Chapter XV. Record of Rights and Obligations of Raiyats Having Khuntkatti Rights, Village Headman and Other Classes of Tenants
It has been found in certain backward portion of the division that the customary rights of village Headmen and other cultivating Raiyats have been systematically disregarded by powerful landlords and that the aboriginal tenants in such areas have been entirely unable to secure redress for their grievances in the ordinary Civil Courts, and the provisions of this have been framed for the protection of these tenants where such actions found necessary.
The Local Government may make an order directing that a record be prepared by a Revenue-Officer of the rights and obligations in any specified local area of:
(a) Raiyats having khunt-katti rights;
(b) headmen of villages or group of villages; or
(c) any other class of tenants;
and that a settlement of fair rents to be paid by such persons or any of them, be made.
Headmen are locally known as Pradhans, Manjhis, Mandals, Ijaradars, and Thiccadars. The term Thiccadar is, however, of recent origin and is in most cases a misnomer, which tends to suggest false analogies and to obscure the origin and real character of the Headman’s tenure. The most common term is Pradhan. It means simply chief in rank, estimation and in leading.
The origin of the tenure is a reclaiming one. A family of Mundas, Santhals, or Bhumijs settled down in a suitable jungle area and began to reclaim it. In some cases they took a lease from the Zamindar sometimes called an Abra Patta, in which they engaged to pay a small rent, and to clear the lands, and to settle tenants. The lease was frequently for a short period only, the intention being that the Zamindar could periodically assess the lands to rent. In other cases the pioneer family received merely a verbal permission, and in numerous instances they were mere squatters. Frequently 2 or 3 or more families were associated in the enterprise. Whatever may have been the origin of the tenure, the progress of the village community was similar. Jungle was cleared, lands were brought under cultivation and a village was founded. The original pioneers and their descendants through the male line are the Khuntkattidars of the village. The late comers and the members of their families and the descendants of the Khuntkattidars in the female line are the ordinary Raiyats.
The village lands were assessed to rent in time at the instance of the landlord, who appointed or recognized the chief member of the family which founded the village as Pradhan or Headman. The latter agreed to collect the rents and be responsible for them, minus a deduction by way of remuneration for his trouble, and he was also assigned other specified duties. The Headman is the representative of the village community in all its external relations; but, he is also a chief resident Raiyat. He is in fact a tenure holder or landlord, a village official, and a Raiyat.
A Pradhan, as landlord he collects the rents, and settles the village lands with the Raiyats; as a village officials, he is responsible for the supply of Rasad and transport to troops and officials on tour; he is bound to prevent bad characters from settling in the village, to report offences to the Thana and to see to the repair of the tanks and bandhs, the preservation of the jungle and to guard against waste.
A Pradhan, as a Raiyat, he cultivates his own Khas lands, and pays rent for them at village rates as an occupancy or Khuntkatti Raiyat. He can reclaim new lands himself and can also acquire Khuntkatti or occupancy rights in them. The Legislature has now definitely recognized this custom by providing that there is no bar to the acquisition of occupancy rights by any village headman who by local usage or custom has a right to acquire the same.
The tendency is to supplant the Khuntkatti Headman, who is generally a member of one of the aboriginal tribes, and to appoint in his place a Hindu or Mohamadan. In large and well cultivated villages in which the Raiyats are numerous and the lands valuable, the Khuntkatti Headman is often unable to collect the rents, and to perform his duties efficiently. He is, therefore, ejected or dispossessed. In these cases an outsider is frequently appointed by the landlord as Headman. His status and the incidents of his tenure are regulated entirely by the terms of the patta under which he holds. He is generally a mere Thiccadar, whose lease is terminable at the instance of the proprietor on the expiry of the term fixed in the lease. He cannot usually acquire occupancy rights in land as a Raiyat. In some cases, however, it is found that he has stepped into the shoes of the original Headman, and by custom or by contract with the landlord, exercises all the prerogatives and functions of the Khuntkatti Headman.