NCERT Folder 9th History Chapter 4 : Forest Society And Colonialism

History

Class 9

Chapter 4

Forest Society And Colonialism

Revision Notes

Important Terms

  • Forests : Forests refer to natural ecosystem, consisting mainly of trees of different species and vegetation of different kinds and providing habitat to different species of animals.
  • Deforestation : Clearing of trees or the act of utility down or burning the trees in the forest area for agricultural or commercial purpose is known as deforestation.
  • Sleepers : Wooden planks laid across railway tracks are called sleepers. They hold the tracks in position.
  • Scientific Forestry : A system of cutting trees controlled by the forest department in which old trees are cut and new ones planted.
  • Plantation : A plantation was a large area where one type of crop was planted in straight rows for commercial purpose.
  • Taungya Cultivation : A system in which local farmers were allowed to cultivate temporarily within a plantation.
  • Swidden Agriculture : A traditional agricultural practice in many parts of Asia, Africa and South America where parts of forests are cut and burnt in rotation . This is also known as shifting cultivation.
  • Java : Rice producing island, where Dutch started forest management.
  • Kalangs of Java : Community of skilled forest cutters and shifting cultivators.
  • Blandongdiensten System : This system was introduced by the Dutch in Java under which some villages were exempted from the taxes in terms of free labour and animals for cutting and transporting timber from forests.

Important Dates

  • 1600 : Approximately one-sixth of India’s landmass was under cultivation.
  • 1700–1995 : 9.3% of the world’s total area was cleared for industrial use, cultivation of pastures and fuel wood.
  • 1755 : The Mataram Kingdom of Java split into two kingdoms.
  • 1770 : The Kalangs rose in rebellion against Dutch but were suppressed.
  • 1850 : The spread of Indian Railways.
  • 1880–1920 : India’s cultivated area rose by 6.7 million hectares. Terrible famines.
  • 1864 : The Indian Forest Service was set up by Dietrich Brandis.
  • 1865 : The Indian Forest Act came into being. Surontiko Samin started a movement against the state ownership of forests.
  • 1878 : The Indian Forest Act was formulated. The Indian Forest act divided forests into three categories : Reserved, Protected and Village forests.
  • 1890 : The Indian Forest Act was amended and divided forests into reserved, protected and village forests.
  • 1899–1908 : Terrible famines.
  • 1906 : The Imperial Forest Research Institute was set up at Dehradun.
  • 1910 : The Bastar rebellion first started in the Kanger forest area.
  • 1946 : The length of railway tracks laid down were over 7,65,000 km.
  • 1980 : Introduction of scientific forestry and restriction imposed on the forest communities resulted in many conflicts.

Important Personalities

  • Dietrich Brandis : He was the first Inspector General of Forests in India.
  • George Yule : A British administrator who killed 400 tigers.
  • Gunda Dhur : An inhabitant of Nethanar village, he was an important figure in the Bastar rebellion.
  • Surontiko Samin : An inhabitant of Randublatung village who started movement against the state ownership of forests.

Summary

Relationship Between Forest And Livelihoods

  • Forests give us a mixture of things to satisfy our different needs — fuel, fodder, leaves, trees suitable for buildings ships or railways and trees that can provide hard wood.
  • Forest products like roots, fruits, tubers, herbs are used for medicinal purposes.
  • Forests also provide bamboo, grass, charcoal, fruits, flowers, animals, birds and many other things.
  • In the Amazon forests or in the Western Ghats, it is possible to find as many as 500 different plant species in one forest patch.
  • A lot of this diversity is fast disappearing. Between 1700 and 1995, the period of industrialization, 13.9 million sq km of forest or 9.3 per cent of the world‘s total area was cleared for industrial uses, cultivation, pastures and fuel wood.
  • Deforestation : Deforestation is cutting down of trees indiscriminately in a forest area. Under the colonial rule it became very systematic and extensive.
  • Why Deforestation : As population increased over the centuries and the demand for food went up, peasants extended the boundaries of cultivation by clearing forests.
  • The British encouraged the production of commercial crops like jute, sugar, wheat and cotton for their industries as raw materials.
  • The British thought that forests were unproductive land as they yielded no revenue nor agricultural produce.
  • Cultivation was viewed as a sign of progress.
  • Oak forests in England were disappearing. There was no timber supply for the ship building industry. Forest resources of India were used to make ships for the Royal Navy.
  • Spread of railways required two things : Land to be cleared to lay railway tracks, wood as fuel for locomotives and for railway line sleepers.
  • Large areas of natural forests were cleared for tea, coffee and rubber plantations. Thus, land was given to planters at cheap rates.

