Discuss how the changes in forest management in the colonial period affected the following groups of people:
Shifting Cultivators: Forest management had a major impact on shifting cultivators. European foresters considered shifting cultivation harmful for the forests because such lands could not be used for growing trees for railways and also burning of trees could lead to forest fire. Shifting cultivation involves the process of clearing an area in the forest by cutting down trees and burning them.
The ashes are then mixed with the soil and crops are grown. After the land has lost its fertility, it is abandoned. Government then banned the shifting cultivation, which affected many communities as they were forcibly displaced from their homes in the forests. Some even had to change their occupations while some resisted through large and small rebellions.
Nomadic and Pastoralist Communities: Due to forest management nomadic and pastoralist communities had to leave their customary grazing rights and their entry into the forest was also restricted. They were not allowed to cut wood for their houses, and could not collect fruits and roots. Hunting and fishing became illegal. Many communities like Korava, Karacha, and Yerukula in the Madras Presidency lost their livelihood due to forest management. Some of them began to be called 'Criminal Tribes' and worked for free for the forest department.
Firms trading in timber/forest produce: During colonial rule, a large number of trees were cut down to export timber to England for the Royal Navy. The colonial government took over the forests in India and gave a large portion of forests to European planters at cheap rates. The European trading firms had the right to trade in the forest products of particular areas. They made huge profits and became richer. They had the power to cut trees indiscriminately.
Plantation owners: Plantation owners got the power to clear more and more lands for plantation. The colonial government made it clear that they would follow the scientific forestry i.e. plantations. Natural forests were cleared to make way for tea, coffee and rubber plantations to meet Europe's demands. Communities like Santhals and Oraons from Jharkhand and Gonda from Chhattisgarh were recruited to work on tea plantations in Assam. These plantation owners made a huge profit under the protection and rights given by the British government.
Kings/British officials engaged in hunting: During British rule, the scale of hunting reached to such an extent that various species became almost extinct. Hunting animals became a big sport at that time. The British believed that by killing big and dangerous animals, they would civilize India. The British government started giving rewards for killing tigers, wolves and other big animals on the basis that they posed a threat to cultivators.