The following points highlight the top five domestic policies laid down by Muhammad Bin Tughluq. The policies are: 1. Revenue Reforms 2. Taxation in Doab (1525-27 A.D.) 3. Attempt to Improve Agriculture 4. Transfer of the Capital (1326-1327 A.D.) 5. The Introduction of Token Currency (1329-1330 A.D.).
Domestic Policy # 1. Revenue Reforms:
Muhammad Tughluq carried out many measures for the improvement of the administration of revenue. One of these measures was preparation of a register in which income and expenditure of all the provinces were recorded. All provincial governors were asked to submit reports of income and expenditure of their concerning provinces to the centre for this purpose.
The main motive of the Sultan was to introduce a uniform standard of land revenue throughout his empire and to see that no village remained un-assessed. However, nothing is known about the advantages of this scheme. It is also not clear whether the Sultan kept in view the differences in the quality of land on the basis of produce and the difference in its prices at different places.
Domestic Policy # 2. Taxation in Doab (1525-27 A.D.):
In the beginning of his reign, the Sultan increased taxation in the Doab. According to Barani, the taxation was raised by ten to twenty times more. Ferishta stated that it was increased threefold or fourfold while Gardner Brown stated that the rise in taxation was quite normal. According to Dr A.L. Srivastava, the Sultan desired to raise the revenue by five to ten per cent and that too not by increasing the land tax but by certain other taxes, most probably by house-tax and grazing tax.
Whatever might be the fact, it is certain that taxes were increased and at a time when there had been a famine in the Doab owing to the failure of rains. Therefore, the peasants, instead of paying the taxes abandoned their lands and adopted highway robbery. The tax collectors continued to collect taxes by oppression which resulted in widespread revolts. The Sultan suppressed the revolts severely.
According to Barani, “Thousands of people perished and when they tried to escape, the Sultan led punitive expeditions to various places and hunted them like wild beasts.” Gardner Brown has not accepted the version of Barani. He states that the people suffered not on account of rise in the taxation which was not at all heavy, but because of famine owing to the failure of rains.
Dr Mahdi Hussain has given another interpretation of this episode. He says that the disbanded soldiers of the army recruited for expedition of Khurasan had taken up cultivation. When the tax was raised, they ceased cultivation and killed revenue officers.
Therefore, the Sultan suppressed their rebellion rigorously. Whatever might be the reason of revolts and the cruel methods adopted by the Sultan to suppress them, it is certain that the taxation was increased, the oppressive means of collecting the taxes were the primary reasons of the revolts and the Sultan suppressed the revolts rigorously.
According to Dr A.L. Srivastava, the Sultan, afterwards, abolished the taxes, gave seeds, bullocks, etc., to cultivators and arranged for digging of wells for irrigation. But it brought about no good result because the help was given too late and people utilised that help to fill up their empty bellies.
Besides, the house-tax and the grazing tax had been always unpopular since they were introduced by Ala-ud-din Khalji. The policy of the Sultan proved a perfect failure. Even the usual revenue could not be collected from the Doab. Besides, the Sultan became unpopular among his subjects.
Domestic Policy # 3. Attempt to Improve Agriculture:
Muhammad Tughluq established a separate department of agriculture and appointed a minister, Amir-i-kohi, to look after it. The main object of this department was to increase the land under cultivation. Besides, according to Dr A.L. Srivastava, “a large tract of land, sixty miles square in area, was chosen for state-farming. The land was cultivated and different crops were sown in rotation.”
Moreland wrote about it:
“In Indian history, it was made clear for the first time that agriculture, improvement in the technique of agriculture and enhancement of resources for the growth of agriculture was the responsibility of the state. In other words, it was the first instance in India when the Sultanate not only emphasized on agricultural reforms but also spent a large amount of money from the state treasury for it.”
The government spent nearly 70 lakh tanka in three years. Yet, the experiment failed and the scheme was abandoned after three years. The corruption of officers, poor quality of land chosen for farming and indifference of cultivators who were assigned land under government supervision were responsible for the failure of the scheme. Besides, the scheme was abandoned in haste. Three years duration was quite inadequate to get any fruitful result.
