Short Notes on the Forest Management in Colonial Era
Changes in forest management in the colonial period resulted in severe hardships for the villagers across the country.
(i) Shifting cultivators:
Banning of shifting cultivation resulted in displacement of many communities from their homes in the forests. Many were reduced to the level of starvation. Of the displaced many changed their occupation. Some took to trading in forest products or became labourers.
Still others rebelled, e.g., Birsa Munda of Chhotanagpur, Sita Ram Raju of Andhra Pradesh.
Changes enforced alien concepts of private property.
Local people were henceforth forced to pay taxes.
It also led to penetration of tribal areas by outsiders from the plains.
(ii) Nomadic and pastoralist communities:
Grazing in forests was restricted by the colonists. In the process many nomadic and pastoral communities like Korava, Karacha and Yerukala of Madras Presidency lost their means of livelihood. Some were forced to take up occupations like working in factories/plantations or mines as labourers.
Others took to rebellion and were labelled as criminal tribes.
(iii) Firms trading in timber and forest products:
These firms were largely controlled by European traders.
They were vested with the sole right to trade in forest products and timber. These firms cleared large natural forests which had a variety of trees and replaced them by one type of trees-sal or teak to meet the growing demand of Europeans as they were suitable for building ships and railway sleepers.
This indiscriminate plunder of forest resources led to deforestation and ecological disbalance.
The Adivasi communities like Banjaras who were for generations in this occupation were displaced, reduced to starvation, or forced to work as labourers. Many joined the ranks of rebels.
(iv) Plantation owners:
Changes in forest management favoured the plantation owners, who were mostly Europe,
They were given a free haod to destroy natural forests to make way for tea, coffee and rubber plantations to meet Europe’s growing need for these commodities. Plantation owners contributed largely to deforestation in India. Their activities led to penetration of tribal areas by outsiders. They developed the alien concept of private property in forest society.
(v) Kings/British officials engaged in Shikar:
Though the forest laws deprived the forest dwellers the right to hunt, the Kings and British officials continued to engage in big game. Hunting of wild animals was seen as a sport, a form of civilising mission.
Big animals like tigers, wolves, leopards were seen as a threat to cultivation. Rewards were given for killing these large animals. The scale of hunting increased to such an extent that various species came near to becoming extinct. Later environmentalists and conservators realised many species needed to be protected not killed.