History Optional Paper-1 Solution – 2014: Q.5 (c)

Q.5 (c) Analyse the ordinances mentioned by Barani which Alauddin Khalji promulgated for market control. [2014, 10m]

Ans :

Alauddin is credited for issuing a set of seven regulations which came to be known as market-control measures. Barani, who is our main source on this aspect is the only authority who gives these regulations in detail.

Following are the seven sets of regulations issued by Alauddin Khalji :-

Regulation 1

The Sultan fixed the prices of all commodities from grain to cloth, slaves, cattle, etc. These prices were really to be enforced since the Sultan carefully made all arrangements for making the measure a success.

Regulation 2

A controller of market (shahna-i mandi), barids (intelligence officers) and munhiyan (secret spies) were appointed.

Regulation 3

The Sultan established granaries in Delhi and in Chhain in Rajasthan. The land tax from the khalisa in the Doab was realised in kind. The grain went to the state granaries.

Regulation 4

The grain merchants were placed under the shahna-i mandi and sureties were taken from them.

Regulation 5

Regrating (Ihtikar) was prohibited.

Regulation 6

Obviously, the grain merchants could bring supplies to the market only if they could get the grains and that, too, at sufficiently low prices. It was apparently for this reason that the Sultan decreed such a rigour in realization of land revenue in the Doab that the peasants should be forced to sell the grain to the Carvanian (the grain merchants) at the side of the field.

Regulation 7

The Sultan himself was to receive daily reports separately from three sources i.e. A controller of market (shahna-i mandi), barids (intelligence officers) and munhiyan (secret spies).

Historian Barani gives a hard financial reason for the market controls. The Sultan was anxious to have a large army and to take other precautions such as building of forts at strategic places, fortification wall around Delhi, etc. against the Mongol invasions. To meet these expenses, he promulgated ordinances.

Perhaps Alauddin khalji would have been more successful if he had controlled the prices of essential commodities only or those meant for direct use by military but he tried to control the prices for everything. Such widespread, centralised controls were bound to be violated, inviting punishment which led to resentment.

However the Sultan succeeded in maintaining low prices and ample supplies in the market mostly as reported by all contemporary sources. But the market control measures did not survive its enforcer and we do not hear about it after Alauddin Khalji’s time. A very efficient and alert administration was imperative for the success of price control. Therefore, one possible reason for its not surviving could be the lack of sufficiently competent administration.

Irfan Habib, however, offers a different reason for the abandonment of price control by the successors of Alauddin Khalji. Since the prevalence of low prices implies lower revenues from the low-price zone, the price control was viable as long as the zone of low prices was restricted and most of the expenditure was concentrated there. With the Mongols no more remaining a threat, the army and the expenditure was to be dispersed more widely and not to be concentrated at and around Delhi alone. The interest of the state treasury was now in dismantling the price control.

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