(21) Baniayn and Darogha [[98-100]]
[] The baniayns being, without doubt, the first in
as well as in rank, claim priority of description. These are,
Hindoos, possessing in general very large property, with most extensive
credit and influence.
A baniayn invariably rides in his palkee, attended by several underling sirkars, hurkarus, &c. He to a certain degree rules the office, entering it generally with little ceremony, making a slight obeisance, and never putting off his slippers: a privilege which, in the eyes of the natives, [] at once places him on a footing of equality with his employer. Under such a system, it was easy for the baniayns to effect the ruin of any individual; while it was impossible for any man in distress to conceal his circumstances, so as to obtain a loan, or to extend his credit. Hence the courts of law were full of cases in which baniayns were plaintiffs.
Of late years, the case has greatly altered; for if we except a few large concerns, such as banking-houses and the principal merchants who, having valuable cargoes on hand, are each under the necessity of retaining one of this gang, for the purpose of obtaining cash to make up payments, or to advance for investments, baniayns are become obsolete.
There was formerly little opportunity for securing money, except on mortgage, or in the Company's treasury. Few, however, now think of lending money at less than twelve percent, which is the legal interest; and as the Company never receive loans at that rate, except when pressed by exigency; and the great agency-houses continue to make such an immense profit as enables them to pay so high for money accommodation, the floating property belonging to individuals, with little exception, falls into their hands. Thus there is little occasion for baniayns; whose former extensive influence is now confined to the above concerns, and to the management of elephant, bullock, or other contracts. Those animals they often buy of the contractor, either for a specific sum, or an annual contingent; so as entirely to exempt him from the responsibility and the management.
This description of persons may be classed with the superior debashes of the Carnatic; and though there certainly have been found some individuals who might fairly claim exemption from the accusation, yet generally speaking, the present baniayns, who attach themselves to the [] captains of European ships, may, without the least hazard of controversion, be considered as nothing more or less than Rum-Johnnies of a larger growth. Some usurp the designation of dewan, which implies an extensive delegated power; that office, under the emperors of Hindostan, and even now in the courts of Lucknow, Hydrabad, &c., being confidential, and never bestowed but on persons in high favour.
The darogah or gomashtu (factor, or superintendant) is an office rarely held under Europeans, though extremely common in the services of native princes, and of men of opulence. Some of our merchants appoint persons to attend to their concerns in remote parts; such as the timber-dealers in the Morungs, and the iron-smelters in various parts. The contractors for elephants, camels, bullocks, horses, &c. have also their agents at the various stations. In general, these are common sirkars, who assume the title of darogah by way of pre-eminence, without any authority from their employers, and often without their knowledge. They, however, are rarely averse to such an assumption; which, while it gratifies their vanity, costs nothing. The darogahs, or, more properly, the sirkars, frequently call themselves naibs, or deputies. This seems a more modest term; but among the natives it is considered as equally consequential; especially when the principal never eclipses the self-created deputy, by personal attendance to his own affairs. Many of this class are considered as approaching to menials.