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FOREST SOCIETY AND COLONIALIM
ADVANTAGES OF FOREST
(i) Play a major role in improving the quality of environment, modify the local climate, controls soil erosion , regulate stream flow, support a variety of industries, provide livelihood for many communities and after opportunities for recreation .
(ii) Forest adds to the floor large quantities of leaves, twigs and branches which after decomposition forms humus.
(iii) Provided industrial wood, limber, fuel wood, fodder and several other minor products of great economic value.
(iv) They also provide natural environment for wild life, play an important role in maintaining the life support system.
The disappearance of forest is referred to as deforestation .deforestation is not a recent problem. The process began many centuries ago; but under colonial rule it became more systematic and extensive.
(a) Land to be improved:
(i) As population increased over the centuries and the demand for food went up, peasants extended the boundaries of cultivation, clearing forests and breaking new land.
(ii) The British directly encouraged production of commercial crops like jute, sugar, wheat and cotton. the demand for these crops increased in nineteenth-century Europe where foodgrains were needed to feed the growing urban population and raw materials were required for industrial production.
(iii) In the early nineteenth century, the colonial state thought that forests were unproductive. They were considered to be wilderness that had to be brought under cultivation so that the land could yield agricultural products and revenue and enhance the income of the state. so between 1880 and 1920, cultivated area rose by 6.7 million hectares.
(b) Sleepers on the Tracks:
(i) Due to high demand, oak forests in England were disappearing. This created a problem of timber supply for the Royal Navy which required it for building ships. To get the supply of oak for the ship industry British stared exploring Indian forests on a massive scale.
(ii) The spread of railways from the 1850s created a new demand. To run locomotives, wood was needed as fuel. As railway was expanding, the demand for rule also became very high.
(iii) To lay railway lines sleepers were essential to hold the tracks together. Each mile of railway track required between 1760 and 2000 sleepers. to fulfil the demand of sleepers’ tress were felled on massive scale. Up to 1946, the length of the tracks had increased to over 765000km. as the railway tracks spread through India, a larger numbers of trees were felled. Forests around the railway tracks started disappearing.
Large areas of natural forests were also cleared to make way for tea, coffee and rubber plantations to meet Europe’s growing need for these commodities. The colonial government took over the forests, and gave vast areas to European planters at cheap at cheap rates. These areas were enclosed and cleared of forests, and planted with tea or coffee.
THE RISE OF COMMERCIAL FORESTARY
In India colonial rulers needed huge supplies of wood for railways and ship. This led to widespread deforestation. The British government got alarmed. The government invite Dietrich Brandis,a German expert on forests, for advice, he was appointed as the First inspector General of Forests in India. Brandis emphasized that rules need be framed about the use of forest wealth. Brandis realized that a proper system had to be introduced to mange the forests and people had to be scienc of conservation. This system needed legal sanction. It was at his initiatives that;
(i) Indian Forest Service was set up in 1864.
(ii) Indian Forest Act was enacted in 1865
(iii) Imperial Forest Research institute was set up in 1906. The system they taught here was called ‘scientific forestry’.
The 1878 Act divided forests into three categories: reserved, protected and village forests. The best forests were called ‘reserved forestry’. Villagers could not take anything from these forests, even for their own use. For house building or fuel, they could take wood from protected or village forests.
(a) How were the Lives of People Affected?
The Forest Act meant severs hardship for villagers across the country. After the Act all their everyday practice - cutting wood for their houses, grazing their cattle, collecting fruits and roots, hunting and fishing n- became illegal. People were now forced to steal wood from the forests, and if they were caught, they were at the mercy of the forest guards who would take bribes from them. Women who collected fuel wood were especially worried. It was also common for police constables and forest guards to harass people by demanding free food from them.
(b) How did Forest Rules Affect Cultivation?
One of the major impacts of European colonialism was off the practice of shifting cultivation or swidden agriculture. Shifting cultivation as a system of agriculture has the following features:
(i) Parts of forests are cut and burnt in rotation
(ii) Seeds are sown in the ashes sifter the first monsoon rains.
(iii) Crop is harvested by October-November.
