History of the Muslims of Bengal – Livelihood
Even many small traders and the artisan classes like the weavers, paper and salt manufacturers and fishermen had a sound base in agricultural lands and spent a part of their time in agricultural pursuits. Purely landless labourers were very few, and even they were engaged in various professions. According to Rennel at least 30,000 people were constantly employed as boatmen on the Bengal Rivers by the middle of the 18th century.
Secondly, through out the centuries, the country had a big surplus in food and cloth, the two most important necessitates of life, which were produced in abundance and which formed the chief items of the country’s export trade. Almost each family in the rural areas produced sufficient rice, if not more, to meet its needs. Each family had also its vegetable gardens, and cattle and fowl stocks, or little family dairy farms, so to say, for rearing meat, milk and egg. This was in addition to the fruit trees, specially coconut and betel – nut trees that form an essential part of every homestead in the southern districts. Similarly fish was available in almost legendary abundance.
[Source: History of The Muslims of Bengul Vol 1B page 959. Publisher: Imam Muhammad Bin Sa’ud University. First Edition 1406H/1985