Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Class IX - Forest Society and Colonialism

Class IX - Forest Society and Colonialism

1. Have there been changes in forest areas where you live? Find out what these changes are and why they have happened?
Ans. There have been many changes in forest areas where I live. I talked to my grandfather and came to know that most of the land that I see today as constructed area was not so always. He tells me that the hill slopes were green and covered with forests. There were lush green trees all around. One could walk through them without the sun troubling you. There was no need for fans inside houses and the windows were enough to cool you during a hot summer day. The chirping of birds and the rustling of leaves were sounds that you heard all around. But today, the green trees have been replaced by cement structures — hotels, houses,
shopping areas, parking lots, etc. The green area is decreasing and the cemented area is increasing. The hillslopes have become bare and barren. The forest cover has reduced tremendously.
This decrease in green cover has happened because of a number of reasons. I live in Nainital and feel that this change has occurred due to population rise and tourism. People are increasing in number and need to be accommodated. Secondly, tourism is gaining importance in Nainital. Hotels, shopping areas and parking lots are being made for the tourists. All these facilities require land and this can be acquired only by clearing the forest area. In addition, approach roads need to be constructed which again requires clearing of new forest land. All these factors have necessitated the clearing of forests in areas where I live.
2. Write a dialogue between a colonial forester and an Adivasi discussing the issue of hunting in the forest.
Ans. Adivasi — Namaste, Sahib.
Colonial Forester — What are you doing here?
Adivasi — Nothing, sir.
Colonial Forester — What do you mean nothing? I’m sure you have been hunting here. Come on, show me what you have hunted!
Adivasi — Sahib, you can see that I have not hunted. But tell me why can’t I hunt in this forest!
Colonial Forester — The forests are no longer your hunting grounds. If you hunt here you will be punished.
Adivasi — But Sahib, this hunting has been a customary practice since ancient days. How can you stop it?
Colonial Forester — It is no longer so now. You are prohibited by forest laws to do so.
Adivasi — But the English Sahib hunts in the forests.
Colonial Forester — Yes! he can do it. He is a British. He has come to civilise you all. The wild animals are a sign of a primitive and savage society. These animals must be killed by the white man to help you to become civilised.

Q.1. Discuss how the changes in forest management in the colonial period affected the following groups of people :
1. Shifting cultivators
2. Nomadic and pastoralist communities
3. Firms trading in timber/forest produce
4. Plantation owners
5. Kings/British officials engaged in hunting.
1. Shifting cultivators — Forest management had a great impact on 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 such land could not be used for growing trees for railway timber and was dangerous while being burnt as it could start a forest fire. This type of cultivation also made dificult for the government to calculate taxes. The government, hence, 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.
2. Nomadic and pastoralists communities — Nomadic and pastoralist communities were also affected by changes in forest management. Their traditional customary grazing rights were taken away and their entry into the forests was restricted. Passes were issued to them which had details of their entry and exit into and out of the forests. The days and hours they could spend in the forest were also restricted. This was in contrast to the earlier system that allowed them unrestricted entry into forests. Pastoralists had to lessen the number of cattle in their herds which reduced their income. As their entry into forests was restricted they could not gather forest products. Earlier the forests were open for them and they would collect forest products and sell them. This had supplemented their income. Now they were deprived of this additional income. Some pastoralists even had to change their lifestyle, leave pastoralism and work in mines, plantations, factories. Some were branded as the ‘criminal tribes’.
3. Firms trading in timber/forest produce — Firms trading in timber products were given the sole trading rights to trade in the forest products of particular areas. They made huge profits and became richer. The entire timber and forest trade passed on to them. They became powerful and began to cut down trees indiscriminately.
4. Plantation owners — Plantation owners found that more and more forest land could be cleared for plantations. The British had made it very clear that their system of forestry would be scientific forestry, i.e., plantations. Plantation owners began to reap profits as the British government gave large areas of forest land to European planters.
5. Kings/British officials engaged in shikar — The kings/British officials engaged in shikar found that now the villagers were prohibited from entering the forests. They had the forest and wild animals to themselves. Hunting animals became a big sport for them. Thus hunting increased to such an extent that various species became almost extinct.

Q.2. What are the similarities between colonial management of the forests in Bastar and in Java?
Ans. The similarities between colonial management of the forests in Bastar and Java were :
(i). Forest laws were enacted in Java and Bastar.
(ii) These laws restricted villagers’ access to forests.
(iii) Timber could be cut from only specified forests and under close supervision.
(iv) Villagers were punished for entering forests and collecting forest products without permit.
(v) Permits were issued to the villagers for entry into forests and collection of forest products.
(vi) Both had a forest service.
(vii) Both followed a system of forestry which was known as scientific forestry.
(viii)In both places Forest Acts meant severe hardship for villagers. Their everyday practices — cutting wood for their houses, grazing their cattle, collecting fruits and roots, hunting and fishing became illegal.
(ix) Constables and forests guards began to harass people.

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 :
1. Railways
2. Shipbuilding
3. Agricultural expansion
4. Commercial farming
5. Tea/Coffee plantations
6. Adivasis and other peasant users.
1. Railways — Railways contributed significantly to the decline of forests in India. Whereever railway tracks had to be laid land had to be cleared. This land was forest land. Apart from clearing area for tracks, railway locomotives required timber for fuel and sleepers. For all these needs forests had to be cut down. The British government gave contracts to individuals to supply the required quantity of timber. These individuals cut
down trees indiscriminately.
2. Shipbuilding — Oak forests in England were decreasing in number and the shipbuilding industry was in trouble. They did not have enough timber for making ships. They turned their attention towards India. Huge forest areas were cleared and the timber transported to shipbuilding yards in England. British ships were being constructed and as a consequence trees were cut down indiscriminately in India.
3. Agricultural expansion — Population was on the rise and the demand for food increased. Peasants extended the boundaries of cultivation by clearing forests. This gave them more land available for cultivation. In addition, there was great demand for cash crops such as tea, cotton, jute, sugar, etc., which were needed to feed the industries of England.
4. Commercial farming — The British directly encouraged the production of commercial crops like jute, sugar, wheat and cotton. The demand for these crops increased in the 19th century in Europe, where foodgrains were needed to feed the growing urban population and raw materials were required for industrial production. Hence, large tracts of forest land were cleared to make land available for commercial farming.
5. Tea/Coffee plantations — The colonial state thought that forest land was unproductive. It did not yield agricultural produce nor revenue. Large areas of natural forests were hence 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. The areas were enclosed and cleared of forests and planted with tea or coffee.
6. Adivasis and other peasant users — Adivasis and other peasant users do not cut down forests except to practice shifting cultivation or gather timber for fuel. They also gather forest products and graze their cattle. This does not destroy the forests except sometimes in shifting agriculture. In fact, now the new trends that promote forest conservation tend to involve local villagers in conservation and preservation. The adivasis and other peasant communities regard the forests as their own and even engage watchmen to keep a vigil
over their forests.
Q.4. Why are forests affected by wars?
Ans. Forests are affected by wars and this often leads to deforestation. Forests during wars are freely cut to meet the needs of war. Forests are as important resource and hence during wars they are destroyed by their own country under the 'a scorched earth policy'. This prevents the enemy from using this resource. Many villagers used this opportunity to expand cultivation in the forest.

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