Social Scientist. v 16, no. 181-82 (June-July 1988) p. 26.


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BALGOVIND BABOO*

The Economic History of Sambalpur District, 1849-1947: An Introduction

Our major concern in this paper is to understand the various facets of the village economy—land, labour and credit markets—of Sambalpur district of Orissa State in a spatio-temporal context. The attempt is to examine the nature of the tribal, peasant and urban sectors of the economy in a diachronic perspective, taking into consideration the impact of colonial intervention. We emphasize that: (i) to understand the economy of a village, the regional economy has to be understood;

(ii) while taking into consideration specific historical incidents which impact on the regional economy, we have also to recognize the internal dynamics of the institutions of that region which develop in-built mechanisms to face the historical onslaught; (iii) the rural-urban dichotomy is untenable in India where 8 per cent of the population is tribal, having a distinct type of economy and social organization.

Sambalpur was brought under the direct control of the British in 1849. The unification of the district was completed only on 26 October 1949. Before that its constituent parts were part of the South-West Frontier (1849-1860), Orissa Division of Bengal (1860-1862), the Central Provinces (1862-1905), the Division of the Province of Bengal (1905-1912), and again the Central Provinces (1912-1936). It became a district of Orissa only in 1936 when Orissa became a separate state.

The district was first brought under Settlement (of the South-West Province) in 1850 for a period of 3 years, which was renewed until the end of 1858. The next Settlement started in 1862-63, after the transfer of the district to the Central Provinces. Such short term Settlements proved harmful to the ryots, who could not invest in land with the aim of increasing productivity, because in the context of increasing revenue, the ryots (tenants) faced the threat of eviction from 'their* land by the Gountias and Zamindars (landholders).1 A.M. Russel notes that the sources of income of the Zamindars included land revenue, forest dues, bazar dues, nazarana and pandhri tax. 'A little more than two-thirds of the land revenue and half of the other sources of income were left to the Zamindar' (Russel, 1876-77: 61). The bhoora bhogi Gountias who held land free of rent, equivalent to an area yielding a maximum of 25

4 Centre for the Study of Social Systems, School of Social Sciences



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