History Optional Paper- 1 Solution – 1981: Q.5 (b)
Q.5 (b) What were the aims of Alauddin Khalji behind his market regulations, and how far were they achieved?
According to contemporary historian Barani, Alauddin set up three markets at Delhi, first for food-grains, the second for cloth and expensive items such as sugar, ghee, oil, dry fruits etc., and the third for horses, slaves and cattle.
Under the market reform, the Sultan fixed the prices of all commoditions from grain to cloths, slaves, cattle etc. To implement the reform, a controller of market (shahna-i-mandi), intelligence officers (barids) and secret spies (munhiyan) were appointed.
Detailed regulations (zawabit) were framed for the control and administration for all these markets.
Aims of Alauddin Khalji behind his market regulations
Medieval rulers were expected to ensure that necessities of life, especially food-grains, should be available to the city folk at fair or reasonable prices.
Alauddin Khalji was more or less the first ruler who looked at the problem of price control in a systematic manner, and was able to maintain stable prices for a considerable period.
(1) Alauddin Khalji successful military exploration had already resulted in the excessive flow or gold and silver which led to rise in price. Also due to increase in the number of soldiers, money circulation in the market had increased, which also led to rise in price level. He wanted to control this rise in price.
(2) Barani says that Alauddin Khalji instituted the market reforms as a milotary measure, because after the Mongol siege of Delhi, he wanted to recruit a large army, but all his treasurers would have soon been exhausted if he had to pay them their normal salaries. As a result of price control and the fall in prices, he was able to recruit army cheaply.
Many historians do not consider Barani’s view as convincing because several commodies for which prices had been fixed were of little or no use for soldiers. Besides only for military needs, such extensive economic measures were not needed.
(3) The views of Amir Khusrau, who was contemporary to Barani, seem more reasonable who says that the Sultan took market reforms for the general welfare of the people and were inteneded to ensure supply of important comodities for the benefit of common people and to combat famine.
(4) Barani gives a second reason for the market reforms. He thinks that it was a part of Alauddin’s general policy to impoverish the Hindus so that they would cease to harbour thoughts of rebellion.
This view of Barani seems to be affected by his orthodox religious biasness against non-Muslims. The reform measures were not designed to harm any one community. The merchants whose names were entered into a register, were both Hindus and Muslims. So also the Multanis and the dallals of the horse-merchants who were so tightly controlled that they were fed up with their lives and wished for death.
How far aims were achieved?
(1) During Alauddin’s reign prices of goods were low, the food stuffs and other necessary stuffs were available easily; hoarding, blackmarketing, cheating by the business community and exploitation by the middleman were checked.
(2) We do not hear of any large scale famine and death or starvation during the reign of Alauddin Khalji. Such a successful food and social security was possible only by market regulations.
(3) Alauddin Khalji tried to control not only the supply of food grains from the villages, and its transportation to the city by the grain merchants but also its proper distribution to the citizens.
(4) Alauddin Khalji was able to raise large army and successfully oppose the mongol invasions.
But the regulations of Alauddin resulted in a lot of vexatious, bureaucratic controls and corruption. Perhaps Alauddin would have been more successful if he had controlled the prices of essential commodities only, or those meant for direct use by the military. But he tried to control the price of everything. Such widespread, centralised controls were bound to be violated, inviting punishments which led to resentment.
Thus, by their very nature, Alauddin Khalji’s market reforms were temporary, and largely meant to tide over an emergency, or a particular situation. The whole reform of state controlled economy built on brute force of Alauddin Khalji died with his death.