Agrarian Relations in Coastal Andhra under Early British Rule
THE relatively prosperous present-day coastal districts of West Godavari, East Godavari, Krishna, Guntur, and Prakasam were economically as backward as any region of Andhra prior to the construction of anicuts (dams) across the Godavari and Krishna rivers during the early fifties of the nineteenth century. Dam irrigation did bring out a significant change in the fortunes of the peasants. However^ the agricultural stagnation of pre-anicut coastal Andhra was in no small measure due to the disincentives inherent in the exploitative agrarian system. It is sought to be argued here that agrarian relations were as much strained in the period before the Permanent Settlement (1802-04) as they were afterwards.
Social and political conditions in the region were chaotic during the second half of the eighteenth century. The wmindars (revenue-farmers) usurped almost unchallenged authority by exploiting the political anarchy that preceded the transfer of power from the Mughals to the British. There prevailed such confusion that ^not only the farms but s even the remembrance of civil authority seemed to be wholly lost.951 The zamindari system had a far-reaching effect on the rural fabric. It perpetuated economic stagnation thereby making agriculture an unprofitable proposition.