Discuss how the changes in forest management in the colonial period affected the following groups of people:
Nomadic and pastoralist communities
Firms trading in timber/forest produce
Kings/British officials engaged in shikar
The effect of changes in forest management in the colonial period on —
(a) Shifting cultivators: Also known as swidden agriculture, shifting cultivation is a practice wherein part of a forest is burnt for farming; this is done in rotation. With the emergence of forest management, shifting cultivators were dispossessed of their occupation and displaced from their homes. The government found it difficult to calculate their taxes. The forest officials considered burning the forest dangerous because it could spread further; they also considered it a waste of fertile land, which could instead be used for growing railway timber. Shifting cultivators were forced to change professions, while some participated in large and small rebellions opposing the changes.
(b) Nomadic and pastoralist communities: Their daily lifestyles were badly affected by the new forest laws. Due to the changes brought in by forest management, nomadic and pastoralist communities could not cut wood, graze cattle, collect fruits and roots, and hunt or fish. All this was made illegal. As a result, they were forced to steal wood, and if caught, they would have to offer bribes to the forest guards. Some of these tribes were even labelled “criminal”.
(c) Firms trading in timber/forest produce: Trade was conducted under complete government regulation. The British administration gave European firms the sole rights to trade in forest products of certain areas. This was a huge profit-making step for firms trading in timber/forest produce.
(d) Plantation owners: They were also a happy lot like the timer-trading firms. The displaced nomadic and pastoralist tribes were often recruited by plantation owners to work on their farms. Plantation owners made big profits, making the workers work for long hours and at low wages. Due to the new forest laws, the workers could not even protest as this was their sole means of earning a livelihood.
(e) Kings/British officials engaged in shikar: This group was a happy lot because the British government viewed large animals as symbols of a wild, savage and primitive society. Consequently, hunting tigers, wolves and the like was encouraged. Around 80,000 tigers, 150,000 leopards and 200,000 wolves were hunted down for reward during 1875-1925.