AGRICULTURE, the most important industry of the district, supports 743,217 persons or 72.92 per cent of the population. [This total 743,217 is made up of the following items: (1) adult males engaged in agriculture as per census of 1872, 226,254; (2) their wives calculated on the basis of the proportion of the female to the male population, 260,616; (3) their children calculated on a similar basis, 256,347; total 743,217. This calculation is necessary, as the census returns show a total of 224,468 under the special head adult agricultural females, and contain no separate figures for the children of agriculturists.]
There are four chief soils: rice; garden; alluvial, rabi; and upland, varkans. [Varkas. strictly refers to the crops grown on hill lands and means coarse inferiorgrains.] Each of these main classes includes several varieties. Of rice
land the chief sorts are: mail,panthal,kudyat,pulanvat,baul or khari, and kharvat.Mali lands are the open tracts in the bottoms of valleys. Where the surrounding rocks are laterite, the mali, soil containing much iron clay is stiff and hard to plough. The colour varies from yellowish red to dark brown. Inland, near the trap of the Sahyadri hills, the mali is much softer, deeper, and darker. This is the richest soil in the district, and generally holds moisture enough for a second unwatered crop. Panthal soil is found in low-lying lands, where during the rainy season water lies deep. Its rainy weather rice crop is coarse, and often harmed by too much wet. Fields of this soil yield a second crop without watering. Kudyat, or terraced land, the rice soil on the slopes and at the foot of hills, with more gravel and less clay, is poorer than mali.Pulanvat, or sandy soil, is found only on the coast and along estuaries. It has always more sand than earth and in many places is almost pure sand. Barren in ordinary or irregular seasons, with a heavy and steady rainfall, it yields good crops. Baul, or khari, is the name given to the soil in the hollows on the tops of the flat laterite hills near the coast. It is found in small patches of seldom more than a few acres, and is generally surrounded by bare sheet rock. Extremely fine, crumbling to dust on being ploughed, it is seldom more than a few inches deep. Kharvat, or salt, is rice land near the coast and on the banks of tidal creeks. Most of it is reclaimed from the sea by earth or masonry dams. Always more or less charged with salt, it grows only a coarse red rice.
Garden, bagayat, lands are chiefly plantations of cocoanut and
betelnut. There are two sorts of garden land, the one known as dgri or astagri, or salt, the other as dongri. or hill bagayat.Agri bagayat is always found on the coast or on the banks of tidal rivers, where the soil is sandy. The cocoa palm flourishes in this soil, bearing in eight or ten years and not requiring water after the fifth. The lauds usually chosen for dongri, or hill, bagayat are well watered spots on the lower slopes of valleys. Rabi, the alluvial soil near the banks of rivers, is usually very deep and fine. It yields crops of pulse tur, sugarcane, and hemp, and in the south, with the help of water, an additional hot weather crop of nachni, Eleusine coracana.
Varkas soils are the uplands, generally light and poor, where the
cheaper and coarser grains, nachni,vari, and harik are grown. The rotation of crops in varkas lands is harik, Paspalum scrobiculatum, in the first year; vari, Panicum miliare, in the second; and til, Sesamum indicutn, in the third. After the third crop the land is allowed to lie fallow for seven years. [Collector to Government, 31st December 1822.] There are two sorts of varkas land, one known as bhatli or mal, level parts where the plough can be used, the other dongri or hill land, the steeper slopes tilled by the hand. In coast villages, where fish manure is used, much of the bhatli land bears for five or six years in succession, and then only requires a fallow of one or two years. Hill, dongri, land is usually cultivated for three or four years, and then, according to the situation and quality of the soil, lies fallow from three to twelve years. The untilled land yields grass and brushwood which is burnt for manure.
As the revenue survey has been introduced into 774 of the 1337 Ratnagiri villages, there are no available details of the area of the different classes of soil.
Irrigation is chiefly from wells and water courses, pats. The tidal wave passes so far inland that the large rivers are useless for irrigation. There are no canals, and, except in Malvan, no ponds [Details of the chief Malvan ponds are given above. p. 11.] or reservoirs large enough to be used in watering the fields. The chief irrigated crops are rice, sugarcane, and garden produce. In 1877-78, of 1,020,836 acres the total area under tillage, 11,975 acres or 1.17 per cent were irrigated. Of the irrigated land 5793 acres were under rice.
