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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 produce
3. Firms trading in timber/forest
4. Plantation owners
5. Kings/British officials engaged in shikar

Last updated date: 16th Jul 2024
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Hint: In the case of Forest Management, the history of deconcentration parallels the deconcentration noticed in the case of general administration but with some significant variation.

Complete answer:
(1) Shifting cultivators practice slash and burn agriculture. In this practice, parts of the forest are cut and burnt in a 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 it difficult for the government to calculate taxes. Thus, the Colonial government banned 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) The reservation of forest areas by the British Government also sealed the fate of many nomadic and pastoral communities like the Korava, Karacha and Yerukula of the Madras Presidency that lost their means of livelihood. Earlier these people and their cattle depend totally on the forest from which they were deprived because of the new forest management. Some of these communities began to be called ‘criminal tribes’ and were forced to work in factories, mines, and plantations under government supervision. Thus, these people were forced to operate within new systems and reorganize their lives.

(3) 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 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) While the forest dwellers were deprived of their right to hunt deer, partridges and a variety of small animals, the Indian Kings and British officials were allowed to hunt freely in the reserved forests. Under colonial rule, the hunting increased to such an extent that various species became extinct. A large number of tigers, leopards, wolves were killed as a sporting trophy. Hunting or shikar became a sport. Later the environmentalists and conservators realized many species of animals needed to be protected and not killed.

Note: Forest policy in India during the colonial period was one where forest management was attuned towards the redistribution of economic gains for the benefit of the British Empire. Forest management was mainly state-led and was primarily undertaken in terms of control over resources and people.