Domestic Policy # 4. Transfer of the Capital (1326-1327 A.D.):
One among the misunderstood measures of Muhammad Tughluq was the attempt to transfer the capital from Delhi to Devagiri, i.e., Qutbabad as named by Sultan Qutb-ud-din Mubarak Shah Khalji which was now renamed Daultabad. Different reasons have been given for this transfer.
According to Ibn Batuta, the citizens of Delhi used to write letters containing abuses and scandals to the Sultan. Therefore, the Sultan decided to lay Delhi waste in order to punish them. Sir Woolseley Haig has accepted the version of Ibn Batuta. Isami expressed that the Sultan resolved to break up the power of the citizens of Delhi and therefore, decided to transfer the capital. Thus, he also supported the version of Ibn Batuta.
Professor Habibullah has opined that the motive of the Sultan was to provide incentive to Muslim culture in the South. Besides, the prosperity of the South and administrative convenience were also his motives. Dr Mahdi Hussain has expressed that the Sultan desired to make Daultabad the centre of Muslim culture and therefore, decided to make it his capital.
Dr Hussain and Prof. K.A.s Nizami are of the view that the Sultan meant to keep both Delhi and Daultabad as his two capitals. However, this view has not been accepted by the majority of historians. According to Dr A.L. Srivastava, the desire of safeguarding the capital from the Mongol invasions from the north-west, the necessity of consolidating the empire in the South and the temptation to utilise the rich resources of the South were primary considerations for the transfer of the capital.
Thus, we can conclude that Muhammad Tughluq transferred the capital from Delhi to Daultabad due to several reasons. The empire of the Sultan had extended far and wide within the territories of India and Daultabad was in the centre and more strategically placed as compared to Delhi; the administration and consolidation of South India required more attention as compared to the North; the desire to keep the capital at a safe distance from invasion of the Mongols or, on the contrary, the absence of danger from invasions of the Mongols; the temptation of wealth of the South; and, probably, the desire of the Sultan to spread Muslim culture in the South were different reasons of the Sultan to transfer the capital to Daultabad.
According to contemporary historians, the entire population of Delhi was ordered to leave it and it was laid waste. Barani wrote- “All was destroyed. So complete was the ruin that not a cat or a dog was left among the buildings of the city, in its palaces or in its suburbs.” Ibn Batuta also wrote- “A search was made and a blind man and a cripple man were found. The cripple man was put to death while the blind man was dragged to Daultabad where only his one leg reached.”
He further wrote- “In the night the Sultan mounted the roof of his palace and looked round Delhi. When, neither a light nor even smoke or a lamp came into sight he remarked, “Now my heart is pleased and my soul is at rest.” Isami also wrote- “(Muhammad Tughluq) ordered that the city (Delhi) should be set on fire and all the populace should be turned out of it.” Some modern historians do not accept this view.
Dr M. Hussain writes:
“The city of Delhi never ceased to be the capital and, as such, was never depopulated or deserted.” According to Dr K.A. Nizami, the entire population of Delhi was not asked to leave. Only the upper classes, consisting of nobles, Ulema, Sheikhs and the elite of Delhi were shifted to Daultabad.
But Dr R.C. Majumdar, Dr A.L. Srivastava and Dr Iswari Prasad have expressed the view that there is no doubt in the fact that the Sultan had ordered all citizens of Delhi to vacate it. However, they accept that contemporary historians, probably, exaggerated the details.
The Sultan arranged all possible measures for the comfort of the people during their journey from Delhi to Daultabad. Shady trees were planted all along the route, free food and drinking water were supplied to the people after every two miles of journey, all were provided means of transport, all were compensated for the loss which they incurred in leaving their assets at Delhi and all were provided free residence and food at Daultabad. Yet, there is no doubt that with all these comforts, the forty days’ journey from Delhi to Daultabad was an extremely tormenting experience for the people of Delhi.
This scheme of the Sultan failed completely. Isami wrote that Delhi could be repopulated after fourteen years. It seems to be an exaggeration. Realising the failure of his scheme, the Sultan had permitted the people to return to Delhi in 1335 A.D. The scheme failed due to various reasons. The Sultan committed blunder when he asked the people or even the elite of Delhi to go to Daultabad en masse.