A Plough of Land.
The plough is small and light, easily drawn by one pair of
bullocks or buffaloes, well suited to the tiny patches of rice land so common all over the district. The area an average pair of bullocks can plough is, in rice land about two, and in both alluvial, rabi, and hill, varkas, lands about four acres. Betel and cocoanut gardens are not ploughed.
The 1878-79 returns show 101,276 distinct holdings, khatat, with an average area of ton acres. Of the whole number 57,914 were holdings of not more than five acres; 16,030 of not more than ten acres; 14,989 of not more than twenty acres; 9327 of not more than fifty acres; 2069 of not more than 100 acres; 680 of not more than 200 acres; 143 of not more than 300 acres; 52 of not more
than 400 acres;27 of not more than 500 acres; 28 of not more than 750 acres; 6 of not more than 1000 acres; 6 of not more than 1500 acres; 3 of not more than 2000 acres; and 2 above 2000 acres.
The agricultural stock in Government, khalsa, villages amounted, according to the 1878-79 returns, to 93,690 ploughs, 753 carts, 187,466 bullocks, 133,215 cows, 67,379 buffaloes, 403 horses,
46,841 sheep and goats, and 5 asses.
As the details of processes, crops, and cost of tillage, given
in the general chapter on the agriculture of the Konkan, apply to Ratnagiri, only a few points of local importance are noticed in this place. Of 1,110,280 acres [As the whole district has not been surveyed, these figures are little more than estimates.] the total area of arable land, 1,020,836 acres, or 91.94 per cent, were in the year 1877-78 under tillage. Of the 1,020,836 [Of 1,020,836 acres, 16,308 acres were twice cropped.] acres under tillage, grain crops occupied 949,142, or 92.97 per cent, of which 143,797 were under rice, bhat, Oryza sativa; 15 under Italian millet, rala, Panicum italicum; 273,673 under thick-spiked eleusine, nagli or nachni, Eleusine coracana; 167,950 under chenna, vari, Panicum miliare; 352,927 under harik, Paspalum scrobiculatum; and 10,780 under miscellaneous cereals. Pulses occupied 25,721 acres or 2.52 per cent, of which 1579 were under gram, chana, Cicer arietinum; 5379 under tur, Cajanus indicus; 6251 under horse gram, kulith, Dolichos uniflorus; 3040 under green gram, mug, Phaseolus radiatus; 5240 under black gram, udid, Phaseolus mungo; and 4232 under miscellaneous pulses-, comprising pavta Dolichos lablab, kaava Dolichos spicatus, and chavli Dolichos catjang. Oil seeds occupied 25,360 acres, or 2.48 per cent, of which 25,337 were under gingelly seed, til, Sesamum indicum; and 23 under other oil seeds details of which are not available. Fibres occupied 5696 acres, or 0.55 per cent, of which 683 were under hemp, ambadi, Hibiscus cannabinus; and 5013 under san, or Bombay hemp, tag, Crotalaria juncea. Miscellaneous crops occupied 14,917 acres or 1.40 per cent, of which 1574 were under sugarcane, us, Saccharum officinarum; 962 under chillies, mirchi, Capsicum annuum; and 11,774 under miscellaneous vegetables and fruits.
The following are the chief details of the more important crops.
Harik, Paspalum scrobiculatum, holds the first place, with, in 1877-78, 352,927 acres or 34.57 per cent of the total area under tillage. One of the coarser grains, harik grows in uplands, either flat or on steep hill-slopes, where, according to the general practice, harik follows vari and is followed by til. In growing harik, about a fortnight after the rains set in (June 20-30), the ground is four times ploughed, and the seed sown broadcast. The crop, after one hand weeding, ripens about the end of October or the beginning of November. The cheapest grain in the district, though never touched by the well-to-do, harik forms the common food of the poorest classes. It has an unpleasant narcotic property which, though to some extent neutralized by steeping in cowdung and water, causes sickness in those not used to it. So unwholesome, even deadly is it, [ Some Vagher convicts who broke out of the Ratnagiri district jail in 1868 were overtaken and recaptured by the police when in a state of semi-insensibility brought on by eating raw harik.] in large quantities, that great care is taken to
keep cattle from straying into a harik field. Naekni, Eleusine
coracana, holds the second place with, in 1877-78, 273,246 acres
or 26.76 per cent of the whole area under tillage.
