ACCORDING to the 1881 census, agriculture supports about 389,000
people or 66 per cent of the population. The details are:
[Mr. H. Woodward, C. S.] It may be roughly estimated that abut forty per cent of the husbandmen are Maratha Kunbis, about thirty per cent Lingayats, about twenty-five per cent Musalmans, Dhangars, Mhars, Mings, and other low-caste persons, and the remaining five per cent Brahmans, Gujars, and Marwaris. The higher class live in houses built of stone and mortar, but most live in mud dwellings with walls and roofs supported by rough beams and rafters. Only the poorest and lowest live in thatched huts. Their house furniture in all cases is of the simplest; that of the better classes being distinguished from the lowest only by the number and size of their cooking and washing vessels. They may also have a bed or two and cupboards to contain their valuables. Their surplus money is spent more on personal adornment, in clothes and jewelry, than in embellishing their houses. The higher classes have their grain stored in pits within the village limits. Great quantities of grain are kept in this way, the pits being opened only when prices are high enough to give a large profit. Middle class landholders usually keep in reserve grain enough to last them for a year or more, while the poorer husbandmen in average seasons have only enough to last them a few months. The villagers are not only unschooled but dull. They are careful not to neglect rites and observances and most of them are much under the influence of their priests whether Brahmans or Jangams. The women are chaste and drunkenness and crime are rare. The landholding classes are essentially conservative. What is customary, what has come down to them from their fathers, is sacred and right. Changes on local usages they strongly resent. On the whole they lead a remarkably simple, frugal, sober, and contented life. Their occasional bursts of extravagance are connected with religious rites, births, marriages, and deaths. On these occasions social usage forces a man to spend beyond his
means, and debt thus contracted is held creditable and a proof of respectability. Of late years, owing to the restriction of loans caused by the provisions of the Belief Act of 1879, these ceremonies have been conducted on a far less pretentious scale than formerly, and the expenses connected with them have markedly decreased. As husbandmen they may be said to make as much out of the soil as their circumstances admit. They may be divided into three groups, high, middle, and low. The higher class embraces holders of large areas mostly of superior soil with adequate stock and field tools. Some of their land is usually watered and the owners have a small capital either inherited or saved. These form about ten per cent of the landholding class, and are solvent and independent. The middle class includes holders of fifty to hundred acres of middling land who own two to four pairs of bullocks. The best land in their holdings is usually sold or mortgaged. The tillage of their holdings shows intelligence and industry. By sowing a variety of crops, as a rule they manage to set the gains of some against the losses of others. Only in seasons when all crops fail, does their condition become critical. This middle class includes about forty per cent of the landholders. The remaining fifty per cent till petty holdings of not more than forty acres and sometimes of as little as five. Members of this class have usually one pair of bullocks, sometimes only one bullock, and often no bullocks at all. In tilling their land they are helped by their neighbours or kinsfolk, whom they repay out of the crop or by labour. Even in average seasons wretched crops are the result of their wretched tillage.