(iv) Such plots are cultivated for a couple of years and then left-fallow for 12 to 18 years for the forest to grow back. Shifting cultivation has been practiced in many parts of Asia, Africa and South America. In India, it is known by different names, such as dhya, panda, bewar, nevad, jhum, podu, khandad and kumri .
The colonial government banned this practice of shifting cultivation. They felt that land which was used for cultivation every few years could not grow trees for railway timber. When a forest was burnt, there was the added danger of the flames spreading and burning valuable timber. Shifting cultivation also made it harder for the government to calculate taxes .therefore , the government decided to ban shifting
(c) Who could Hunt?
(i) Before the forest laws, many people who lived in or near forest had survived by deer, partridges and a variety of small animals. This customary practice was prohibited by the forest laws. Those who were caught hunting were now punished for poaching.
(ii) While the forest laws deprived people of their customary right to hunt, hunting of big game became a sport. Under colonial rule the scale of hunting increased to such an extent that various species became almost extinct. The British saw large animals as signs of a wild, primitive and savage society. They believed that by killing dangerous animals the British would cavil India. They gave rewards for killing big animals on the grounds that they pose a threat to cultivators. Initially certain areas of frosts were reserved for hunting. Only much later did environmentalists and conservators begin to argue that all these species of animals needed to be protected, and not killed.
(d) Affects of the new forest laws on nomadic and pastoralist communities:
Nomadic and pastoral communities do not maintain a permanent place of residence. they own a herd of cattle and keep moving from one place to another in search of food and shelter for thernselves and for themselves and for their cattle wealth. Under colonial rule, the life of these communities changed dramatically.
(i) Their grazing grounds shrank.
(ii) Their movements were regulated.
(iii) The revenue they had to pay increased.
(iv) Their agricultural stock declined
(v) Their trades and crafts were adversely affected.
(e) Affects of the new forest taws on firms training in timber/forest produce:
(i) The new forest policy of the British ruined the prospects of several firms trading in tiber and forest produce.
(ii) Through various laws, many restrictions were imposed on th local firms.
(iii) With the coming of the Brites, tread was completely regulated by the govermment. the trading rights were given to many large European firms.
(iv) The local people of the firms which were the real owner of the forests were forced to work for large European traders and firms
(f) Affects of the new forest laws on Plantation owners:
(i) Large areas of forests were cleared to make way for tea, coffee and rubber plantation.
(ii) Most of the plantation estates were owned by the European traders.
(iii) These European traders started making huge profit.
(iv) The Indian traders and plantation workers were left at the mercy of the European plantation owner.
(g) Impact a various Forests Laws on the Colonial People:
(i) Various restrictions: The forest act meant severe hardships for villagers across the country. After the act, all their forest activates like cutting wood for their houses, grazing their cattle, collecting fruits and roots, hunting and fishing became illegal.
(ii) Impact on cultivators shifting cultivation was the most common cultivation practiced by the people, But this was banned because European foresters regarded this’d harmful for the forests.
(iii) Displacement of the people. To protect the forests, the Europeans started displacing villagers without any notice or compensation.
(iv) Various taxes. The Europeans started imposing heavy taxes on the forest people.
(v) Loss of livelihood: the European started giving large European trading firms the sole rights to trade in the forests. Grazing and hunting by local people were restricted in the process, many pastoralists and nomadic communities lost their livelihood.
REBELLION IN THE FOREST
In many parts of the India, and across the world, forest communities rebelled against the changes that were being imposed on them. The leaders of these movements against the British like Sidhu and Kanu in the Santhat Santinal Pargans, Birs Munda of Chottanagur or Alluri Sitaram Raju of Andhra Pradesh are still remembered today in songs and stories.
(a) The People of Bastar:
Bastar is located in the southernmost of Chhattisgarh and borders of Andhra Pradesh, Orissa and Maharashtra. A number of different communities live in Bastar such as Maria and Muria Gonds, Dhurwas, Bhatras and Halbas . The tribal people had formulated strict rules and regulations about how to manage and use the forests. They believed that each village was given its land by the earth , and in return, they look after the earth by making some offerings at each agricultural festival. Since each village knows where is boundaries lie, the local people look after all the natural resources within that boundary. It people from a village want to take some wood from the forests of another village, they pay a small fee called Devsari, dand or man in exchange. Some villages also protected their forests by engaging watchmen .
