THE 1872 census returns showed twenty-four bankers and money changers, and 5337 merchants and traders. Most of the latter were
probably capitalists only in name, trading on borrowed money. Under the head capitalists and traders, the 1878 license tax assessment papers show 3310 persons. Of 2290 assessed on yearly incomes of more' than £10, 340 had from £10 to £15, 998 from £15 to £25, 380 from £25 to £35, 168 from £35 to £50, 133 from £50 to £75, 96 from £75 to £100, 51 from £100 to £125, 17 from £125 to £150, 32 from £150 to £200,39 from £200 to £300, 16 from £300 to £400, 9 from £400 to £500, 6 from £500 to £750, one from £750 to £1000, and one over £1000.
The imperial currency is at present the sole circulating medium.
Up to 1835, the chief coin was the Surat rupee, supplemented by various older rupees known as Chandvad, Doulatabad, Hukeri, Chikodi, and the Emperor Akbar's interesting old chavkoni or square rupee. The south Konkan has never had a local mint. None of the adventurers who, from time to time, rose like the Angrias to half independence, affected a private mint or a special superscription. The currency was mixed, the brisk sea trade bringing into the district every sort of Indian coin. Since 1835, the Company's rupee has gradually superseded this heterogeneous currency. Till lately a few Surat and other coins continued to find their way into the Government treasuries. But their circulation has entirely ceased. The few that remain are kept as relics and curiosities by rich traders. The square Akbari rupees now very rare, are held in great veneration, and much prized as 'luck pennies.' According to the 1872 census returns, there were four money changers, sarafs, and twenty who were bankers as well as money changers.
There are strictly speaking no banks in the district. The most
important moneylenders are called Savkars; but they do not, as a rule, open deposit accounts.
None of the local merchants or traders carry on insurance business. Cotton cargoes from Vengurla, Rajapur, and Chiplun, are insured in Bombay.
The leading Ratnagiri traders grant exchange bills, hundis, payable at the following towns; Poona, Baroda, Belgau in, Bombay,
Satara, Shahapur, Gokak, Ramdurg, Vengurla, Rajapur, Chiplun,
Sangameshvar, Malkapur, Mahad, Rohe, Revdanda, Goregaon, Karhad, Dharwar, Hubli, Sangli, Miraj, and Kurundvad. On bills granted at sight a premium of from ½ to 1 per cent (8 as. -1 rupee) is charged and on bills payable at from five to forty-one days after sight the premium ranges from ½ to ¾ per cent (8-12 as.). No bills are drawn for periods of more than forty-one days' sight.
Of townspeople, the only classes who save habitually are traders,
moneylenders, pleaders, Government officials, and occasionally
skilled artisans. In the rural parts, usurers and shopkeepers alone, as a rule, put by money. The cultivating classes are rarely in a position to save. Most cultivators, who are registered occupants, have to borrow on the security of the coming crop, while the wages earned by field labourers during the agricultural season, from May to November, enable them to tide over only a portion of the year. For the rest of the year both classes are compelled to seek work in Bombay. Muhammadans as a class make little, and save less. In the coast villages, the most influential Bhandaris, owning large palm gardens, engage in the liquor trade, and often acquire moderate wealth, and here and there a thrifty husbandman by lending his savings scrapes together a little money. But with cultivators as a class, the possession of capital is the exception, the want of it, the rule. Any surplus cash which may find its way into a cultivator's hands is generally hoarded and buried underground. Very few of the lower classes attempt to increase their store by the profitable investment of their savings. The seafaring and fishing population, in all about 80,000 souls, chiefly Musalmans of the Daldi class, Gabits, Kolis, Kharvis, and here and there a few Bhandaris, are, as a rule, very independent and in fairly comfortable circumstances. As a class they are more improvident and less frugal than the cultivators. The most prosperous among them seldom save more than enough, after many years of labour, to build a small fishing smack, and to keep up their stock of nets and fishing tackle. A cultivator, labourer, or fisherman, whose yearly income falls short of £5 (Rs. 50), can lay by nothing. If he has more than £5 (Rs. 50), he may, if frugal and with a small family, save. But such savings are usually absorbed in marriages and other family expenses. A Government clerk drawing less than £3 (Rs. 30) a month, cannot, as a rule, lay by money. On the general question of expenditure no exact calculation can be made, as expenses very largely depend on the number of persons whom the head of the family supports. Marriages, caste feasts, and other special expenses vary greatly according to the position and wealth of the entertainer. But on the whole the poorer classes in Ratnagiri are in this respect far less extravagant than the Deccan cultivators. It is also worthy of note that the necessary expenditure on these religious and festive occasions is said to be considerably less now than it was forty years ago. Whether this reform is due to greater enlightenment, or, as some would say, to stern necessity, is open to argument. Whatever may be the cause, the result is that to provide the funds for their daughters' weddings, the poor classes have to stint themselves and live below their fair standard of comfort.
