What are the essential characteristics of Jajmani System?



Jamani system is the backbone of rural economy and social order. Oscar Lewis has defined it thus: under this system each caste group within a village is expected to give certain standardised services to the families of other castes, thus, the barber dresses the hair of villagers; carpenter meets the wood-work requirements and iron smith makes agricultural implements and other household effects like tongs, hammer, buckets etc, which are made of iron.

The class of shopkeepers, Banias makes the provisions and numerous articles of daily use are available by collecting them from a wide variety of sources and the Brahmins help in carrying on various religious rites and ceremonies. Everyone works for certain family or a group of families, with whom he is working presently. Even his sons will perform same kind of duties for the specified families in futures as well. Thus professions and services in villages are determined by the caste and have come fixed by long traditions.

Under Jajmani system the family or families entitled to certain services from certain persons are called Jajman and the persons rendering those services are called Kameen of the Jajman. The term kameen means one who works for somebody or serves him. The terms jajman and Kameen, patron and auxiliary are popular in Northern Indian villages. Though jajmani system is found all over India, the terms used for jajman and kameen are different. The first detailed study of jajaman tradition in India was made by William H. Wiser in his books “the Indian jajmani system.

He for the first drew attention to jajmani system is nearly universal in Indian villages. In fact wiser had no idea about the extent to which jajmani system was prevalent in India. Oscar Lewis had made more elaborate study of this system. The sociological studies of Eastern Uttar Pradesh, Malabar, Cochin, Mysore district, Tanjore, Hyderabad, Gujarat and Punjab regions have revealed that jajmani system prevails in all regions though there are minor local differences.

Therefore, we are fully justified in saying that jajmani system is universal in Rural India, some minor regional variations not withstanding.

Indian Society is structured on caste patterns and the economic and professional relationship between various castes in this set up is called jajmani system. It is a pre-established division of labour among the castes sanctioned by religious and social traditions.

Jajmani is a peculiarity of Indian villages. In India professions are generally hereditary and there is a long tradition of families carrying on self-same professions over generations. Normally, there is no deviation from the hereditary professions. Thus the son of a carpenter will become carpenter and the son of an iron-smith will become an iron smith. Every Indian villager considers it natural right to engage in professions peculiar to his caste and, on account of long tradition, feels at home in it and easily acquires proficiency.

According to Webster’s Dictionary jajman is “a person by whom a Brahmin is hired to perform religion services, hence a patron, a client”.

Etymologically, the word Jajman is derived from the Sanskrit word Jajman which means a person who performs a Yajna and fro the purpose of performance of Yajna has to hire the services of a Brahmin. Gradually this word came to be applied to everyone who hired services or to whom some service was given. As N.S. Reddy observes, the farmer who engages carpenter or iron-smith for manufacture or repair of his tools is Jajman and the carpenter and the iron-smith are Kameen or Parjan.

Between Jajman and Parjan the relationship is hereditary and is based on tradition. Jajmans get a variety of jobs done by parjans as, for example, the barber dresses the hair and shaves the beard: Kahar brings water from the well or river as the case may be: sweeper does sanitary jobs. For these services Parjans are paid something. In a majority of cases farmers in Indian villages give grains for the services of the Parjans.

In modern times currency notes are fast replacing all other media of exchange even in villages. In Jajman system, Jajman enjoys so much respect that he is often referred to as Rajah (King) and Parjans as subjects.

Studied of Jajmani System:

Various studies of Jajman system in India have been made. As referred to earlier, Oscar Lewis studied Jajmani is North Indian villages. Jajmani in Eastern U.P was studied in 1955 by Opler and Singh and in 1955; N.S. Reddy studied this system in North India. Miller studied Jajmani system in Cochin in 1952, and in 1955, Sri Niwas and Bir Singh studied the same system in Mysore District. Sk. C. Dube’s Indian villages are based on his classics study of Jajmani in Hyderabad.

Jajmani in Tanjore was studied by though in 1955. In Gujarat Jajmani was studied by steel in 1953. An early study, in 1934, of Jajmani in Punjab was made by darling. All these studies revealed and confirmed the universality of this system in Rural India but they also revealed that there were minor variations in the system from regions to region.

Characteristics of Jajmani Systems:

The chief characteristics of Jajmani system are the following:

1) Relationshilp under Jajmani is permanent:

As is obvious from the various definitions given above the most striking and essential feature of the Jajmani system is that it ensures the availability of certain essential services to farmers. Thus on account of this system certain individuals or groups of them needed for assistance in agriculture or to meet the essential requirements of the agriculturists stay permanently in villages. Thus a village is able to function as a relatively self-sufficient unit it is on account of this system that if any Kameen leaves a village he provides for his substitute.

We also come across examples where Jajmani rights are sold. According to Shree Inderdatta Singh a Sweeper can sell his Jajmani rights for about Rupees 200. However, generally Jajmani rights are not sold. These are not even exchanged or transferred, because a kameen does not like to leave a particular village to go to some other village. Thus the system of Jajmani ensures that no one moves away from the village in which he was born so that there may be no disruption of services available in a village.

