IV. Centrally directed economic systems

 2. Arthashastra

Some examples of central direction is also found in Kdautilya’s “Arthashastra” which consists of 150 chapters or 6000 shlokas composed in the interested of the Maurya King

Kautilya also known as Vishnugupta or Chanakya was an intelligent Brahmin who overthrew the last king of the Nanda dynasty and placed Chandragupta Maurya on the throne (Grandfather of Ashoka the great) who then unified all the parts of the empire into one whole.

Kautilya is not known only as a king maker but also for being the greatest exponent of the art of the government.

He was a kind of a state socialist who wrote “Arthashastra” the most important work in Sanskrit between 321 & 300 B.C.(In 321 B.C. Chandragupta Maurya ascended the throne).

He has written about the duties of the Kings, ministers officials & methods of diplomacy. He presents a fascinating account of how every aspect of social, political & economic life of the people was directed by the King. The duties of ministers, councilor’s, priests & Kings are discussed in Kautilya’s Arthashastra.

Formation of Villages :

According to Kautilya’s Arthashastra a village consists of not less than 100 families of farmers of sudra caste who live within the boundary of 2,250 & 5,500 yards.

The villages should be capable of protecting each other and will at the same time, be separated by rivers, mountains, forests, bulbous plants, caves, artificial buildings, huge trees etc.

In the centre of 800 such villages will be a “Fortress” while at the centre of 400 such villages a Dronamukha will be constructed. A Kharvatika will be constructed in the centre of 200 such villages & a Sangrahana in the middle of a group of 10 villages.

The borders of the kingdom will have forts manned by guards, who will keep a watch on the entry of outsiders into the kingdom.

The interiors of the kingdom would be guarded by trap-keepers, archers, hunters chandalas and wild tribes.

Those who performed sacrifices, spiritual guides, priests & those learned in vedas were granted Brahmadeya lands which gave them sufficient produce and were exempted from taxes and fines.

Superintendents, accountants, veterinary surgeons physicians, horse trainers and messengers were also to get land but were not permitted to mortgage or sell them.

Agricultural land was to be given to tax payers for one generation only and not through hereditary claims. Those who did not cultivate these lands were to be deprived of their lands which would be given over to others. They could be cultivated also by village labourers and traders so that the owners of the lands did not avoid payment of correct taxes to the king. Preferential treatment was shown to regular tax-payers in the form of granting them with grains, cattle & money.

Duties and Right of the King towards the village economy:-

1. The king was to decide how the resources were to be distributed between army and other defences and other items like roads, buildings, irrigation to provide water to the farmers etc.

2. The king controlled industrial arts, operations of mining & manufacturers, traffic, trade & commerce, timber & forest produce.

Under the advice of Kautilya, copper, bronze, tin, lead, iron etc. was manufactured under state supervision, commerce in mineral products, manufacture of salt, agricultural implements, gold & silver & copper etc. were state monopolies therefore state regulated the enterprises.

3. The king regulated industries-weaving, carpentry, smithy etc. provided incentives for manufacture of silk, dress material, woollen clothes & fabrics.

4. In case of agriculture Kautilya advised Chandragupta to provide active assistance to farmers by means of facilities of seeds, cattle, irrigation, cash subsidies store-houses loans & traffic. Land was given to be given to the landless labourers & cultivators.

The Emperor saw to it that half of the annual produce was stored for providing relief in areas of distress.

5. All types of forests were state monopolies. The Emperor controlled the use of forests exploit timber and forest produce and allow grazing by cattle.

6. The King shall construct reservoirs or provide people with raw materials & spare for construction of reservoirs.

The emperor owned all lakes & reservoirs & therefore taxed fishing, ferrying & trade in these waters. (there was large scale construction of boats and ships).

7. Similar help would be provided by the king for the establishment of pilgrimages.

8. In all these, construction activities the villagers who do not participate directly, will offer indirect assistance by sending their servants, bullocks etc to carry out the work. They also had to share the expenditure though they had no share in profits.

9. Wages of artisans were fixed by the state on the basis of the quality of their products & on the basis of the time taken to produce them.

10.The state saw to it that agricultural population was evenly distributed in the kingdom. State encouraged immigration & emigration from the different parts of the country to relieve the scarcity or congestion of population respectively.

11. The government regulated the relation between state undertaking & private establishments.

12. Domestic market was secured for the products of the state. Goods were sold to the people at reasonable prices. Hoarding & profiteering weights and measures discrimination etc. were checked.

The emperor was a big trade himself selling the produce of crown land, produce of his factories and workshops of forests, mines, etc. The profits from the manufacture of oil, sugar-cane , beverages etc. went to the state.

Trade with countries like Syria, Egypt, China etc. was regulated & sought to be widened.

13. The state i.e. Chamberlin (personal attendant) also took care of tolls, toll dues, slaughter houses, matters pertaining to sales of buildings, boundary disputes, destruction of pasture lands, fields, recovery of debts, rules regarding labourers slaves, awards, punishments and replenishment of treasury, collection of revenue, construction of treasure houses, trading houses, store houses, forest produce, armory & jail, collection of revenue etc ( on the basis of Kautilya’s Arthashastra).

He had thorough knowledge of both, income and expenditure for a large number of years.  He was an expert who could point out the amount of net balance exactly.

14. Families with workmen will be provided with sites suitable for their occupation in the field work; who besides working in flower gardens, fruit gardens & paddy fields shall collect grains & merchandise in abundance as authorised by the King.

15. A water well is to be provided within the forts for every ten houses.

16. Oil grains, sugar, salt, medicines, dry & fresh vegetables, medows, grass dried flesh, hay stock, firewood, metals, skin, charcoal, timber, weapons shall all be stored in each fort in such quantities that will be sufficient for all workers of the fort for years without feeling any shortage.  Old things will be replaced by new ones when they outgrow their use.

17. According to Kautilya wealth was all important. He states that “wealth & wealth alone was all important-as even charity & desire all depend on wealth”. Further according to him the root cause of wealth was activity therefore, “The king shall ever be active & discharge his duties.” The king should employ ministers & listen to their opinions.

The king was to get as sovereign dues.

a)One sixth of the grains grown.

b)One tenth of the merchandise.

For this payment, the king undertook the responsibility of maintaining the safety & security of his subjects and was also to be answerable for the sins committed by his subjects when the principle of levying just punishments & imposing just taxes (by the king himself) was violated. Therefore hermits too had to provide the king with 1/6th of the grains received by them. It was a tax of safety & security.

18. Kautilya held that assembly of ministers should consist of as many members as the needs of his dominion required. Consultation with the ministers would cover,

a) Means to carry out works.

b) Command of plenty of men & wealth.

c) Allotment of time & place.

d) Remedies against dangers,&

e) Final success.

According to Kautilya, “On happiness of his subjects, lies his happiness, in their welfare likes his welfare. It is the king in whom both, the duties of INDRA -the rewarder & YAMA- the punisher, are blended & he is the visible dispenser of rewards and punishment”.

Therefore Kautilya’s state was a social welfare state for increasing national wealth & promoting the happiness of the people.

This was the faith of the people in central direction then& was accepted unquestionably by the people all over the world where the king was supreme.

Kautilya’s Arthashastra comprehensively covered every aspect of economic life of the people under the king’s/state’s command.


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