Page No. 96
Q.1. Discuss how the changes in forest management in the colonial period affected the following groups of people:
(a) Shifting cultivators
(b) Nomadic and pastoralist communities
(c) Firms trading in timber/forest produce
(d) Plantation owners
(e) Kings/British officials engaged in shikar (hunting)
Ans. (a) Shifting cultivators:- The colonial government put ban on shifting cultivation as it was regarded harmful for forests. Because of this, tribal communities were forced to leave their homes. Many had to change their occupations. There were some who took to protest the policies of colonial masters
(b) Nomadic and Pastoralist Communities:- In the process, many pastoralists and nomadic communities like the Korava, Karacha and Yerukula of the Madras Presidency lost their livelihood. Some of them were dubbed as criminal tribes. They were forced to work in factories and plantations.
(c) Firms trading in timber/forest produce:- In India trade in forest products was not new. We have records which show that adivasi communities trading in goods like hides, horns, silk cocoons, ivory, bamboo, spices fibres, grasses, gums and rising through nomadic communities like the banjaras. After the coming of the British, trade was completely controlled by the government. The British government gave the European companies the sole right to trade in the forest products.
(d) Plantation owners:- In Assam, both men and women from forest communities like Santhals and Oraons from Jharkhand and Gonds from Chhattisgarh were recruited to work on tea plantations. Their wages were low and condition of work was not good. They could not return easily to their home villages, from where they were recruited.
(e) Kings/British officials engaged in shikar:- While the forest laws deprived people of their rights to hunt, hunting of big game became a sport. In India, it was the court’s culture to hunt tigers and other animals. However, under colonial rule, hunting increased to such an extent that many species became extinct. The British saw big animals as a sign of primitive society. They believed that by killing big animals, the British would civilise India. Tigers, wolves and leopards were killed because they posed a threat to cultivators. A British administrator George Yule killed 400 tigers. Only after a long time environmentalists and conservators began to argue that these animals had to be protected.
Q.2. What are the similarities between colonial management of the forests in Bastar and in Java?
Ans. The similarities between colonial management of forests in Bastar and in Java are as follows. Colonial management in Bastar:
(i) In 1905, the colonial government proposed to reserve 2/3 of the forests, stop shifting cultivation, hunting and collection of forest produce.
(ii) The villagers were suffering from increased rents and demand for free labour and goods by colonial officials.
(iii) In the reserved forests, the villagers could stay in the forests and had to work free for the forest department and help them in cutting and transporting trees and protecting them from forest fires. They were called forest villages.
Colonial management in Java:
(i) In Java, villagers were punished for grazing cattle, transporting goods without permit or travelling on forest roads.
(ii) The Dutch needed labour to cut trees, transport logs and prepare sleepers. They introduced the blandongdiensten system. According to this system, they first introduced rents on land being cultivated in the forest and then some villages were exempted from paying rent, if they worked collectively to provide free labour and buffaloes for cutting and transporting timber. It was similar to ‘forest villages’.
Q.3. Between 1880 and 1920, forest cover in the Indian subcontinent declined by 9.7 million hectares, from 108.6 million hectares to 98.9 million hectares. Discuss the role of the following factors in this decline:
(iii) Agricultural expansion
(iv) Commercial farming
(v) Tea/Coffee plantations
(vi) Adivasis and other peasant users
Ans. (i) Railways: They were essential for colonial trade and movement of troops. To run locomotives, wood was needed as fuel, and to lay the railway lines sleepers were essential to hold the track together. By 1890, about 25,500 km of tracts were laid and more and more trees were cut. In Madras Presidency alone 35,000 trees were being cut annually for sleepers.
(ii) Shipbuilding: In England, from the early 19th century, oak forests were disappearing. It created a shortage of timber for the Royal Navy. Ships could not be built without a regular supply of strong and durable timber. Ships were necessary for the protection of overseas colonies and trade. Within a decade trees were cut on a large scale and timber was exported from India.
(iii) Agricultural expansion: The colonial government believed that forests were unproductive. They had to be brought under cultivation so that they could yield agricultural products and generate revenue. So between 1880 and 1920, the cultivation increased by 6.7 million hectares.
(iv) Commercial farming: The British encouraged the production of commercial crops like jute, sugar, wheat and cotton. The demand for these crops increased in the 19th century Europe, where food grains were needed for growing population and raw material for industries.
(v) Tea/Coffee plantations: To meet the growing needs for tea, coffee and rubber, large areas of forests were cleared for their plantation. The colonial government took over the forests and gave vast areas to European planters at cheap rates. These areas were planted with tea, coffee and rubber.
(vi) Adivasis and other peasant users: From early times, Adivasis communities traded in goods like hides, horns, silk cocoons, ivory, bamboo, spices, fibres, grasses, gums and resins through nomadic communities like the banjaras. This further declined forest cover.
Q.4. Why are forests affected by wars?
Ans. The two World Wars had major impacts on forests. More trees were cut to meet the wartime needs of Britain. In Java, the Dutch followed ‘scorched earth’ policy just before the Japanese occupation of the region. They destroyed sawmills and burnt huge piles of giant teak logs. The Japanese then continued the exploitation of forests. They forced forest villagers to cut down forests. For many villagers, it was an opportunity to expand cultivated area.