of nachni tillage are the sub-divisions of Ratnagiri, Chiplun, Khed,
and Dapoli. The chief produce of poor uplands, it is always
grown as the first crop after the land has been refreshed by three
or more seasons of fallow, and strengthened by a dressing of burnt
cowdung and wood ashes. It is also, by the help of Water, grown
as a dry weather crop in alluvial, rabi, land when it is called
gimvas. There are about twelve sorts of nachni, half of them
early, halva, ripening in September; the rest late, garva, ripening
about the end of October. Dearer than harik and cheaper than rice
or millet, nachni is the common food of the poor.
Vari, Panicum miliare, holds the third place with, in 1877-78,
167,950 acres or 16.45 per cent of the total area under tillage. Vari, of which there are two kinds, is always grown in the rainy season on level soils, after and in the same way as nachni. Commonly eaten by the poorer classes, it is dearer than harik and cheaper than nachni.
Rice, bhat, Oryza saliva, holds the fourth place with, in 1877-78,
143,797 acres or 14.08 per cent of the whole area under tillage. There are three modes of growing rice as a rainy season crop. The first and commonest by transplanting seedlings, the second by sowing sprouted seed, and the third by sowing dry seed broadcast. Dry weather rice crops, called vaingan, are grown by watering fields which have yielded a rainy weather crop. The places chosen for a dry weather rice crop are generally hill side terraces well supplied with water. Land tilled in this way often yields a large outturn, but as it is already exhausted by the rainy season crop, before the rice is sown it wants heavy manuring and careful ploughing. The vaingan rice crop ripens about the end of March. Of fifty varieties of rice, [Their names are: patni,panvel,valya,varngal,chimansal,bambsal,kalisalvanksal,lavsal,jiresal,rajesal,lavesal,sal,patni,ambemohar,nirpunj,manjarvalkudya,kothabir,divalivarngul,gajvel,mndhane,bhadas,bela,mundgapandra,damga,dodak,avchite,harkul,ghudya;kolambya,kinjala,eklombya,sorti,kushale or karngute,sonphal,sarvati,khochari,navan,sutyal,takla,turya,halvipatni,kudalpatni,kharl,motiyal,mundga-tambada,kamod,ghotval, and valchi.] about forty, ripening in September, are called early, halva; the rest, ripening towards the end of October, are called late, mahan or garva. These varieties of rice differ much in value, the late sorts being generally the best. Their prices, in ordinary seasons, vary from ?d. to 1¼d. a pound (Rs. 35 - 48) a khandi. Rice is the common food of the well-to-do, and is eaten by the poor on marriage and other special occasions. It is used in the manufacture of ink and by washermen in making starch. Rice spirits are sometimes distilled, but from the cheapness of palm liquor are in little demand.
Of Pulses known collectively as kaddan the chief kinds are
horse gram, kulith, Dolichos uniflorus, grown in all parts of the district except, Khed and especially Common in Malvan and Devgad.
