Company officials felt that a fixed revenue demand would give zamindars a sense of
security and, assured of returns on their investment, encourage them to improve their
estates. In the early decades after the Permanent Settlement, however, zamindars regularly
failed to pay the revenue demand and unpaid balances accumulated. The reasons for this
failure were various.
First: the initial demands were very high. This was because it was felt that if the demand
was fixed for all time to come, the Company would never be able to claim a share of
increased income from land when prices rose and cultivation expanded. To minimise this
anticipated loss, the Company pegged the revenue demand high, arguing that the burden
on zamindars would gradually decline as agricultural production expanded and prices rose.
Second: this high demand was imposed in the 1790s, a time when the prices of agricultural
produce were depressed, making it difficult for the ryots to pay their dues to the zamindar.
If the zamindar could not collect the rent, how could he pay the Company?
Third: the revenue was invariable, regardless of the harvest, and had to be paid punctually.
In fact, according to the Sunset Law, if payment did not come in by sunset of the specified
date, the zamindari was liable to be auctioned. Fourth: the Permanent Settlement initially
limited the power of the zamindar to collect rent from the ryot and manage his zamindari.
The Company had recognised the zamindars as important, but it wanted to control and
regulate them, subdue their authority and restrict their autonomy.
The zamindars‘ troops were disbanded, customs duties abolished, and their ―cutcheries‖
(courts) brought under the supervision of a Collector appointed by the Company.
Zamindars lost their power to organise local justice and the local police. Over time the
collectorate emerged as an alternative centre of authority, severely restricting what the
zamindar could do. In one case, when a raja failed to pay the revenue, a Company official
was speedily dispatched to his zamindari with explicit instructions ―to take charge of the
District and to use the most effectual means to destroy all the influence and the authority of
the raja and his officers‖.