What were the Economic Reforms made by Ala-ud-Din Khilji?

Ala-ud-Din carried out a large number of reforms in the economic field. Certain regulations were issued with the object of fixing prices of food products, cloth and all kinds of piece goods and maid-servants, concubines, male and female slaves, milch cattle, beasts of burden, horses and various articles of general merchandise including such articles as bread, vegetables, Reori, Yakhni, needles etc. Other regulations were concerned with the ways and means of enforcing the prices fixed.

It was the duty of the government to ensure supplies by means of command. The hoarding of produce of the Doab and the neighbouring country up to a distance of hundred Kos, was prohibited. Merchants were commandeered to transport grains from villages to Delhi. Grain was to be stored in government granaries.

Machinery was devised to coerce the people to obey the regulations. The government was to see that the fixed price level was not disturbed even in times of famines which were frequent in those days. There was to be strict rationing in times of famines.

The revenue of the territory near Delhi was so regulated that neither the fanners were able to neither retain any surplus nor secretly sell at a higher price to the merchants and grain dealers. Written agreements were taken from the Governor (Nawab) and other government officials that no one within their jurisdiction would be allowed to hoard and regret corn.

If any case of regrating was detected, the officers were to be held liable for it and punished. Shahnas (Superintendents) and Karkunan (Agents) were required to be guarantees that they would cause the grain from the farmers to be delivered to the caravans of merchants on the fields at the fixed rates.

The collectors, overseers and other revenue officers were required to realise revenues in the Doab with so much of strictness that the farmers were to be compelled to sell the corn left with them at the cheaper rates to the corn-carriers.

These steps were intended to secure the regular flow of grains to markets of Delhi through the caravans at the fixed rates. Merchants and caravans were ordered to carry grain from the villages of the Doab to Delhi. Merchants and caravans from far the near were commandeered and were required to render service to the state under pain of terrible punishment and humiliation.

These merchants were required to shift with all their belongings and settle near Delhi on the banks of the river Jamuna in order to be within easy reach of the Shahna or Superintendent of the Market.

As regards the storing of grains in government granaries set up for the purpose in all parts of Delhi, those were filled chiefly with grain collected by way of revenue from the Khalsa villages of the Doab and those attached to the New City (Shahr-i-Nau). In addition to Delhi, granaries were set up at Jhain and its villages.

The corn collected at Jhain and its villages could not be sold in the countryside and had to be transported to Delhi by the caravans. It is possible that Jhain was at that time a big grain market. The storage was meant for emergencies and for times of scarcity and famine.

On those occasions, the supply of corn to the people of Delhi was rationed at a maximum of half a Man per family per day. Special consideration was required to be shown to the poor and if the Shahna did not do so, he was punished. Shahna or Superintendent or Inspector of Market was appointed. He was given a contingent of cavalry and infantry and a suitable Jagir for his maintenance.

He was given a Barid and other officers to help him in his work. Malik Maqbul, a servant of Ulugh Khan, was appointed Shahna. His duty was to supervise the market and also compel the merchants and caravans to collect grain from the villages.

The maintenance of the official price scale must have been a difficult task. Huge official machinery was required for the purpose. Prices at the source of commodities had to be kept down at a sufficiently low level to meet the demands of the government. Caravans and merchants had to be kept under control so that the might bring regularly goods to Delhi without regretting any portion elsewhere.

Cheating on the part of sellers and corruption by government officials had to be checked. Ala-ud-Din ordered that daily reports of the current prices of the market should be sent to him by the Shahna, Barid and the informers of the courts independently of each other and if those reports did not tally, the guilty officer was to be punished. Zia-ud-Din Barani tells us that although harsh punishments were given to the shopkeepers, they did not hesitate to cheat

These steps were intended to secure the regular flow of grains to markets of Delhi through the caravans at the fixed rates. Merchants and caravans were ordered to carry grain from the villages of the Doab to Delhi. Merchants and caravans from far the near were commandeered and were required to render service to the state under pain of terrible punishment and humiliation. These merchants were required to shift with all their belongings and settle near Delhi on the banks of the river Jamuna in order to be within easy reach of the Shahna or Superintendent of the Market.