Savings are very rarely invested either in Government securities or in joint stock shares. In 1879 the amount paid as interest to holders, of Government paper was £111 (Rs. 1110). The Govern- ment Savings Bank is used almost exclusively by Government servants and pleaders, who find it the safest and least troublesome way of disposing of their surplus cash. The institution attracts very few deposits from other classes. In 1879 the Savings Bank's deposits amounted to £3140 (Rs. 31,400).
Building sites are not much sought after as an investment.
Except in the larger towns, such as Chiplun, Rajapur, and Vengurla, where there is a considerable trade, building plots have little value, and yield little return. Arable land is everywhere in great demand. The district is thickly peopled, and nearly the whole available arable area has long since been taken up. The produce of the land is never enough for the people's food. Every year grain has to be brought from Bombay, the Deccan, and southern Maratha country, so that in spite of the ruggedness of the district and the poverty of the soil, land is valuable and much sought after. The holdings of peasant proprietors, dharekaris[The dharekari holds his land direct from the state and pays iris assessment in Cash. Subject to the state demand he has a full right in his holding, and may inherit, sell, and mortgage, and, within certain limits, re-enter after relinquishment. In villages where there are khots, or hereditary village farmers, the dharekari pays his rent through the khots. The khot can claim no profit from the dharakari. The khot's only claim over peasant-held, dhara, land is a reversionary interest when it has finally lapsed. Details are given below, p. 205.] are most in demand. The average sale value of rice land held on this
tenure is about £10 (Rs. 100) an acre, and near the large coast towns as much as £40 to £50 (Rs. 400-500) is often realised. The average acre value of dry crop, varkas, land yielding only coarse lull grains, [The chief hill grains are nachni Eleusine coracana, vari, Panicum miliare, and harik Paspalum scrobiculatum.] is from £1 10s. to £5 (Rs. 15-50) the acre. The lands of the quasi-dharekaris, who, under the name of daspatkaris or dupatkaris, are found in the Dapoli sub-division, are also transferable by sale and mortgage: but as they are all burdened by the liability to pay the khot some fixed profit over and above the state demand, they do not much commend themselves to investors. Next to peasant holdings the best form of land investment is the purchase of the estates of the superior holders known as khots.[The khot is the superior holder, or a coparcenary of superior holders, who have the hereditary right of settling with Government for the whole village rental. The khot, or the members of the khot coparcenary, usually hold and farm a small portion of the village lands themselves. The rest of the lands are sub-let to husbandmen most of whom are privileged tenants, or tenants by prescriptive right, who cannot be ousted so long as they pay the khot the customary, or if agreed on, a fixed proportion of the. crop. Standing crops are annually inspected and the outturn appraised by the khot. Only about five per cent of the tenants are now tenants-at-will paying rack-rents. Details are given below, p. 208.] In former years the acquisition of a khoti estate, with the power position and influence it brought, was an object of ambition to many arising family. Within the last ten or twenty years the popularity of these investments has declined. The minute sub-division of shares and consentient disputes
and litigation, the tenants' growing independence, and the increasing
difficulty in collecting rents, the uncertainty regarding rights and
privileges claimed by the khots and disputed by the state, have all
more or less contributed to this effect. [Mr. Crawford's reply to the Famine Commission, 1879.]
Still they yield fair profits,
and a yearly return of from six to twelve per cent is usually expected
and realised. The occupancy rights of tenants in khoti lands are
heritable but not ordinarily transferable by sale or mortgage. The
purchase of such rights, even could it be effected, would yield little
or no return, as after paying the khot's demand, only a margin
sufficient for the bare subsistence of the cultivator usually remains.
