BANKING TRADE AND COMMERCE

WEIGHTS AND MEASURES

There was no uniformity of weights and measures in the past in India. With the advent of British rule a few English units of weights and measures were introduced. However, apart from the English weights and measures, a number of local units too were in use not only in remote villages but also in towns. The convertibility of the local units to the English units was a great problem. The ignorance of the peasants and workers added to the ambiguity of the conversion factors. The following account of weights and measures appearing in the Sholapur District Gazetteer published in 1884 throws some light on the state of affairs existing then:-

"The table used in weighing precious stones is four dhans one rati, eight ratis one masa, and twelve masas one tola. A dhan is a single rice grain. The rati is generally of fine pebble, cut, and usually rounded to the required size. The tola is equal to 180 Troy grains. Gold and silver are weighed by the table eight gunjas one masa, and twelve masas one tola. The gunj is the small oval seed of the Abrus plant, about the size of a pea, red with a black speck. The masa is generally a bit of broken chinaware or the like, round., and about the size of half-copper (1/8 anna). The other metals are sold by tolas, shers, and mans; sixteen shers of eighty tolas making one man. The same weights are used for alkali, coffee, cotton, drugs, spices, molasses, and sugar, sometimes also for salt, but salt is more commonly sold by capacity measures. The weights are of iron and are usually round. At Barsi cotton sells by the boja or bundle of three mans, one boja including the sacks weighing 246 6/7 pounds. Spirituous liquor is sold by the bottle. Oil, milk, honey, and other liquids are bought and sold by the sher in measures of brass or copper, in shape something like ordinary glass tumblers. All kinds of grain and usually salt are also sold by the sher. The sher measure is commonly of iron, cylindrical in form, but compressed in the middle to make it easier to hold; its height is 7 and its diameter 5 inches. The water capacity of the sher is 164 tolas of 130 grains Troy. One sher of the best rice weighs 152 tolas, of common rice 151, of jvari 138, of wheat 140, of gram 146, of dal-tur 142 and of salt 160. Before 1848 when the eighty tola sher measure of weight was introduced, the Sholapur sher of capacity was 100 to 120 tolas. The present sher was then adopted as the equivalent of two shers of eighty tolas, one sher being found inconveniently small. English and mill-made cloth is sold by the yard, hand-woven by the hat or cubit. The land measures are acres, gunthas or one-fortieth of an acre, and annas or one-sixteenth of a guntha. Masonry is measured by the cubic foot. Logs, scantlings, and boards are measured by the cubic foot, and battens by the hundred lineal feet. Earth work is measured by the foot." [Gazetteer of the Bombay Presidency, Volume XX, Sholapur, 1884, pp. 252-53.] Very little was done subsequently during the British period to eradicate the confusion in regard to weights and measures. In order to avoid the confusion resulting from the existence of the local and British units side by side, and to bring about a uniform system for the whole country, the Government of India enacted the Standard of Weights and Measures Act in 1956. The State Government also passed a complementary legislation, viz., the Bombay Weights and Measures (Enforcement) Act of 1958 for the enforcement of the standard weights and measures based on the metric system. This Act laid down the basic units under the metric system which derives its nomenclature from the primary unit of measurement, viz., the metre. The various unit values are set in decimal proportions.

In pursuance of this legislation the new units have been enforced in this district. Accordingly all the transactions in the organised sector of trade, wholesale as well as retail, are done in terms of the metric units. The new units are inspected by Government officials periodically. Petty sales activities in food-grains, vegetables, milk, etc. are however still found to be taking place as per the old units in the rural areas.

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