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  • Akbar

    Administrative reform

    Previous Indian governments had been weakened by the disintegrating tendencies characteristic of pre modern states the tendency of armies to split up into the private forces of individual commanders and the tendency of provincial governors to become hereditary local rulers. Akbar combatted these trends by instituting comprehensive reforms that involved two fundamental changes. First, every officer was, at least in principle, appointed and promoted by the emperor instead of his immediate superior. Second, the traditional distinction between the nobility of the sword and that of the pen was abolished: civil administrators were assigned military ranks, thus becoming as dependent on the emperor as army officers.

    These ranks were systematically graded from commanders of 10 persons to commanders of 5,000 persons, with higher ranks being allotted to Mughal princes. Officers were paid either in cash from the emperors treasury or, more frequently, by the assignment of lands from which they had to collect the revenue, retaining the amount of their salary and remitting the balance to the treasury. Such lands seem to have been transferred frequently from one officer to another; this increased the officers dependence on the emperor, but it may also have encouraged them to squeeze as much as they could from the peasants with whom their connection might be transitory. Politically, the greatest merit of the system was that it enabled the emperor to offer attractive careers to the able, ambitious, and influential. In this way, Akbar was able to enlist the loyal services of many Rajput princes.

    Akbars reforms required a centralized financial system, and thus by the side of each provincial governor (s?badar, later called nawab) was placed a civil administrator (d?wan, or divan) who supervised revenue collection, prepared accounts, and reported directly to the emperor. As a further safeguard against abuses, Akbar reorganized the existing network of newswriters, whose duty it was to send regular reports of important events to the emperor. Akbar also seems to have instituted more efficient revenue assessment and collection in an effort to safeguard the peasants from excessive demands and the state from loss of money. But such efficiency could only have been enforced in the areas directly administered by the central government. This excluded the lands under tributary rulers such as the Rajputs and also the lands assigned for the maintenance of Mughal officers.

    Yet, notwithstanding Akbars reforms, travelers accounts indicate that the Indian peasants remained impoverished. The official elite, on the other hand, enjoyed great wealth; liberal patronage was given to painters, poets, musicians, and scholars, and luxury industries flourished. Akbar also supported state workshops for the production of high quality textiles and ornaments.

    Chourishi Systems