Occasionally khoti tenants who. have money to invest, purchase or
become mortgagees of their occupancies from the khots, or in other
words redeem, either for ever or for a time, the rent levied by the
khot over and above the Government assessment. When this is
done the khot levies the state demand only, and the tenant becomes
virtually a peasant holder, dharekari.[The following instances occurred, in the Guhagar petty division of Chiplun. In 1845, a khot sold for £12 10s. (Rs. 125) to the occupany tenant 1 12/40 acres of rice land and 2 1/5 acres of dry crop, 3 30/40 acres in all assessed at 13s. 4d. (Rs. 6-11-6). In 1869 the buyer mortgaged the same land to a third party for £90 (Rs. 200). In another case 1 33/40 acres of rice land assessed at 8s. (Rs. 4) were mortgaged by the khot to the occupancy tenant for £7 4s. (Rs. 72). In another 1 34/40 acres of rice land assessed at 3s. 4d. (Rs. 2-10-9) were mortgaged for £5 (Rs. 50). In another about a third (15/40ths) of an acre of rice land assessed at 1s. 10½d, (15 as.) was mortgaged for £2 10s. (Rs. 25). In another rice and dry crop land measuring together 11 11/40 acres and assessed at 9s. 2d. (Rs. 4-9-6) were mortgaged for £5 8s. (Rs. 54). In another rice and dry crop land measuring together 425/40 acres, assessed at 16s. 9¾d. (Rs. 8-6-6), were mortgaged for £6 (Rs. 60). These cases, which vary much as to the proportion borne by the Government assessment to the sale or mortgage value of the dues redeemed, are not common and are found only in certain parts of the district.] But such cases are unusual
as few khot tenants are in a position to redeem by a lump payment
the customary dues of their superior holders.
In addition to dhara and khoti estates, here and there salt wastes and tidal swamps require capital to bring them under tillage. The state has always reserved its right of letting such lands for cultivation. Improvement leases, istawakauls, were granted by the Maratha government, and by this means a large area of swamp has from time to time been converted into valuable rice land and cocoanut gardens. In such cases a nominal rent is levied for a term of years, and then the full assessment is charged. These haul lands, when brought under full cultivation, command a high price, but are not often in the market. Reclamations usually require a considerable outlay, but where an investor can afford to let his money lie idle for a few years, and has not to borrow at ruinous interest, they eventually yield a good return.
Except in the larger towns, houses are very seldom built as a
speculation. Well-to-do traders, retired Government servants, and pleaders, build for their own use substantial and comfortable dwellings, but seldom let them to tenants. Ornaments are almost a necessity to all classes, and a considerable amount of capital is thus unproductively locked up either in the owner's or the pawn broker's hands. The very poorest women of the Maratha and Kunbi
castes have, at least, a gold or silver-gilt nose ring, nath, a necklace of gold and glass beads strung on silk cord, galsari, and a pair of gold or gilt earrings, bugdi; while the men almost without exception have a single gold earring, bhikbdli, worn on the upper lobe of the right ear, and a silver waistbelt, kargota.
Other ornaments are added as funds admit, such as silver toe rings, jodvi, silver armlets, vaki, strings of old Venetian coins, putlis, and gold hair ornaments, ketak, for the women, and finger rings for the men. Amongst the higher castes such as Brahmans and Shenvis, no woman's dress is complete without, in' addition to the nose ring, earrings bugdi, and necklace galsari, a gold neck chain sari, a pair of gold bracelets patli, a pair of gold earrings with pearl pendants kap, worn lower on the ear than the bugdi, and another neck ornament called thushi. The younger women also wear heavy silver anklets, todas. Men of the same class wear gold and gem finger rings, a gold necklace of a pattern called kanthi, and occasionally, though not always, the single earring bhikbali. To these the rich add various other ornaments and trinkets. It is difficult to estimate the capital represented by the people's ornaments. The license tax returns of 1878 give a total of 2008 working Sonars or gold and silversmiths, or one for every five hundred of the population, all of whom, it is to be presumed, find employment in making new or re-making old ornaments. Numbers of the inhabitants also who visit Bombay buy ornaments there, and Ratnagiri sepoys, while on service in other parts of the Presidency, invest their savings in ornaments. The value of a family's ornaments may be said to range from about 10s. to £100 (Rs. 5-1000).