Thus a permanent structure of economic order and relationship among various classes in the villages is provided for and its continuance ensured by Jajmani system. In fact abdication of Jajmani rights amount to abandonment of natural birth rights. The abdication of these rights is not only economically hurtful but hurts also the prestige. Sometimes in order to prevent migration of a kameen from a village, great pressure is brought to bear his caste members.

S.S. Nehru has cited an instance of a village in which a law was framed by its Panchayat according to which no iron smith could leave the village. According to Dr. S.C. Dube while a Kameen has no right to desert his Jajman, the Jajman also has no right to replace his Kameen. That is, the spirit behind Jajmani system was to ensure life along fixed and permanent relations so that the rural economy was undisturbed.

According to S.C. Dube,” it is not easy for an agriculturist to remove a family attached to his household and secure the services of another. For example, A, barber is attached to the family of B, an agriculturist. If for any reason B is greatly dissatisfied with the services of A and wants those of another, he cannot abruptly dismiss A. His difficulty will not be in dismissing A, but finding a substitute.

Each of these castes has its own inter village council occupational castes have a developed trade unionism. No one else would be willing to Act as a substitute for fear of being penalized by the caste Panchayat.

2) Jajmani is hereditary:

Second major feature of Jajmani system is its being hereditary. According to Shri N.S. Reddy, the rights of Jajmani jobs are considered to be proprietary. These are passed on to sons from his father and in case of separation of brothers these rights are also split among them. If someone has no son but only a daughter Jajmani rights pass on to the husband of the daughter.

However Jajmani right are not equally distributed among families. For example, an iron smith may be giving services to 30 families, whereas another may have only 10 or less clients. Moreover, with the increase in the number of male members a family Jajmani rights are split among them and this leads to reduction in the number of clients. On the other hand, if there is rapid increase in the member of Jajman families the number of clients may grow.

3) Goods against Services:

Another important characteristics of Jajmani system is that instead of receiving cash payment against his services, the kameen is paid in kind, that is, he receive grains like wheat, rice etc, thus, under Jajmani system the relation between Jajmani and kameen is not that of employer and employee, as the case under the capitalist system. In fact, in return for the services of kameen, Jajman is anxious about the needs and welfare of the kameen and furnishes him goods he needs most.

The relationship between Jajman and kameen is not purely economic but is a human relationship. Accordingly, Jajman takes full responsibility for the welfare of kameen and kameen serves Jajman with devotion and dedication. Jajman not only provides kameen with food but also gives him clothing and residential accommodation. The amount of food grain given to kameen depends on the nature of services rendered.

In his study of Jajmani system in Rampur, Oscar Lewis collected following data regarding the amount of food given for each kind of work:

As can be gauged from the above mentioned list, Kameens get enough food to meet their personal requirements. That is why they prefer payment in kind rather that in cash. However, in these days there is a tendency to substitute by cash payment the payment in kind.

4) Peace and contentment:

According to W.H.Wiser a significant feature of Jajmani system is the peace and contentment which it provides to villagers. The Kameens of a Jajman feel a sense of security. They are free from the worry of finding employment to make booth ends meet. As the nature of the tasks they have toper form is well-known to them in advance, they feel great mental peace and are well prepared for these tasks, and this saves them the botheration of adjustment.

However, the picture is to altogether rosy. There are quite a few instances in which kameens are exploited and given little for their services.

5) Differences in the scope of work:

Under Jajmani system the range of activity of different Kameens is not uniform. It is not necessary that a certain Kameen should work only for a single family or even a single village. If the nature of his work or activity is such that he can effectively cater to the needs of two or three villages there is no provision in Jajmani system against such an arrangement.

For example, a family needs the services of a barber once or twice a week and these, too, for an hour or so. Naturally, therefore a barber can easily caster to the needs of a dozen or so families. He can even work in ore than one village. In certain instances, a shop-keeper is able to carry on his activities of making general provisions available in a range of 10 to 20 miles from a village.

Thus in many villages we do not find one shop keeper carrying on his duties exclusively is one village in which he has his headquarters. The range, scope or spread of activities of any Kameen is determined by the nature of his activity. For example, while it is not possible for a sweeper to cater to the needs of more than a handful of families, a barber or a shop keeper may be able to operate in more than one village.

Another factor which restricts or widens the spread of one’s activity is the nature of demand and supply. If a village is prosperous it may have one or more shop keeper but if the village is small and demand of goods is low, there may not be one exclusive shop keeper in that village. We do not find shoe-makers in every village. S.S. Nehru studied 54 North Indian villages and found that only in 18 of them there were shoe makers.

Potters were in 30%of the villages and shop keepers only 16%. Ahirs were found in 60% and Brahmin, barber and ironsmith and Teli were found each in 40% of the villages. From the above survey it is plain that not every type of Kameen is to be found in every village. In the absence of a particular Kameen people perform that task by themselves or go to other village for it. For example, residents of a village may get hair dress from a neighboring village.