The Permanent Settlement was established as a land revenue system in Bengal in 1793. According to this, the East India Company would fix the revenue that each zamindar had to pay. The estates of those who failed to pay were auctioned. Many Zamindaris were auctioned after the Permanent Settlement as the zamindars regularly failed to pay the revenue during the last half of the 18th century.
While many zamindars were facing this crisis, a class of rich peasants called the jotedars consolidated their power and position in the villages. They were most active in the regions of the Northern Bengal. They were also called gantidars or mandals. The major reasons for their rise to power are:
• By the early 19th century, the jotedars had acquired vast areas of land. When the estates of the zamindars were auctioned because of their failure to pay taxes, jotedars were mostly the purchasers. Thus they emerged as the commanding figures in the Northern Bengal.
• They controlled local trade and moneylending, thus exercising huge power and authority over the poorer cultivators. They mostly practised sharecropping. Under this, their land was leased to sharecroppers who brought their own equipment, worked in the field, and handed over half the produce to the jotedars after the harvest. Thus they were able to control the peasants.
• The jotedars were housed in the villages itself and had direct control over the villagers. They resisted the efforts of zamindars to increase the jama of the village, prevented zamindari officials from performing their duties, organised ryots and deliberately delayed payments of revenue to the zamindars.
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