In 1877-78, 6251 acres or 0.61 per cent of the
tilled area was under kulith. Sown in November, after the rice
crops are housed, it ripens early in March. Kulith flour is used as
dal, and the, seeds, when boiled and mixed with gram, make very
good food for horses. Its stalks are used as fodder. Tur, Cajanus indicus, largely grown in the north of the district on the banks of the Chiplun and Khed rivers, is not found in any quantity south of Ratnagiri. In 1877-78, 5379 acres or 0.52 per cent of the tilled area were under tur. It grows both as a rainy weather, and in the better class of rice fields as a dry weather crop. The rainy weather tur is sown in July and ripens in November; the dry weather tur is sown in September and ripens in February. The green pods are used as a vegetable, and the dried beans are split and eaten with rice. The dried stalks yield excellent charcoal for gunpowder. Black gram, udid, Phaseolus mungo, is grown all over the district. In 1877-78, 5240 acres or 0.51 per cent of the tilled area were under udid. It is sometimes sown among standing rice and left to grow after the rice-crop has been reaped. It ripens about March. Green gram, mug, Phaseolus radiatus, grown all over the district, is most common in Chiplun. In 1.877-78, 3040 acres or 0.29 per cent of the tilled area were under mug. There are two crops of green gram in the year, an early or rainy weather crop sown in July and ripening in September, and a late or cold weather crop sown in December and ripening in the beginning of March. As a cold weather crop, it is grown in damp fields and as a rainy weather crop in sandy soils. Gram, harbhare, Cicer arietinum, with 1579 acres, is grown chiefly in Chiplun. It is sown in November and ripens in March. Pavta, Dolichos lablab, is also an important crop.
Til, Sesamum indicnm, chiefly grown in Dapoli, had, in 1877-78,
25,337 acres or 2.48 per cent of the tilled area. It is of two
kinds, black-seeded and white-seeded. Black-seeded til, which
generally follows harik, and sometimes, though with a smaller return,
nachni or vari, grows best on tolerably flat land. No manure is used,
but after two ploughings, from the middle to the end of June, it is
sown broadcast. The seed yields gingelly oil used both in cooking
and as a medicine. The white-seeded til is grown in t he same way.
The seed forms part of many sweetmeats, and yields an oil used in
cooking. The percentage of oil in the seeds is not so large as in
the black-seeded variety.
Sugarcane, 1574 acres, is grown in all parts of the district except
in Khed. It is planted in February and March and is ready to cut
in January. Mauritius sugarcane, introduced many years ago, is still
cultivated in some places, but a small red variety is preferred. [In 1834 about 5000 Mauritius canes were brought to Ratnagiri but from their indifference and dislike of anything new, the people refused to plant them. (Collector to the Rev. Com. 4th September 1634). About 4000 given free of charge in the village of Mirya two miles from Ratnagiri, produced 14,000 superior canes. A large number of these were again distributed. (Collector to the Rev. Com. 7th September 1835). As they yielded thrice as much juice as the ordinary cane they soon rose in public esteem, and Government to further its cultivation granted remissions of rents on fields destroyed by jackals, ants, or blights. (Government to the Rev. Com. 25th October 1835). In 1837 the sowers of cane in Mirya refused to use the Mauritius variety. In
1839 the sugarcane crop was destroyed by ants and jackals, except in Mirya whence others obtained large supplies. (Collector to the Rev. Com. 29th February 1840). In 1856 its cultivation was confined to a few coast villages.] The
sugar-making process is simple. Some men out the cane, others feed a coarse mill that squeezes out the juice, and others boil the juice in a large caldron, in which, without refining, it is allowed to harden. The raw sugar is much used by the people of the district.
Chillies are, by the help of water, grown in considerable quantities
as a dry weather crop. Sown in November or December, the pods begin to ripen about the end of February and the plants, if well watered, yield for several months.
Tag, hemp, Crotalaria juncea, is grown to a considerable extent; [In 1835 the cultivators, fearing a rise in the assessment on hemp grown on
unassessed lands, discouraged its cultivation. (Collector to the Revenue Commissioner,
7th September 1835). Government accordingly granted twenty-five year leases and
promised remissions. (Government to the Revenue Commissioner, 21st April 1836). In
1836 Ratnagiri ropes were in much demand for the Bombay shipping. (Revenue
Commissioner to Government, 1st April 1836). The highest assessment was reduced
from £1 2s. to 10s. (Rs. 11 - 5) a bigha. (Government Resolution, 29th September
1836). In 1839 the precarious nature of the crop, the dislike of the people to hemp
because it was used in fishing nets, the poverty of the cultivators and the opposition of
the khots were the chief checks to hemp being generally grown. (Assistant Collector
to Collector, 8th August 1839).]
the rainy weather crop is sown in July and ripens about the end of October. The dry weather crop is sown in rice soils about November and ripens about March. It is used chiefly for making fishing nets, twine, ropes, gunny bags, and paper.
