Meaning of Market Control:
Market control implies the state interference in the supply and sale of commodities. In the open market buyers and sellers are free to enter into transactions.
There is no check on the supply and sale price of the commodities. Government control in the supply and price of commodities is the minimum.
There is free competition among buyers and sellers. Market control does not allow the free operation of the forces of demand and supply.
Market control is exercised through a number of regulations imposed by the government. Market control may be limited or unlimited. It depends upon the objectives of the government.
Were market regulation enforced only in Delhi?
There is no unanimity among the historians whether the market control was in force in various parts of the country or in Delhi alone. Dr. S.K. Lai is of the view that the system was in force in Delhi only.
He gives the following arguments in this regard:
(1) Barani has mentioned the officers namely Diwan-i-Riyasat and Shahana-Mandi only in the context of Delhi. No reference to these officers is found in respect of other cities.
(2) Registration of traders was compulsory only in Delhi.
(3) Only one cloth market is mentioned and that too at Sarai Adl in Delhi.
Reasons for the introduction of market control system:
According to Dr. K.S. Lai, the system of market control was introduced on military considerations. Ala-ud-Din’s army expenses were enormous. He therefore reduced the salary of the soldiers. However, for enabling them to have a reasonable standard of living, he fixed the price of the commodities in such a way as the soldiers could afford them. He writes, “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 price of common use.”
Dr. U.N. Dey does not agree with the views of Dr. K.S. Lai. According to him Ala-ud-Din did not pay a low salary to the soldiers when we compare their salary paid to soldiers by Sher Shah and Akbar. He has concluded, “Ala-ud-Din’s motive was to check the rising prices which was due to manipulation of the business community and not to reduce the prices to a lower level than the normal.”
According to Shaikh Nasir-ud-Din Chirag, the author of ‘Khairul Majalis’, the police of market control- introduced by Ala-ud-Din was on humanitarian grounds. Ala-ud-din according to him was greatly concerned with public welfare.
Reducing wealth to check rebellions:
Prof. Habib and Nizami do not agree with the views of Shaikh Nasir-ud-Din. They are of the view that Ala-ud-Din’s clear motive was to make the people poor so that the word rebellion should go out of their mind.
Ala-ud-Din wanted to reduce administrative expenditure which meant reduced salaries but availability of essential commodities at low prices. Hence price regulation was an administrative necessity. After perusing the arguments of various scholars, it may be concluded that no single reason can be subscribed. Ala-ud-Din’s policy of market control was the outcome of several considerations.
Was the system of market control artificial or effective?
Merits of the system:
The system served the purpose for which it was introduced. Ala-ud-Din was able to maintain a ‘well-armed’ ‘well equipped’, ‘well-mounted’ and ‘well trained’ army for the system proved helpful in fixing the salaries of the soldiers in such a manner that they could get the necessities of daily use at reasonable prices. With the introduction of rationing, people were relieved of the fear of drought and famine. Common people were able to get essential commodities at reasonable rates.
The merchants and the shopkeepers were not happy with the system. The fear of severe punishment deprived them of their peace of mind. In this regard Dr. Ishwari Prasad writes, “The Sultan used to send his slaves to the market to bring such things as bread, meat,, etc. and when they came back, the articles which they brought were weighed. If they weighed less, an equal quantity of flesh was cut off from the hunches of the shopkeepers concerned to make up the deficiency in weight.”
The nobles accustomed to a life of abundance did not cherish this system. The farmers condition was worsened. According to Barani, “So long Ala-ud-Din ruled, prices of commodities never rose or fell but even remained fixed.” Lane-poole calls Ala-ud-Din “a great political economist.”Dr. S. Roy writes, “The capital was fed, while the country at large was bled.”
Dr. K.S. Lai states, “The motive of the Sultan may not have been to crush the poor peasants against whom he possibly could have no grudge, but the exigencies of the state required him to take such steps under which the interests of commerce and cultivation were sacrificed to those of the army.”
Dr. P. Saran has concluded, “A full consideration of their circumstances (traders) under the price control system leads as to the irresitible conclusion that they were the hardest hit.”
Irrational and superficial policy:
In the words of Dr. P. Saran, “The whole account of the new deal of Ala-ud-Din points to one conclusion and one alone that it was a thoroughly irrational, ill-conceived and artificial system being in flagrant violation of all economic laws, extended primarily for the benefit of the Government and it resulted in incalculable misery, poverty and humiliation of the people”
According to Eliot, “The Hindus were reduced to a state of abject misery to such an extent that the wives of ‘Khuts’ and ‘magadams’ (Hindu revenue officials) went and served for hire in the houses of Musalmans.”
Dr. V.A. Smith’s opinion about the economic reforms and market control policy of Ala-ud-Din is as, “His measures succeeded in preserving artificial cheapness in the markets of capital (Delhi) even during the years of drought but at the cost of infinite oppression. All his fantastic regulations died with him.”
One of the wonders of the age:
Even though Dr. K.S. Lai has pointed out several defects of the price control system, he appreciates this policy as “What is of real importance in Ala-ud-Din’s reign is not so much the cheapness of prices, as the establishment of a fixed price in the market which was considered one of wonders of the age.”