A brave warrior and a successful conqueror, Sher Shah was the architect of a brilliant administrative system. In fact, his qualities as a ruler were more remarkable than his victories on the battlefields. His brief reign of five years was marked by the introduction of wise and salutary changes in every conceivable branch of administration. Some of these were by way of revival and reformation of the traditional features of the old administrative systems of India, Hindu as well as Muslim, while others were entirely original in character, and form, indeed, a link between ancient and modern India. Sher Shah’s government was a highly centralized system with real power concentrated in the hands of the King, but he was not an unbridled autocrat, regardless of the rights and interests of the people. In the spirit of an enlightened despot, he attempted to found an empire broadly based upon the people’s will.
For administrative convenience, the whole empire was divided into forty-seven units (Sarkars), each of which was again subdivided into several parganas. The pargana has one Amin, one Shiqdar, one treasurer, one Hindu writer and one Persian writer to keep accounts. Over the next higher administrative unit, the sarkar, were placed a Shiqdar-i-Shiqdaran and a Munsif-i-Munsifan to supervise the work of the pargana officers. To check undue influence of the officers in their respective jurisdictions, the King devised a plan of transferring them every two or three years. Every branch of the administration was subjected to Sher Shah’s personal supervisions.
Sher Shah’s land revenue reforms, based on wise and humane principles, have unique importance in the administrative history of India; for they served as the model for future agrarian systems. After a careful and proper survey of the lands, he settled the land revenue directly with the cultivators, the State demand being fixed at one-fourth or one-third of the average produce, payable in kind or cash. For actual collection of revenue, the government utilized the services of the officers like the Amins, the Maqadam, the Shiqdars, the Qanungos and the Patwaris. Punctual and full payment of the revenue was insisted. Sher Shah instructed the revenue officials to show leniency at the time of assessment and to be strict at the time of collection of revenues. The rights of the tenants were duly recognized and the liabilities of each were clearly defined in the Kabuliyat (deed of agreement), which the State took from him, and the patta (title-deed), which it gave him in return. Remissions of rents were made, and probably loans were advanced to the tenants in case of damage of crops, caused by the encampment of soldiers, or the insufficiency of rain. These revenue reforms increased the resources of the state and at the same time conduced to the interest of the people.
The currency and tariff reforms of Sher Shah were also calculated to improve the general economic conditions of his Empire. He introduced some specific changes in the mint of coins. He reformed the tariff by removing vexatious customs and permitting the imposition of customs on articles of trade only at the frontiers and in the places of sale.
Trade and commerce was greatly increase by the improvement of communications. For the purpose of imperial defense, as well as for the convenience of the people, Sher Shah connected the important places of his kingdom by chain of excellent roads. The longest of these, the Grand Trunk Road, which still survives, extended for 1500 kos from Sonargaon in Eastern Bengal to the Indus. Shade-giving trees were planted on both side of the roads. Sarais or rest houses were built at different stages and separate arrangements were provided for the Muslims and the Hindus. These sarais also served as the purpose of post-houses, which facilitated quick exchange of news and supplied the government with information from different parts of the Empire. The maintenance of an efficient system of espionage also enabled the ruler to know what happened in his kingdom.
To secure peace and order, the police system was re-organized, and the principle of local responsibility for local crimes was enforced. The village headmen were made responsible for the maintenance of law and order in the rural areas.
Sher Shah has a strong sense of justice and no distinctions were made between the high and the low. In the paragana / pargana, civil suits were disposed off by the Amin, and other cases mostly criminal by the Qazi and Mir-i-Adal. In some parganas, civil cases were tried by Munsif-i-Munsifan. At the capital city there were the chief Qazi, the imperial Sadr, and above all, the Emperor as the highest authority in judicial as in other matters.
Though a pious Muslim, Sher Shah was not a fierce bigot. His treatment of the Hindus in general was tolerant and just.
Sher Shah realized the importance of maintaining a strong and efficient army, and so re-organized it. He maintained a regular army as such the soldiers were bound to him through their immediate-commanding officer by the strong tie of personal devotion and discipline. He had under him a direct command of a large force consisting of 150,000 cavalry, 25,000 infantry, 300 elephants and artillery. Garrisons were maintained at different strategic points of the kingdom; each of these called a fauj, was under the command of a faujdar. Sher Shah enforced strict discipline in the army and took ample precautions to prevent corruption among the soldiers. Besides, duly supervising the recruitment of soldiers, he personally fixed their salaries and took their descriptive rolls. He also revived the practice of branding horse.
From the above account we can conclude that Sher Shah was one of the greatest monarchs that had ever ruled India. He was truly a great commander as a well as one the greatest administrator in India.