Ans. The People of Bastar
Ans. The British were worried that the use of forests by local people and the reckless felling of trees by traders would destroy forests. So they decided to invite a German expert, Dietrich Brandis, for advice, and made him the first Inspector General of Forests in India.
Steps taken by Dietrich Brandis to protect forests were:
Ans. Shifting cultivators - In shifting cultivation, parts of the forest are cut and burnt in rotation. European foresters regarded this practice as harmful for the forests. 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 cultivation. As a result, many communities were forcibly displaced from their homes in the forests. Some had to change occupations, while some resisted through large and small rebellions.
Nomadic and pastoralist communities - With the coming of the British, however, trade was completely regulated by the government. The British government gave many large European trading firms the sole right to trade in the forest products of particular areas. Grazing and hunting by local people were restricted. In the process, many pastoralist and nomadic communities like the Korava, Karacha and Yerukula of the Madras Presidency lost their livelihoods. Some of them began to be called criminal tribes’, and were forced to work instead in factories, mines and plantations, under government supervision.
Firms trading in timber/forest produce - The British government gave many large European trading firms the sole right to trade in the forest products of particular areas. Grazing and hunting by local people were restricted.
Plantation owners - The colonial government took over the forests, and gave vast areas to European planters at cheap rates. These areas were enclosed and cleared of forests, and planted with tea or coffee.
Kings/British officials engaged in shikar - While the forest laws deprived people of their customary rights 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 gave rewards for the killing of tigers, wolves and other large animals on the grounds that they posed a threat to cultivators.
Ans. Railways - The spread of railways from the 1850s created a new demand. Railways were essential for colonial trade and for the movement of imperial troops. To run locomotives, wood was needed as fuel, and to lay railway lines sleepers were essential to hold the tracks together. As the railway tracks spread through India, a larger and larger number of trees were felled. The government gave out contracts to individuals to supply the required quantities. These contractors began cutting trees indiscriminately. Forests around the railway tracks fast started disappearing.
Shipbuilding - By the early nineteenth century, oak forests in England were disappearing. This created a problem of timber supply for the Royal Navy. By the 1820s, search parties were sent to explore the forest resources of India. Within a decade, trees were being felled on a massive scale and vast quantities of timber were being exported from India.
Agricultural expansion - 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. In the colonial period, cultivation expanded rapidly for a variety of reasons.
Commercial farming - British directly encouraged the productions of commercial crops like jute, sugar, wheat and cotton. The demand for these crops increased in nineteenth-century Europe where food grains were needed to feed the growing urban population and raw materials were required for industrial production. Hence forest lands were cleared to make land available for commercial farming.
Tea/Coffee plantations - 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 rates. These areas were enclosed and cleared of forests, and planted with tea or coffee.
Adivasis and other peasant users - In 1600, approximately one-sixth of India’s landmass was under cultivation. Now that figure has gone up to about half. 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. Adivasis and other peasant communities practiced shifting cultivation. In shifting cultivation, parts of the forest are cut and burnt in rotation.
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