Cotton, kapus, Gossypium herbaceum, is not grown in the district.
The soil, a poor stiff clay, is ill suited to its growth. Up to 1818, when some experiments were begun with exotic cotton, except a few plants of the Konkani or naturalized Bourbon, for domestic use, no cotton was grown in Ratnagiri. [Dr. Hove (December 1788) found up the Bankot creek cotton of the yellow sort growing very freely. It had just begun to bud and promised a plentiful harvest. It was planted both with rice and pulse and with wheat. Tours, 191,192. On the other hand Forbes writing about the same time makes no mention of cotton. Or. Mem. I. 107, 122. It. seems possible that Dr. Hove mistook the hemp plant, ambadi. Hibiscus cannabinus, for cotton.] The 1818 experiments, though at first hopeful, were in the end disappointing. In 1838 the high price paid for Sea Island cotton led the Revenue Commissioner Mr. Williamson. to try to grow it in the flats near the Malvan salt pans. The experiments were renewed soon after by the Collector Mr. Elphinston in his own garden with the Sea Island, New Orleans, and Konkani varieties. The land was richly manured, and the plants grew freely. Samples were sent to the Bombay Chamber or Commerce and to London brokers. Favourable opinions expressed by both encouraged Mr. Elphinston to continue in 1840-41 the cultivation of the Sea Island and Bourbon varieties. The samples sent were said to be equal to those of the previous year, and experiments on a larger scale were advised. But as Mr. Elphinston had supplied no details of the cost of cultivation, and as he admitted that it far exceeded the price realized, Government did not think it advisable to undertake experiments on a large scale. In 1841 they placed twelve barrels of New Orleans seed at Mr.
Elphinston's disposal, but failing to induce the people to take the seed, he sent back eleven barrels and kept one for his own use. The plants sprang up, but rain destroyed most of them and the rest yielded a very scanty crop. In 1840-41 he still further extended the cultivation of these exotic varieties. Konkani, or Bourbon, cotton was pronounced to be more useful than the Sea Island, as the Sea Island was used only for the finer yams, and its consumption was comparatively limited.
Returns of the cost of cultivation in 1840-41 and 1841-42 showed a loss in the first year more than covered by the profit in the second. The acre yield was thrice as much as at Broach and Kaira. On the recommendation of the. Bombay Chamber of Commerce, Government placed a sum of £1000 (Rs. 10,000) at Mr. Elphinston's disposal. In 1843-44, 275 acres and in the next year 842 acres were cultivated, but the experiment was a decided failure, most of the seed planted never coming to maturity. The kinds sown were Bourbon, hybrid Bourbon obtained by artificial impregnation with the best American varieties, and Sea Island. In 1845, Mr. Elphinston reported to Government that the chief obstacles to success were the cost of tillage, the barrenness of the red soil, and the highness of the rents owing to the difficulty of procuring good land, the inhabitants depending on their fields for their subsistence. He was of opinion that the climate suited the plants well, even those of foreign origin. In 1845-46 the produce of the gardens amounted only to 1/16 ton (4? khandis) of uncleaned and 11/560ton (1? khandis) of clean cotton. The Collector, Mr. Liddell, who succeeded Mr. Elphinston, recommended that the experiments should be given up. The farms were closed in. April 1846, and since then no fresh experiments have been made.
The district does not yield grain enough for the wants of its people. Large quantities are brought in from above the Sahyadri hills and from the Kolaba district. Much of the soil is so poor that, after yielding two or three crops in succession, it requires several years' fallow.
In all parts of the district not only the agricultural classes,
Kunbis, Marathas, Bhandaris, Musalmans, and Mhars, but almost the whole population, including some Brahmans, are engaged in tillage. Washermen, tailors, blacksmiths, and other artisans, unable to support themselves by their callings, are often forced to eke out their gains by cultivation. Prabhus, Bhats, and Gujars are the only classes who never directly engage in field work.
