Q1. 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)
(a) Shifting cultivators: The colonial government put a 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 that 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 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 the 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.
A painting depicting kings engaged in hunting
Q2. 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 include the following:
1. Restriction of traditional practices: Both in Bastar and Java, the colonial government imposed restrictions on local practices such as shifting cultivation, hunting, and collection of forest produce.
2. Exploitation of local population: In both regions, villagers faced increased rents and demands for free labor and goods by colonial officials, leading to their suffering.
3. Forced labor in forest management: In Bastar, villagers were required to work for free in the forest department, while in Java, the Dutch introduced the blandongdiensten system, which required villagers to provide free labor and resources for cutting and transporting timber.
4. Creation of forest villages: Both regions saw the establishment of forest villages, where villagers were allowed to stay in the forests but had to work for the colonial government, either directly or indirectly through systems like the blandongdiensten in Java.
Q3. 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
(i) Railways: They were essential for colonial trade and the 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 tracks were laid and more and more trees were cut. In Madras Presidency alone 35,000 trees were being cut annually for sleepers.
Railways during British Rule
(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 19th century Europe, where food grains were needed for a 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.
Q4. Why are forests affected by wars?
Ans: Forests are affected by wars for several reasons.
|1. What is the impact of colonialism on forest societies?|
|2. How did forest communities resist colonialism?|
|3. What is the role of forests in the economy of forest societies?|
|4. What is the impact of deforestation on forest societies?|
|5. What is the current status of forest societies in India?|