Occasionally the leading merchants invest in native craft, patimars or phatemaris,kotids,machvas and padavs, generally buying them ready made and equipped. Native craft are also often mortgaged by their needy owners to moneylenders. But most of the vessels employed in the carrying trade are the property of the seafaring classes, Daldis, Kolis, Bhandaris, Kharvis, and Gabits. Eight per cent is considered a fair rate of interest on capital invested in shipping, and the average cost of a new vessel is about £28 the ton (Rs. 10 the khandi).
No class has a monopoly in usury. All who are able to Have, from the wealthiest Gujar to the poorest Brahman beggar, occasionally lend
money. Besides Brahmans and Gujars, though few of them are professional moneylenders, Shenvis, Prabhus, Vanis, Bhatias, Marathas, Kunbis, Bhandaris, Musalmans, Dhangars, and, inrare instances, even Mhars, advance money on bonds. In khoti villages the hereditary or vatandarkhots, who receive most of their dues in kind, are the chief grain dealers and moneylenders. Their position corresponds to that of the Deccan Savkars, with this difference, that having a direct hereditary interest in the prosperity of their villages and the welfare of their tenants, they are more liberal in their dealings with their debtors. On the other hand, mortgagee khots, unfortunately rather common in Ratnagiri, who hold estates for a limited time, are almost always unpopular, having no permanent interest, and being
naturally anxious to get in a short time the largest possible return.
No Marvadis have as yet established themselves in this district.
Only the more important moneylenders, Gujars and Brahmans,
keep a regular day book, kird, and ledger, khatavni. The usual
practice among Brahmans and other educated creditors is to have Lending their accounts written on loose balance sheets, shilakband. Petty
lenders, and those unable to read and write, keep no accounts and rely
solely on their bonds. Gujars, Brahmans, and most educated
moneylenders advance money to ail classes of borrowers, while
Marathas, Kunbis, and Musalmans deal with the poorer cultivators.
The same rates of interest are charged by both. Combinations
among different creditors against a common debtor are rare. Each
creditor acts independently and does the best for himself. As a last
resource the civil courts are always resorted to for the recovery of
debts, but decrees are not always executed. The judgment creditor
prefers to got a mortgage from the debtor of property equivalent
in value to the amount of the decree, or of his whole estate if
less in value than the claim. If he succeeds in this, he is content to
let the decree stand over; if he fails, he obtains execution, and at
the auction usually buys the debtors' property at a nominal price. The
judgment creditor is generally the only bidder. Prior encumbrances
and uncertainty as to the precise interest of the debtor in the
property choke off competition. The judgment creditor obtains
formal possession, but frequently, either of his own free will or
to avoid further trouble, on his executing an agreement to pay rent,
allows the debtor to remain as his tenant. Imprisonment is not often
resorted to, and cases of claims being written off as bad debts are
unknown. Complaints by debtors that bonds have been forged or
passed without consideration, or that part payments have not been
credited, or that excessive rent has been charged, are occasionally
made, but seldom proved. Instances in which debtors have been
collusively kept in ignorance of suits filed against them are either
unknown or very rare.
The Government rupee is the standard in all moneylending
transactions. Except in Malvan, and by the Gujars who use the samvat year, and in rare cases when the Christian year is employed, interest is charged for the shak year. If the term exceeds three years no charge is made for the intercalary month. When adequate security is offered, there is no marked difference in the rates of interest levied from different classes of borrowers. But advances on personal security depend for their terms solely on the credit of the individual borrower. The rate charged on petty loans, secured by pledging ornaments or other movable property, varies from twelve to twenty-four per cent. In very extreme cases as much as thirty-six per cent is said to be exacted. In towns the ruling rate is somewhat less than in villages. Advances on personal security are made at from twenty-five to thirty-six per cent according to the credit of the borrower. Money advances with a lien on crops are seldom made. Grain both for seed and subsistence is habitually borrowed by the poorer cultivators to be repaid at harvest time with an additional fourth of the quantity lent. This is called the savai, or one and a
quarter system, and as these loans are usually repaid in about six months, the charge is equivalent to a yearly rate of fifty per cent. Provided the title is undisputed, valuable effects can be mortgaged at from nine to twelve per cent interest, and lands and houses at from six to nine per cent.