TĀBI'DĀRĪ, lit. subordination or obedience, was a system of non-proprietory but permanent and hereditary and tenure during Sikh rule in the Punjab. The holders of tābi'dārī tenure were equivalent to those who since Mughal times had been known as muzāri' āṅ-i-maurūsī or occupancy tenants. It was prevalent in villages that formed part of permanent jāgīrs such as dharmārth or charity, madad-i-ma'āsh or subsistence, and in'ām or reward grants and in pattīdārī holdings. Grantees of such jāgīrs who were called mu'afīdārs enjoyed, in addition to a specified part or whole of the revenue income of their lands, some additional rights over their tenants. Tenants were broadly categorized into muzāri'āṅ mustaqul or muzāri’āṅ-i-maurūsī (hereditary occpancy tenants) and muzāri’āṅ-i-ghair mustaqil (tenants-at-will). During the time of Mahārājā Raṇjīt Siṅgh, muzāri'āṅ mustaqil were further categorized into āsāmāīṅ-i-qadīm coming down from old times, purānā mustaqil who started cultivating around 1810, and mustaqil jadīd who had newly acquired hereditary occupancy rights. The third category covered ābādkārāṅ, lit. cultivators of virgin lands, bañjarsh-shigāfāh, lit, breakers of wastelands, and those who made permanent improvements in their holdings like sinking a well, raising embankments and digging channels for irrigation.
Under the tābi’dārī system the occupancy tenants differed from peasant-proprietors in that, in addition to land revenue due to the government, they had to make certain additional payments and render occasional service to the landlords. The additional dues most common were called mālikānā or proprietorship tax (mālik, in Punjabi, means proprietor), ranging from 1-1/2 to 25% of the land revenue. However, they could not be dispossessed of their holdings except, in exceptional cases, when a proprietor required the land for his own use. Even the non-cultivating residents had permanent occupancy right over the land on which they had built their houses. The right was inheritable, but not transferable.
Harī Rām Gupta