In garden land manure is always used, and it is used in dry-crop land when it is available. The usual mode of manuring a field is by turning into it a flock of sheep and goats, for whose services their owner is paid according to the length of their stay. For some crops as wheat, unless the supply of water is abundant, dung the only readily available form of manure is found to render the ground too hot for the proper sprouting of the seed. Scarcity of manure is the main reason why so little land is watered compared with the area commanded by the Ekruk lake and other water works. A well-to-do farmer ploughs his land several times before he sows it, and he weeds it several times while the crop is growing. Though the tillage is generally rude it seems thoroughly fitted to the soil and to the means of those who practise it. Five field tools are in almost universal use, the plough or nangar which is of various sizes, the kulav or harrow, the seed drill or tiphan, the seed-harrow or rasni, and the weeder or kolpa. An irregular rotation of crops is observed and about a fifth or a sixth of the holding is often left unsown. As a rule the poorer landholders neither weed nor manure their land. They run a light plough over it, sow the seed broadcast, and leave it to itself. They expect to get from it at the best merely a bare food supply for the year, and while the crop is ripening, have to supplement their field profits by the wages of labour. Much of the best land is in the hands of moneylenders who have either bought it or taken it on mortgage. The moneylenders do not themselves till, but put in tenants, usually the former owners under
the terms of a lease. In cases of sale or mortgage between cultivator and cultivator the case is different.. The former owner is ousted and the buyer or mortgagee takes possession and himself tills the land. The poorest land is seldom mortgaged, as no one cares to accept it as security for a loan. The poor landholder is thus often forced to sell. The tendency seems to be for the petty landholders to diminish and the land to fall into the hands of men of capital who employ the old holders as their tenants or labourers. The higher class of husbandmen are usually also merchants, dealing in cotton, cloth, and grain, and lending money. The middle class usually devote the whole of their time and energies to agriculture. The women of the house weave coarse stuffs or prepare cotton yarn and from the profits buy clothes for themselves and the men of the house and
petty comforts. The women take pride in providing these things by their unaided efforts. When not engaged in the fields, middle class husbandmen employ their carts and bullocks in the carrying trade which in certain parts of the district is large and profitable. Even in average seasons the lower class of husbandmen are usually obliged to eke out the profits of their land by working for hire. After deductions on account of assessment, cost of cultivation, and customary payments to village craftsmen and other claimants, the returns from their badly-tilled, neglected, and exhausted land do not suffice for more than a bare grain-food supply. Though he often holds more than he is able to till if he can help it, nothing will induce the landholder to give up his land. He keeps to his village and prefers to work within reach of its limits on half the wages he could earn further away. Unless driven by want he never deserts his home in search of labour. On the first chance he returns with his small savings and boldly makes a fresh attempt at tillage.
Individuals of the higher class are often out of debt and indeed have never incurred debt. Though sometimes indebted, they are well able to meet their liabilities and may be considered solvent and prosperous. Their debt, if they have any debt, may almost always be traced to expenditure connected with religious and social rites and is prompted rather by a love of show than by necessity. The best land of middle class holders is usually sold or mortgaged as security for loans. Under the conditions which existed before the Ryots' Belief Act the middle and lower class landholders, who together form about ninety per cent of the rural population, acquired the habit of applying to the moneylender to meet all agricultural or other wants. That the ease with which loans could be obtained has often been the one main inducement to borrow, and that easy borrowing has brought foolish spending is obvious. At the same time it must be admitted that necessity often constrains the borrower. Failure of crops whole or partial, the death or the aging of cattle, pressure for the payment of the Government rental, want of grain
for seed and for food, and the performance of recurring religions and social ceremonies, these emergencies constantly arise and they can be met only by a loan. These and numerous other petty miscellaneous wants can be satisfied only by one whose thorough local knowledge of the circumstances of each individual with whom
he deals enables him to render the required assistance promptly and effectively as the need arises. One chief reason why tagai advances from Government have been comparatively unsought, is that they cannot be obtained at once and on the spot. Months may pass before the landholder receives the money he has applied for, and often, when he gets it, the need for it no longer exists. It may be accepted that only about ten per cent of the agricultural classes are free from debt, and that the remaining ninety per cent are involved, advances from time to time under some shape being a necessity to them. The Relief Act, by protecting their property from attachment and sale for debt, has doubtless rendered this necessity less urgent. Still in seasons of scarcity which recur almost every third year in Sholapur, the need will arise; and, in the absence of the moneylender, who naturally holds his hand, will have to be met by the State. Credit loans are made on rates varying from eighteen' to 37½ per cent according to the solvency of the borrower, and secured loans at half those rates. The relief measures have not affected the rate at which money is lent, but have induced circumspection in lending. Fledges of valuables are the most acceptable form of security, while loans on house property command higher rates, owing to possible depreciation in the value of the security, difficulty of finding tenants, and of realisation of advances by sale.
