted to the farmers in the time of drought, famine or floods from the royal treasury.
  8. Special orders were issued to soldiers that they should not damage the standing crops in any way. According to Abbas Khan, the cars of those soldiers, who disregarded these orders, were cut off. Even when Sher Shah led an expedition to the territory of his enemy, he was very particular about it that no harm shall come to the farmers in any way from the excesses of his soldiers.
  9. In case of damages compensation was granted to the former by the Govt. This arrangement of Sher Shah was as reasonable as was adopted not by Akbar only but was followed by the British Govt. also. The well-known ‘Ryatwari System’ which has been in vague till now, was not founded by Akbar but by Sher Shah.

Sher Shah saved his country from the ill-effects of the arbitrary land revenue system and he laid the foundation of the policy of co-­operation between the Govt. and the peasants.

However, some historians and scholars point out certain defects in the revenue system of Sher Shah.

  • Firstly, it is pointed out that he could not completely root out the Jagirdari system which had taken deep roots in the Afghan society.
  • Secondly, it is said that as the land revenue was fixed on the average produce of each bigha of good, average and inferior land, the owner of good land always stood to gain while owners of inferior land was always the loser.
  • Thirdly, it is said that as the convention of land revenue from kind to cash always depended on the Central Government, it always led to delay in the collection of land revenue.

But we must not forget that Sher Shah had ruled only for five years. During this short period he had not as yet tested his reforms when the cruel clutches of death ended his life. If death had spared him more years, Sher Shah would have certainly won that renown which Akbar got for his land reforms.