(b) The Fears of the People:
(i) In 1905 British Government proposed to reserve two-third of the forests, to stop shifting cultivatation, hunting and collection of forest produce, the people of Bastar were very worried. For long, villagers had been suffering from increased land rents and frequent demands for free labor and goods by colonial officials. Then came the terrible famines, in 1899-1900 and again in 1907-1908. Reservations proved to be the last straw.
(ii) The initiative was taken by the Dhurwas of the Kanger forest, where reservation first took place. Although there was no single leader, many people speak of Gunda Dhur, from village Nethanar, as an important figure in the movement in 1910, mango boughs, a lump of earth, chilies and arrows, began or culating between villages. These were actually messages inviting villagers to rebel against the British. Every village contributed something to the rebellion expenses. Bazaars were looted, the houses of officials and traders, schools and police station were burnt and robbed, and grain redistributed. Most of those who were attacked were in some way associated with the colonial state and its oppressive laws.
(iii) The British sent troops to suppress the rebellion. The adivasi leaders tried to negotiate, but the British surrounded their camps and fired upon them. After that they marched through the villages flogging and punishing those who had taken part in the rebellion. Most villages were deserted as people fied into the jungles. It took three months for the British to regain control. However, they never managed to capture Gunda Dhur.
(iv) In an major victory for the rebels, work on reservation was temporarily suspended, and the area to be reserved was reduced to roughly half of that planned before 1910. The revolt also inspired the other tribal people to rebel against the unjust policies of the British Government.
FOREST TRANSFORMATION IN JAVA
Java in Indonesia is where the Dutch started forest management. Like the British, they wanted timber from Java to build ships .in 1600 the population of Java was an estimated 3.4 million. There were many villages in the fertile plains, but there were also many communities living in the mountains and practicing shifting cultivation.
(a) The Woodcutters of Java:
The Kalangs of Java were a community of skilled forest cutters and shifting cultivators. When the Dutch began to gain control over the forests in the eighteenth century, they tried to make the Kalangs work under them. In 1770, the Kalangs resisted by attacking a Dutch fort at Joana, but the uprising was suppressed.
(b) Dutch Scientific Forestry:
The Dutch enacted forest laws in Java, restricting villagers access to forests. Now Wood could only be cut for specified purposes only from specific forests under close supervision. Villagers were punished for grazing cattle in young stands, transporting wood without a permit, or traveling on forest roads with horse carts or cattle. The Dutch first imposed rents on land being cultivated in the forest and then exempted some villages from the rent on land if they worked collectively to provide free labor and buffaloes for cutting and transporting timber. This was known as the Blandongdiensten. Later, instead of rent exemption, forest villagers were given small wages, but their right to cultivate forest land was restricted.
(c) Samin’s Challenge:
Around 1890, Surontiko Samin of Randublatung village, a teak forest village, began questioning state ownership of the forest. he argued that the state had not created the wind , earth and wood, so it could not own it Soon a widespread movement developed . Amongst those who helped organise it were Samin’s sons-in-laws. By 1907, 3000 families were following his ideas. Some of the Saminists protested by lying down on their land when the Dutch came to survey it, while others refused to pay taxes or fines or perform labor.
(d) War and Deforestation:
(i) The First World War and the Second Word War had a major impact on forests. in India, working plans were abandoned at this time , and the forest department cut trees freely to meet British war needs.
(ii) In Java, the Dutch destroyed sawmills and burnt piles of giant teak logs so that they would not fall into Japanese hands. The Japanese then exploited the forests recklessly for their own war industries, forcing forest villagers to cut down forests.
(iii) Many villagers used this opportunity to expand cultivation in the forest. After the war, it was difficult for the Indonesian Forest Service to get this land back.
(e) New Developments in Forestry:
(i) Conservation of forests rather then collecting timber has become a more important goal. The government has recognised that in order to meet this goal, the people who live near the forests must be involved.
(ii) in many cases, across India, from Mizoram to Kerala,dense frosts have survived only because villages protected them in sacred grooves known as samas, devarakudu, kan, rai, etc. some villages have been patrolling their own forests , with each household taking it in turns, instead of leaving it to the forest guards.
(iii) Local forest communities and environmentalists today are thinking of different forms of forest management.