As regards the storing of grains in government granaries set up for the purpose in all parts of Delhi, those were filled chiefly with grain collected by way of revenue from the Khalsa villages of the Doab and those attached to the New City (Shahr-i-Nau). In addition to Delhi, granaries were set up at Jhain and its villages.

The corn collected at Jhain and its villages could not be sold in the countryside and had to be transported to Delhi by the caravans. It is possible that Jhain was at that time a big grain market. The storage was meant for emergencies and for times of scarcity and famine.

Ala-ud- Din used to make enquiries about the rates ten to twenty times a day and in spite of that cheating did not stop. Ala-ud-Din adopted the method of sending occasionally to the market a few slave boys to buy articles of food and if those were found to be less than the correct weight, a quantity of flesh equal to the deficiency was cut from the cheeks or haunches of the seller and he was also kicked out of his shop by Shahna-i-Mandi.

Ala-ud-Din issued certain regulations under which a new government market named Sarai-Adl was established under the Badaun Gate. Merchants of Delhi and other provinces were required to be registered. Loans were advanced to the Multani merchants and they were given charge of the Sarai-Adl market. Passes were issued to those rich persons who wanted to buy costly goods.

All merchants were required to hand over their entire stocks into Sarai Adl on pain of severe punishment for concealing anything. The Diwan-i-Riyasat was ordered to register the names of merchants whether they were Hindus or Muslims.

These merchants were required to bring all the commodities to the city and sell them at the control rates. They must have suffered a lot unless the government compensated them for the same. The brokers and horse-dealers, which used to earn a lot, were ruined.

Ala-ud-Din appointed Yaqub as Diwan-i-Riyasat. Under him a Shahna-i-Mandi was appointed with a huge staff of subordinates. Only those persons were appointed who were not only honest and trustworthy but also harsh and cruel.

The Shahna-i-Mandi was supplied with a schedule of control rates and was required to keep an eye on all sales in the market. If there was any deficiency in weight, the seller was lashed mercilessly and ill-treated in every possible way.

Zia-ud-Din Barani attributes the success of the measures adapted by Ala-ud-Din to various factors and those were the strict enforcement of the rules of the market, vigorous collection of the taxes, scarcity of metallic currency among the people and the zeal of the officers who acted honestly out of fear of the Sultan.

There is a difference of opinion amongst scholars regarding the object of the economic reforms carried out by Ala-ud-Din. There are some who contend that Ala-ud-Din felt that it was the duty of the state to look after the economic welfare of the people.

Like Napoleon, Ala-ud-Din was of the view that the supreme talisman of statesmanship lay in cheap bread. While Ala-ud-Din robbed the rich, he compensated the poor. He increased the salaries of the low-paid officials and by fixing the prices of the necessaries of life low, he added to their happiness. Lane-Poole calls Ala-ud-Din a great political economist.

However, this view is not accepted by Dr. P. Saran. His view is that the problem of maintaining a huge army with the limited resources of the kingdom was the sole motive which prompted the control of prices of all necessaries of life so as to make them cheap enough for the soldiers to maintain themselves on the low salaries which were paid to them.

The amelioration of the condition of the poor was not even in the remotest imagination of Ala-ud-Din. Dr. Saran also points out that Ala-ud-Din’s system was confined to Delhi and its neighbourhood.

The rest of his dominion had directly nothing to do with it although the districts immediately surrounding Delhi must have been influenced by the regulations.

The economic life and the business conditions of the surrounding country became chaotic. Dr. Saran is of the opinion that the system set up by Ala-ud-Din was thoroughly irrational, ill conceived and artificial being in flagrant violation of all economic laws, intended primarily for the benefit of the government and resulting in incalculable misery, poverty and humiliation to the people who happened to fall directly or indirectly under it.

The king, the army and government servants and other salaries people gained from price control as they were merely consumers. Merchants and businessmen, being both consumers and sellers, got relief as they were able to get their requirements at cheaper rates. The agriculturists were the most hard hit as they had very little to buy other articles. They could not take advantage of the amenities provided at Delhi.

Dr. K. S. Lai expresses his view in these words: “Ala-ud-Din’s passion for incessant conquest and constant invasions of the Mongol free-booters from the north-west had rendered maintenance of a large army unavoidable. Besides the army, the expences on a large staff of State officials on civil and military administration and on slaves involved heavy liabilities on the royal exchequer.

