Meaning of the Iqta system:
‘Iqta’ is an Arabic word denoting a sort of administrative regional unit. It is usually considered equivalent to a province.
Initially the Delhi Sultans had divided their empire into several ‘Iqtas’ or provinces or spheres of influence and put them under the charge of officers called ‘Iqtadars’ (governors).
The number of Iqtas was not fixed. There was no uniformity in their administration.
Besides ‘Iqtadar’, other names of the heads of an Iqta’ was Naib Sultan, ‘nazim’ might’ or ‘wali’.
Each ‘Iqta’ was under the charge of an experienced general who generally was the member of the royal family or a notable ‘Amir’ (noble) and confidant of the Sultan.
Duties and powers of the Iqtadar:
1. He was under the supervision of the Central government and carried on orders of the Sultan.
2. He enjoyed the same powers in the province as the Sultan enjoyed in the empire.
3. He maintained large armies and was required to send the same when asked by the Sultan.
4. He maintained order in the territory under his charge and protected the life and property of the people.
5. He appointed soldiers in his army.
6. He collected revenue from the people of his territory.
7. From the revenue thus collected he administered expenditure on the maintenance of his army, his pay and other administrative expenditure and deposited the rest in the state treasury.
8. He sent yearly report of his income and expenditure to the centre.
Restrictions on the Iqtadar:
1. The Iqtadar did not always enjoy hereditary powers. The Sultan could take back Iqta from him whenever he pleased.
2. The Iqtadar was liable to be transferred from one place to another.
3. He could not engage himself in wars of extension without the prior approval of the Sultan.
4. He was required to send a part of the booty to the Sultan.
5. The elephants and the members of the royal family captured during wars were to be sent to the Sultan.
6. He was not allowed to hold his own court.
7. He could not use a canopy or royal emblem.
8. He could not mint coins in his name.
9. He could not read ‘Khutba’ in his name.
During the rule of a weak Sultan, the ‘Iqtadars’ were tempted to enjoy more powers. They even kept elephants an exclusive privilege of the Sultan.
Two categories of Iqtas:
During the reign of Ala-ud-Din, the Iqtas were divided into two categories:
(1) Iqtas which had been under the Delhi Sultans from the very beginning
(2) The territories brought under control by Ala-ud-Din Khalji.
The ‘muqtis’ or the ‘walis’ i.e. the ‘Iqtadars’ of the second category were given more powers so that the newly acquired territories could be brought about under more effective control.
Besides the ‘Iqtadar’, there were several other officers of the central government.
The efficient functioning of an ‘Iqta’ depended on the power of the Sultan on the one hand and on the other hand on the capability of the ‘Iqtadar’.
Division of ‘Iqtas’ into units:
In due course the ‘Iqtas’ were divided into smaller units called ‘shiqqs’ ‘parganas’ and the villages.
The head of a ‘Shiqq’ was called ‘Shiqqdar’. Important officials of a ‘paragana’ were the ‘amil’ or ‘munsif’ the treasurer and the ‘quanungo’
The village, the smallest unit of administration was administered by local hereditary officers and the ‘Panchayat’ of the village. The ‘Panchayat’„ looked after education, sanitation etc. It also acted as a judicial body.
The ‘Chaudhri’ the ‘Patwari’, the ‘Khut’ the ‘Muqaddam’ and the ‘Chankidari’ were the hereditary officers of the village who helped in the collection of revenue.
The Sultan or the governor or officials of the state normally did not interfere in the village administration.