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(from Persian zamindar, “landowner”), a land tax system introduced by the English colonial administration in northern, eastern, and central India between the 18th and 19th centuries.
The zamindari established the hereditary landownership rights of zamindars, the upper strata of the feudal class who were the collectors of feudal rents and taxes. The supreme landowner was the colonial administration. There were permanent zamindari, levied for the benefit of the colonial administration and fixed forever, and temporary zamindari, which were reviewed every 20 to 40 years. By the 1950’s, the zamindari was levied on 43 percent of the privately owned land in India and 31 percent of all privately owned land in Eastern Pakistan. The later evolution of the zamindari was accompanied by the formation of a large class of intermediary rent collectors between the main zamindars and the rent-paying direct producers. This hierarchy of intermediaries included 15 to 20 ranks and in some areas as many as 50 ranks.
The agrarian laws passed in India and Pakistan in the 1950’s provided for the elimination of the zamindari through the compensation of zamindars and other rent collectors for their loss of ownership rights to lands being worked by peasant renters; the large landowners retained the large areas of the so-called “homestead lands.” As a result of these reforms in India and Pakistan (and in Bangladesh since 1971), the right to collect land rents has been transferred to the government and the socioeconomic position of the upper land-owning class has been weakened.
REFERENCESNovaia istoriia Indii. Moscow, 1961.
Komarov, E. N. “K voprosu ob ustanovlenii postoiannogo oblozheniia po sisteme zamindari v Bengalii.” In Uchenye zapiski Instituta vostokovedeniia, vol. 12:Indiiskii sbornik. Moscow, 1955.
Kotovskii, G.G.Agrarnye reformy v Indii. Moscow, 1959.
Thorner, D.Agrarnyi stroi Indii. Moscow, 1959. (Translated from English.)
V. G. RASTIANNIKOV