The wealth accumulated in the time of Sultan Jalaluddin, the treasures secured from the raid on Devagiri in 1296 and the yearly tributes collected from the various provinces and dependencies of the Empire proved insufficient to meet the financial burden.

Even the raising of the revenue of fifty percent of the produce, the levying of different kinds of cusses and the conversion of the drinking vessels of gold and silver into coins failed to meet the requirements of the State. It was calculated that if the King recruited a large number of troops even on a moderate salary, the entire treasure of the State would be exhausted within five or six years.

Ala-ud-Din, therefore, decided to cut down the salaries of soldiers; but to prevent their falling a victim to economic distress, he also decided to reduce the prices of commodities of daily use. It was simple arithmetical calculation and simple economic principle; since he had decided to reduce and fix the salary of soldiers, he also decided to reduce and fix the prices of things of common use.

With this end in view, he promulgated various regulations which brought down the cost of living. These measures, which may be termed as his Economic Reforms or his Market Control, from a conspicuous feature of his administration.'”

According to Principal Sri Ram Sharma, the system of Ala-ud-Din “must have come to an end much before his own end came. It failed because it could not perpetuate itself.

It failed, as it was bound to fail, because it was not founded on anything except fear. It failed because it failed to gain any loyal supporters.”

About the economic measures of Ala-ud-Din, Dr. K. S. Lai points out that neither agriculture nor trade and commerce, could flourish under the circumstances created by them and that also was not the aim of Ala-ud-Din. The one object he had in his mind was to maintain a large army which was sufficient to repel the Mongol invasion and also to subdue the independent Chiefs of India.

It is true that the benefits of the market regulations were enjoyed both by the civil and military population of Delhi but the agriculturists of the Doab and the tracts in the vicinity of Delhi had to pay heavily for the benefits of the people of Delhi.

The tradesman also did not gain much as they had to work under compulsion. Like other Emperors Ala-ud-Din was not botherd about all those considerations. To him, his military necessity was paramount. He wanted a strong army to defeat his enemies and he succeeded remarkably well in that endeavor.

Dr. K. S. Lai rightly observes that the market regulations of Ala-ud-Din died with him. His successor was fonder of concubines than of conquests. Moreover, a very large army was not required as the Mongol storm had subsided.

There was no need of controlling prices for recruiting a large army on a small salary. Market control was a temporary measure, resorted to in a state of exigency and when the emergency was over, the regulations were allowed to fall into disuse.

In his account of economic reforms of Allauddin Khalji, Barani have given too much importance to the city of Delhi. He has overlooked the provincial capitals, the Qasbas (towns) and even rural areas. There was no reason why Allauddin should have plundered the Doab for the sake of the citizens of Delhi only and incurred an endless and prolonged headache.

The view of Moraland is that Delhi was isolated from the rest of the country. To quote Moreland, “No attempt was made to keep down prices throughout the country; effort was limited to Delhi where the standing army was concentrated and the regulations extended to a region sufficiently large to ensure the isolation of the Delhi market.” Dr. B. P. Saxena points out that this argument overlooked the fact that low prices in Delhi alone could not help the army which was drawn from the whole of the country. The needs of the families of the soldiers and horsemen could not be overlooked.

They had claims to at least half, if not more of the wages of their bread-winners and as they lived in all parts of the empire, the mere reduction of prices in Delhi could hardly bring any relief to them or help the state in reducing the salaries of the horsemen.

The basic fact was that Alauddin did not want and desire an isolated Delhi market. He was keen that the commodities of the Serai Adl should not go out of it, but in case this was done he had no means of preventing anything from being taken from Delhi to provinces.

If the Multani merchants were to bring commodities from distant provinces, they had to export North Indian produce to distant regions. Ferishta is right in saying that the regulations were meant for the greater part of the dominions of Alauddin. If enforced in Delhi alone, they would be meaningless.

The view of Dr. B. P. Saxena is that the economic regulations of Alauddin were the greatest administrative achievement of the Sultan period.

He quotes the following observations of Ferishta written in the reign of Jahangir: “To the end of Alauddin’s rein these prices remainted steady and there was no change in them owing to the lack of rain or other causes the bring famine. It was unique and remarkable achievement. Nothing like this had been accomplished before and no one can say whether it will be possible again.”