The six chief classes [Contributed by Mr. J. R. Gibson, Dy. Supt, Rev. Survey.] of cultivators are, Kunbis, Marathas, Bhandaris,. Musalmans, Mhars, and Brahmans. No materials are available from which even an approximate estimate of the strength of these classes can be made. Of Brahmans very few actually engage in field work. They hold land both as proprietors and tenants, and either employ labourers or sub-let to persons who pay them a fixed share of the produce.
Except in a few coast villages entirely occupied by Musalmans and Bhandaris, Kunbis and Mhars are found in almost every part of the district. Marathas are chiefly found in the valati, or upland, villages of the centre of the district, and close under the Sanyadri hills. Bhandaris and Musalmans are always found in the lowland, khalati, coast villages. [In the Konkan the inner uplands are called valdti (varthaya, uplands) and the coast lands khalati (khalithaya, low lands).] Brahmans live in the coast villages and in the centre of the district. They are seldom found near the Sahyadri hills.
The Kunbi generally lives in a small house with mud and gravel walls, and a thatched roof held up by wooden posts let in at the corners and gables. The rafters are generally bamboos, and the thatch bundles of rice straw and coarse grass. A rough wooden frame let into the wall supports a small door, made as often of split bamboos as of wood, and one or two small holes in the wall serve to let in a little air and light and to let out smoke. The inside is generally divided into two rooms, a larger where the family cook and live in the day time, and a smaller the sleeping and store room. At the gable end is usually a lean-to shed in which cattle and field tools are kept, and grass and wood stored. A Maratha's house is generally better and much neater than a Kunbi's, with sun-dried brick walls, a tiled roof, a front verandah, and in the fair season an outer booth of palm-leaf matting, the floor every day carefully smoothed and cowdunged. Most Brahmans, Bhandaris, and Musalmans live in well-built houses raised on stone plinths. The walls are of masonry or burnt brick work and the roofs are tiled. The wood work in the roof is generally substantial and well built, and the door and window frames neatly put together. Wooden shutters arc generally used, though glazed windows are sometimes seen in Ratnagiri, Malvan, Vengurla, and other towns. The village Mhar usually lives in a small shapeless roughly-built thatched mud hut. But pensioners and other high class Mhars generally, like the Marathas, build a better style of house.
The Kunbi owns a pair of bullocks, a cow or buffalo, and a few goats. His field tools are, one plough, three harrows, one with short wooden teeth, one a log for crushing clods, and one a flat smoothing board; two or three picks, kudals, for digging hill lands; two or three billhooks, koitas; two or three hoes, pavdas; two or three sickles; and half a dozen mallets, mogris, for hand crushing clods. His house gear is a few copper and brass eating and drinking dishes and cups, and two or three small cooking pots. His water is always carried, and his food very often cooked, in earthen pots. None have large stores of grain, though a few of the better class keep small stocks of nachni or harik enough to support their families for a few months after harvest and to supply Seed grain. Except that in the matter of household goods they are better off than the Kunbis, this account applies equally to most Maratha husbandmen.
The Kunbi is an orderly, hardworking and excellent cultivator, very skilful and clever in damming streams and cutting water-courses for rice fields. Whenever the soil suits, and there is water, he grows garden crops and uses manure freely. The Maratha is orderly and steady but in a less degree than the Kunbi, and his style of tillage shows that he has not the same patient endurance of hard work. The Bhandari is not so good a cultivator either as the Maratha or the Kunbi. Most of them follow the more gainful calling of toddy-drawing and the lands they till, in the sandy tracts on the sea coast are, from the nature of the soil, easily worked. The Musalman is a still worse cultivator than the Bhandari. They have less energy and
perseverance, and many of them, fishers or sailors in the fair season, are less dependent than others on the success of their tillage. They use manure freely but are less careful about ploughing and weeding, and seldom cultivate fields of poor soil. Mhars are rarely good husbandmen. Holding it in return for service, under the khoti system, they seldom pay for their land or only pay a nominal rent. Skilled in cutting stones suited for roof props, and much employed in building stone embankments for reclamations and temple causeways, Mhars have not the same inducement to become good cultivators as Kunbis and others who entirely depend on the outturn of their fields.
