Chapter 4 : Forest Society and Colonialism - Ncert Solutions for Class 9 History CBSE
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Chapter 4 - Forest Society and Colonialism Exercise 96
- Shifting cultivators: Forest management left a profound imprint on the lives of shifting cultivators. They were coerced into leaving their homes in the forests. Their centuries old profession of shifting agriculture was stopped altogether because they regarded this practice harmful for the forests. They were compelled to change professions. Some of them even engaged in large and small rebellions opposing the changes.
- Nomadic and pastoralist communities: Their daily lifestyles were badly affected by the new forest laws. Due to the changes brought in by the forest management, nomadic and pastoralist communities could not collect fruits and roots, graze cattle, cut wood and hunt or fish. All this was made illegal. As a result, they were compelled to steal wood, and if caught, they would have to dole out bribes to the forest guards. Some of these tribes were even labelled 'Criminal Tribes'.
- Firms trading in timber/forest produce: The new forest policy of the British ruined the chances of several firms trading in timber and forest produce. They were no longer allowed to cut trees and collect timber because the British now badly needed the wood to build their ship and railway sleepers. Trade was conducted under complete government regulation. European firms were given sole rights by the British administration to trade in forest products of certain areas. This plunder of forests resulted in ecological imbalance.
- Plantation owners: The changes brought about in the forest management favoured the plantation owners, mainly Europeans. To meet Europe's growing need of the communities such as tea, coffee and rubber; large areas of natural forests were cleared by the plantation owners. Also, they were given vast areas of forest land at quite cheap rates. They were allowed to enclose such areas, clear the forest and plant tea, coffee, and rubber. Therefore, the Indian plantation owners were at the clemency of the European plantation owners.
- Kings/British officials engaged in shikar: The forest management deprived Indians of their right to hunt deer, partridges and a variety of small animals, except the Indian Kings. However, the British officials were allowed to hunt freely in the reserved forests. Under the colonial rule, this resulted in the increase in hunting to such an extent that various species became extinct. A large number of tigers, leopards, wolves were killed as sporting trophy, and hunting or shikar became a sport. Later, environmentalists and conservators realised many species of animals needed to be protected and not killed.
The colonial managers of Bastar In India were the British, while in Java the colonial managers were the Dutch.
However, there were many similarities between colonial management of the forests in Bastar and in Java which are listed below:
- The forests of both the places were owned by the state.
- They banned villagers from practicing shifting cultivation.
- The British and Dutch enacted forest laws to control the forests and put restrictions on the customary rights of the locals. They were prohibited from entering the forests, from grazing cattle, or from cutting woods or taking forest produce without permission.
- Villagers were punished for entering forests and collecting forest products without permit and permits would be issued only for entry into forests and collection of forest products.
- In India, the British introduced an exploitative policy known as 'Forest Villages', and in Java, the Dutch introduced 'Blandongdiensten system', wherein the villagers were permitted to stay in the forests on the condition that they would offer free labor for the forest department in cutting and transportation of trees and protecting the woodlands from fire.
- Both followed a system of forestry which was known as scientific forestry.
- They enacted laws which permitted them to exploit forest trees for timber, to build ships and railways to protect and further their imperial interests.
- Also, the villagers revolted against the oppressive laws implemented by the British as well as the Dutch. In Bastar, people organised themselves and revolted against the British in 1910. While in Java, around 1890 Saminists questioned the State ownership of the forest land and also protested against the Dutch in various ways.
- Railways: The spread of railways played a critical part in the decline of the forest cover in India. Railways needed to be laid down and for that to happen, forest land had to be cleared. Apart from land, wood was used as fuel to run locomotives and sleepers were required to hold tracks together. According to an estimate, around 1760 to 2000 sleepers were required to lay down only one mile railway track. As early as 1850s, in Madras Presidency alone, 35000 trees were being cut annually for sleepers. The government gave contracts to individuals to supply the required quantities. Also, laying of railway tracks ensured forests around railway tracks to start vanishing rapidly.
- Shipbuilding: By the end of the 19th century, oak forests in England started to decrease in number. As there was a shortage of timber for the Royal Navy, it resulted in trouble for the shipbuilding industry. They did not have enough timber for making ships. Therefore, search parties were sent to explore the forests of India. Huge forest areas were vacated and the timber transported to shipbuilding yards in England. In order to provide for the ship manufacturing industry in England, trees were felled in large numbers indiscriminately in India.
- Agricultural expansion: The population of India was increasing at a rapid speed every year and so was the demand for food. It could be met only by expanding cultivation. Thus, the peasants extended the boundaries of cultivation, clearing forests and breaking new laws. Moreover, in 19th century in Europe, food grains were needed to feed the growing urban population and raw materials for industrial purposes. Hence, the cultivators continued to extend their limits of their cultivated fields which resulted in the forest areas depletion.
- Commercial farming: The British encouraged the production of commercial crops like, jute, sugar, wheat, cotton, tea, coffee etc. These crops were needed by Europe to feed its growing urban population as well as to increase its industrial production. Hence, large tracts of forest land were cleared to make land available for commercial farming.
- Tea/Coffee plantations: The British encouraged the production of commercial crops such as jute, sugar, wheat, cotton, tea and coffee. The allocation of vast forest regions for European plantation owners further led to the decrease of forest areas. These planters enclosed such areas, cleared the forest areas and planted tea, coffee and rubber as they liked. They made big profits, making the workers work for long hours and at low wages. Moreover, the building of a large number of lodging units for the plantation workers further diminished forest land.
- Adivasis and other peasant users: Adivasis and other peasant users were also responsible for reduction of forest cover. In spite of different forest laws, whenever they found any opportunity, they continued to cut trees for cooking their food, making their houses etc. Their livelihood mainly came from forest produce. In spite of forest protection acts, they sometimes, revolted against forest laws. In this way, they were also responsible to some extent for the continuous decline in forest.
Forests are affected by the wars, and both the wars--First and Second World War--had major impact on forests. This was due to the following reasons:
- In India, the forest trees were cut indiscriminately to meet war needs of the British. Thus, people's demand for agricultural land got them into dispute with the forest department's desire to hold land and exclude people from it.
- In Java, to prevent falling in the hands of the Japanese, the Dutch followed 'a scorched earth' policy, destroying sawmills and burning huge piles of giant teak logs. This made the Japanese exploit forests recklessly for their own war industries, forcing forest villagers to cut down forests. Many villagers used this occasion to expand cultivation in the forest. After the war, it was difficult for the Indonesian forest service to get this land back.
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