Ryotwari System

What Is Ryotwari System?

The Ryotwari system is one of the three systems of revenue collection introduced by the British in India in the 19th century, the other two being the Permanent Settlement and the Mahalwari system. The system was introduced by Thomas Munro in May 1820 i.e. the period between the Charter Act 1813 and the Charter Act 1833. In this the cultivator was given the freedom to cede or acquire land for cultivation and also mandated that the government would collect tax directly from the cultivator bypassing the intermediary i.e. the Zamindar. 

 The ryotwari system was introduced in the early 19th century and was implemented in the Madras Presidency and Bombay Presidency, as well as in parts of the Central Provinces and Berar, Bihar, and Orissa.

Under the this system, the government granted land to individual cultivators in exchange for a fixed revenue payment. The system had many similarities with the Mughal revenue collection system. The revenue was typically assessed based on the quality and productivity of the land, and it was collected directly from the cultivator by the government. The cultivator had the right to cultivate the land and to sell or transfer the land, subject to the payment of the revenue.


  • One of the main advantages of the ryotwari system was that it eliminated the need for intermediaries, which reduced corruption and increased the efficiency of revenue collection.
  • The cultivator had the liberty to sublet his property or to transfer it by gift, sale or mortgage.
  • The cultivator would not be evicted as long as he is paying as per the assessment.
  • The Ryot also had the option of increasing or diminishing his holding or even abandoning it completely.
  • It also provided for full or partial remissions of rents in unfavorable years.
  • It thus provided greater security of tenure for cultivators, as they were not subject to the whims of landlords or zamindars. 
  • Additionally, the ryotwari system allowed for the direct assessment of the revenue potential of each piece of land, which facilitated more accurate revenue collection.


However, the ryotwari system also had its drawbacks. 

  • One major issue was that it did not take into account the fact that cultivators often relied on the use of common resources such as water and pastureland. This led to disputes and conflicts between cultivators over the use of these resources. 
  • Additionally, the fixed revenue payment was often burdensome for cultivators, particularly in times of drought or other natural disasters.
  • Many times there was an overestimation of the revenue i.e. the revenue exceeded the capacity of the land.
  • The revenue extraction method was inflexible and even torturous.
  • There are instances when the non-cultivating landlords became owners and the actual cultivators were reduced to tenants or bonded laborers.
  • Often the assessment officials were bribed leading to corruption.
  • There was a devaluation of land as less people were interested in buying land due to harassment and corruption.
  • The system was dominated by Mahajans and moneylenders who gave loans to cultivators at exorbitant rates. They also evicted the cultivators who defaulted on payments. 

Despite these drawbacks, the Ryotwari system remained in place until the 1850s, when it was gradually replaced by the zamindari and tenancy systems in many areas. Today, the Ryotwari system is largely a historical relic, although some elements of it can still be seen in certain parts of India.

Ryotwari System Was Introduced By:

Ryotwari System

Thomas Munro

  • The Ryotwari system was introduced by the British colonial government in India in the 19th century. It was introduced by Thomas Munro, who was appointed as Governor of Madras in 1820. 
  • Munro was a graduate from Glasgow University and belonged to a business family. He joined the Madras Infantry in 1779.
  • He was a part of the Anglo Mysore wars and fought against Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan.
  • Munro reduced the tax from 50% to 33% in the subsequent years. It was a land revenue system in which the government directly collected revenue from individual cultivators (also known as ryots) rather than from intermediaries such as zamindars (landlords). 
  • Under the Ryotwari system, the government surveyed land and fixed the amount of revenue that each cultivator had to pay, based on the quality and productivity of the land. 
  • The Ryotwari system was implemented in parts of India, including the Bombay Presidency and the Madras Presidency, and it is still in use in some parts of the country today.

Ryotwari System UPSC

The Ryotwari system is an important topic that is likely to come up in the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) examination conducted by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC). The UPSC is a constitutional body that is responsible for recruiting civil servants in India, including IAS officers.

In the IAS examination, candidates may be asked questions about this system and its impact on the agricultural sector, land relations, and land revenue collection in India. They may also be asked to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the Ryotwari system and compare it to other land revenue systems such as the Zamindari and Mahalwari systems. It is important for candidates to have a good understanding of the Ryotwari system and its historical context in order to do well in the IAS examination.

Questions may be asked in the Prelims as well as the Mains examination. Though questions are not asked every year, an understanding of the Ryotwari system, Mahalwari system and Permanent Settlement gives a candidate a deep understanding of the nature and character of the British rule in India. It also provides for some valuable insights into the present condition of the farmers along with the agricultural distress.


The Ryotwari system had some positive and negative impacts on agriculture, land relations, and revenue collection in India. On the positive side, this system allowed the government to collect revenue directly from cultivators, which reduced the influence of intermediaries such as zamindars and eliminated the need for them to collect revenue on behalf of the government. This made the revenue collection process more efficient and transparent. Additionally, the Ryotwari system provided cultivators with greater security of tenure, as they were able to own and transfer land freely.

However, the Ryotwari system also had some negative impacts. One major criticism of the system was that the revenue assessments were often arbitrary and not based on accurate measurements of land productivity. This led to many cultivators paying more than their fair share of revenue, which put a strain on their finances and reduced their profits. Additionally, the Ryotwari system did not take into account the social and economic status of cultivators, which meant that poorer cultivators often bore a disproportionate burden of the revenue.

Overall, the Ryotwari system had both positive and negative impacts on agriculture, land relations, and revenue collection in India. It is important to consider these impacts when evaluating the effectiveness of the Ryotwari system and comparing it to other land revenue systems.

See Also

The Mahalwari System – Working, Areas Of Operation and Drawbacks

Permanent Settlement System In Bengal

Decline of Mughal Empire – Complete Analysis


What was the ryotwari system and who introduced it?

In this the cultivator was given the freedom to cede or acquire land for cultivation and also mandated that the government would collect tax directly from the cultivator bypassing the intermediary i.e. the Zamindar. The system was introduced by Thomas Munro in May 1820.

What is the difference between zamindari Mahalwari and ryotwari system?

In the Ryotwari system there was no middleman between the peasant and the Government. Thus the taxes were paid directly to the government. This was introduced in Madras Province and later extended to Bombay. In Mahalwari system the village headman would collect the taxes and pay them to the government.

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