Many Marathas and some few Kunbis are proprietors with tenants. But the bulk of the cultivating classes are small landholders, many of them also working as field labourers. So dense is the population that nearly all are forced, in some way or other, to add to the store supplied by their fields. Every year, soon after harvest, Kunbis and Mhars migrate in thousands to Bombay and other labour markets, and return to their homes at the beginning of the next cultivating season, with money enough to buy seed grain and keep their families during the rainy months. In their absence the women and children live on the small store of grain they may have been able to keep over from the previous harvest, and eke out a subsistence by the sale of firewood, grass, and fowls. Marathas and Brahmans do not migrate to the same extent as Kunbis. But many of them enter the army, police, and other branches of Government service, and remit money to their relations who remain in Ratnagiri to look after the land. Musalmans engage in trade or in shipping and add the profits to what their lands yield them.
Not from high rents, but chiefly because the land fails to yield
enough food to support the people, there is considerable indebtedness
among cultivators. This is especially the case with Kunbis who
depend so much on labour for their support. If sick or unable to
find work during the fair season, the Kunbi can hardly fail to run
into debt. Among Brahmans, Marathas, Bhandaris, and Musalmans,
whose sources of extra income are more certain; law suits, family
ceremonies, and rich living are the chief causes of indebtedness.
Since the beginning of British rule, there has been no year of
distress so severe and general as to amount to famine. Of only two of the older famines, those of 1790 and 1802-03, does any information remain. Both of them seem to have been felt all over the district. In the three northern sub-divisions, Dapoli, Chiplun, and Ratnagiri, the famine of 1790 lasted from eight to ten months,
and that of 1802 from twelve to fourteen. On both occasions the Khed sub-division suffered severely. In 1802 rice is said to have risen to about four pounds for a shilling, and in 1792 the price was even higher. In Rajapur there was in 1792 scarcity of food for four months, and in 1802 for two or three months. Rice was sold at three pounds for a shilling. In Malvan, in 1802, the distress was great, and lasted for more than a year. Almost all the people of eight villages were carried off by hunger and disease. The survivors fled to Goa. To relieve the distress private food houses, annachhatras, were opened, and grain distributed daily. But these houses were too few, and the gifts of grain too small to do much to stay the general distress. In a few places, particularly in the Dapoli sub-division, the Peshwa's officers opened public relief houses. At Khed, the building now used as the Mamlatdar's office, was till very lately known as the relief-house, annachhatra. In 1802 in the south of the district the revenue was remitted. And for three years to tempt back those who had left, much less than the former rents were levied, and creditors were prevented from recovering their debts. In 1824 a very light rainfall was followed by a complete failure of crops in high grounds and a partial failure in low rice-lands. The very high price of grain in some degree made up for the scanty harvest, but the general loss was very great, and as the year before (1823) had also been unfavourable, large remissions of rent had to-be granted. [Colonel Etheridge's Famine Report (1868), 148-121.]
In 1876 an insufficient rainfall, 81 inches against an average of 104, caused much loss of crops. Public health was bad, and there was considerable distress. The first fall of rain in the second week of June was followed by a break so long as to do serious injury to the young plants. The latter rains entirely failed, and nearly the whole of the liarik, from one-half to three-fourths of the nagli and vari, and a quarter of the rice crop were lost. The failure told very seriously on the lower classes whose staple food, nagli,harik, and vari, rose from about forty-two to twenty-six pounds. To relieve distress, besides those begun by the Local Funds Committee, four public works, repairs to the Vijaydurg, Vaghotan, and Phonda pass road, making a road from Chiplun to Guhagar by Ibhrampur, improvements to the Phonda, Rajapur, and Lanja road, and a strengthening dam for the Pendur lake, were undertaken by Provincial Funds. Of a total of £7736 (Rs. 77,360) spent on relief works £3495 (Rs. 34,950) were debited to Local Funds and £4241 (Rs. 42,410) to Provincial Funds. Happily, an unusual demand for labour sprang up in and near Bombay, and it was estimated that double the usual number or at least 150,000 of the poorer workers moved to Bombay for part of the fair season, and returned with savings enough to last them till the next harvest (1877-78). This was very favourable as harik, the staple food of the poorer classes, was a bumper crop.