The effects of the 1876 and 1877 famine are still (1883) noticeable in the poverty of the people and in their diminished numbers. As a rule they are badly fed, housed, and clothed. Half of them are ruined by one season of drought and they have no resources to fall back on. In most villages dwellings still (1883) lie in ruins untenanted since they were deserted by their starving owners. Compared with 1872 the census figures of 1881 show in Barsi and Sholapur a fall of 50,000 or about one-sixth, and, since the famine, a considerable area of land in holdings on which assessment is levied has remained unsown. Sometimes the land is kept fallow or for pasturage, but the want of tillage is more often due to want of means to cultivate. The owner keeps on hoping for a bumper crop or some access of fortune which never comes by which he will be enabled to bring all his land under the plough. The last thing he thinks of is to resign any portion of his holding. He would not perhaps get it again when he wanted it. This clinging to his land involves a heavy loss to the landholders. In addition to the land which is paid for and not tilled the returns of arable waste show an increase of about 40,000 acres in Sholapur and of about 4000 acres in Barsi over the arable waste before the famine. At the same time the large area of arable waste in the Sholapur sub-division is hardly a safe test of the poverty of the landholding class. Much land which lapsed to Government owing to default during the famine season has not since been given out for cultivation. Applications for it are numerous, but, pending forest settlement, are held in abeyance. Still it may be affirmed that losses to cultivation sustained during the years of famine have not been fully retrieved. The value of land is low, as shown by the insignificant sums realized at the auction sales of occupancy rights. The bodily effects on the people are no longer apparent. The sick
and weakly who lingered after the famine have either died or recovered. Births have resumed their normal excess over deaths. In recent years food has been abundant and cheap while the wages of labour have been high.
As has already been noticed, during the last ten or twenty years there has been a marked tendency for the land to fall into the hands of men of capital whether of the cultivating or non-cultivating class. Most of the best land has passed to them by mortgage or sale. They alone could afford to hold these lands and pay the assessment on them during the years of famine between 1876 and 1879. During those years many transfers were effected. The former owners have sunk to rack-rented tenants or farm labourers and the number of registered occupants has greatly diminished. Under the Relief Act a small percentage of mortgagors will succeed in recovering their mortgaged lands, but the operation of the Act will probably in the end result in still further transfers to the moneyed class. The poorer landholders must have loans and an out-surrender of their land is the only effectual form of security they can now command. So long as the seasons continue favourable they will be spared the necessity of borrowing, but with bad years the necessity will return. During the last few years many petty moneylenders have given up their former calling and devoted themselves and their capital wholly to agriculture. This again will reduce the number of tenants and force them to the status of labourers.
Of an area of 2,848,731 acres; 2,646,136 acres or 92.88 percent
are in 663 Government villages and 202,595 acres or 7.12 per cent
in 54 alienated villages. The Government lands have been all
surveyed and of the lands in alienated villages 132,696 acres have
been surveyed. Of the 2,646,136 acres of Government land,
2,400,243 acres or 90.70 per cent are arable, 155,709 acres or 5.88
per cent unarable, 5449 acres or 0.21 per cent grass or kuran;
29,553 acres or 1.12 per cent forest; and 55,182 acres or 2.09 per
cent village sites, roads, and river beds. Of the 2,400,243 acres of
arable land in Government villages 215,115 or 8.96 per cent are
alienated. Of the whole arable area of 2,400,243 acres, 1,873,098
acres or 78.03 per cent were in 1882-83 under tillage. Of this
62,382 acres or 3.33 per cent were garden land, 2854 acres or 0.16
per cent were rice land, and 1,807,862 acres or 96.51 per cent were
dry crop land.
In 1882-83, including alienated lands, the total number of
holdings was 49,656 with an average area of about forty-eight acres.
Of the whole number, 2837 were holdings of not more than five
acres, 3270 were of six to ten acres, 9479 of eleven to twenty
acres, 22,104 of twenty-one to fifty acres; 8190 of fifty-one to
100 acres; 2622 of 101 to 200 acres; 505 of 201 to 300 acres,
149 of 301 to 400 acres; and 97 of above 400 acres. The
occupants who have holdings of over 100 acres are Brahmans, local
Vanis, Gujars, Marathas, and Dhangars. As a rule the Brahmans,
local Vanis, and Gujars sublet their holdings.
According to the Collector's yearly returns the 1882-83 field
stock included 20,493 ploughs, 11,569 carts of which 835 were
riding carts and 10,734 were used in carrying loads, 192,733 bullocks, 101,318 cows, 55,523 buffaloes of which 33,716 were females and 21,807 males, 10,292 horses mares and colts, 4480 donkeys, 418,240 sheep and goats, and 40 camels.