He ought to have shifted only his court and the rest would have followed themselves. The common people were neither prepared to shift themselves to an unknown distant place nor there was any necessity of it. Besides, Daultabad was no good choice to be the capital of the empire as compared to Delhi.
Daultabad was a distant city from the north-west frontier of the empire. It was difficult to resist invasions of the Mongols from there. Moreover, the consolidated north India provided better security to the empire as compared to newly conquered South. Thus, the Sultan made wrong choice of the place and adopted wrong methods to transfer his capital. Therefore, his scheme failed.
Domestic Policy # 5. The Introduction of Token Currency (1329-1330 A.D.):
Muhammad Tughluq introduced beautiful and various types of coins during his reign and fixed up their relative values. However, the notable feature of his coinage system was the introduction of token currency and issue of copper and brass coins. According to Barani, the Sultan introduced token currency because the treasury was empty while he needed money to fulfill his schemes of conquest.
Iran had attempted this experiment though it failed, but China had attempted the measure successfully. Probably, the Sultan was inspired to pursue this scheme by examples of these foreign countries. Modern historians have given another reason. They say that there was worldwide shortage of silver at that time and India too faced its serious shortage. Therefore, the Sultan was forced to issue token currency.
According to Barani, the Sultan issued copper coins while Ferishta says that these were of brass or bronze. Probably, the Sultan issued coins of both metals. The Sultan made these token coins legal tenders and kept their value at par with gold and silver coins. Previously, the copper coin was Jital (Paisa). Now, the Sultan issued Tanka (rupee), a silver coin, also that of copper.
This scheme of the Sultan also failed miserably. Dr M. Hussain has justified this scheme of Muhammad Tughluq and regards it on the whole quite good and statesmanlike though he has stated that the Sultan did not adopt those measures which were necessary to make that experiment successful.
Professor Habib blamed the citizens for the failure of this scheme because they did not try to judge the metal of these new coins as they used to judge the silver and gold coins and therefore, failed to discriminate between genuine and imitated false coins.
But, rest of the historians have blamed the Sultan for the failure of the scheme. They say that it was a blunder on the part of the Sultan that he did not take proper precaution to check imitation of coins issued by royal mints.
Those coins, therefore, could be imitated by moderately skilled artisans. Therefore, the citizens began to mint token coins in their houses. In fact, both the Sultan and his subjects were responsible for the failure of this scheme. While the Sultan did not take sufficient safeguards to avoid imitation of coins, the people misused the opportunity and themselves minted token coins on a large scale.
According to Barani, “The house of every Hindu became a mint.” However, there is no reason to believe that the Muslims resisted the temptation. Rather, whosoever could afford to imitate the coins did it and the market was flooded with fake coins.
The farmers paid their revenue in token currency, the people paid their taxes in it and the traders too desired to give token currency while each of them tried to hoard silver and gold coins in his house. The result was that the gold and silver coins disappeared from the market and the trade, particularly the foreign trade, suffered seriously.
The token currency was kept in the market only for three or four years. The Sultan realised the failure of his scheme and, in all good faith, withdrew the entire token currency. The people were asked to return the token coins and, in exchange, were paid back gold and silver coins by royal treasury. Of course, the false coins were rejected by the treasury but, at the same time, nobody was punished on that account.
Thus, Muhammad Tughlaq failed to carry any of his schemes to success. It has been expressed in favour of the Sultan that his measures were ahead of his time, his subjects and officials failed to understand the worth of his schemes and therefore, did not cooperate with him to bring them to success. But this alone is not sufficient to explain the causes of failure of the schemes of the Sultan.
The Sultan himself was responsible for the failure of his schemes to a large extent. The Sultan possessed an imaginative mind but lacked practical wisdom. He, therefore, could formulate new schemes which, probably, were sound in principles but he failed to devise practical measures to bring them to success. The Sultan lacked patience also. He desired quick success, even minor failure enraged him and when desired results could not be achieved quickly, he abandoned his scheme in haste.
The Sultan was also not a good judge of men and circumstances. He, therefore, lacked those qualities which could make him a successful leader of a group of people. All these weaknesses contributed to failures of his schemes. Therefore, the character of the Sultan himself was largely responsible for his failures.