Changes In Forest Societies Under Colonialism

  • Introduction of Commercial Forestry :
    • The British were worried that the use of forests by local people and the reckless felling of trees by traders would destroy forests.
    • A German expert, Dietrich Brandis, was made the first Inspector General of Forests in India.
    • Brandis realised that a proper system had to be introduced to manage the forests and people had to be trained in the science of conservation.
    • So the Indian Forest Service was set up in 1864 which helped to formulate the Indian Forest Act of 1865. The Imperial Forest Research Institute was set up at Dehradun in 1906. The system they taught here was called ‘scientific forestry.’
    • Scientific Forestry encouraged plantation agriculture.
    • The Forest Act of 1865 was amended twice in 1878 and 1927.
    • The 1878 Act divided forests into three categories : Reserved, Protected and Village forests. The best forests were called ‘Reserved forests.’
  • Consequences of commercial forestry under colonialism :
    • 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 difficult for the government to calculate taxes.
    • Nomadic and pastoralist 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 their unrestricted entry into the forests. Pastoralists had to lessen the number of cattle in their herd, which reduced their income. Now they were deprived of this additional income. Some pastoralists even had to change their lifestyle, leave pastoralism and had to work in mines, plantations and factories. Some were branded as the ‘criminal tribes’.
    • 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.
    • 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 larger areas of forest land to European planters.
    • 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 came to the verge of extinction.
    • Shifting Cultivation : A practice in which parts of the forest are cut and burnt in rotation. Seeds are sown in the ashes after the first monsoon rains, and the crop is harvested by October-November every year.

Case Studies Of Forest Movements–Bastar In Colonial India And Java In Indonesia

  • Location of Bastar and beliefs of the people of Bastar
    • Bastar is located in the southernmost part of Chhattisgarh and on the borders of Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and Maharashtra. The central part of Bastar is situated on a plateau.
    • A number of different communities live in Bastar, such as Maria and Muria Gonds, Dhurwas, Bhatras and Halbas. They speak different languages but share common customs and beliefs.
    • The people of Bastar believe that each village was given its land by the Earth, and in return, they look after the earth by making some offerings at each agricultural festival. They show respect to the spirits of the river, the forest and the mountain.
    • Since each village knows where its boundaries lie, the local people look after all the natural resources within that boundary. If people from a village want to take some wood from the forests of another village, they pay a small fee called ‘devsari’, ‘dand’ or ‘man’ in exchange.
    • Some villages also protect their forests by engaging watchmen and each household contributes some grain to pay them. Every year there is one big hunt where the headmen of villages meet and discuss issues of concern, including that of forests.
  • Causes for Bastar Rebellion
    • When the colonial government proposed to reserve two-thirds of the forest in 1905 and stop shifting cultivation, hunting and collection of forest produce, the people of Bastar got very worried.
    • Some villages were allowed to stay on in the reserved forests on the condition that they worked free for the forest department in cutting and transporting trees, and protecting the forest from fire. So, these came to be known as Forest Villages.
    • People of other villages were displaced without any notice or compensation. Villagers had been suffering from increased land rents and frequent demands for free labour and goods by colonial officials.
    • Then the terrible famines came in 1899-1900 and again in 1907-1908. Rebellion became inevitable.
  • Results of the Bastar Rebellion
    • In a major victory for the rebels, work on reservation was temporarily suspended.
    • The area to be reserved was reduced to roughly half of that planned before 1910.
  • Causes for forest rebellion in Java
    • The Dutch wanted timber from Java to build ships. The Dutch enacted forest laws in Java, restricting villagers’ access to forests.
    • Now, wood could only be cut for specified purposes like making river boats or constructing houses, and only from specific forests under close supervision.
    • Villagers were punished for grazing cattle in young stands, transporting wood without a permit, or travelling on forest roads with horse carts or cattle.
    • As in India, the need to manage forests for ship building and railways led to the introduction of a forest service by the Dutch in Java.
    • The Dutch first imposed rents on land being cultivated in the forest and then exempted some villages from these rents if they worked collectively to provide free labour and buffaloes for cutting and transporting timber. This was known as the ‘Blandongdiensten system’.
  • Forest Rebellion in Java or Saminist Movement in Java
    • In 1890s, Surontiko Samin a teak forest villager began questioning state ownership of the forest. He argued that the state had not created the wind, water, earth and wood, so it could not own it.
    • Soon, a widespread movement developed. Amongst those who helped organize it was Samin’s sons-in-law.
    • By 1907, 3,000 families were following his ideas. Some of the Saminists protested by lying down on their land when the Dutch came to survey it, while others refused to pay taxes or fines or perform labour.
  • World Wars and Deforestation
    • The First World War and the Second World War had a major impact on forests. In India, working plans were abandoned at this time, and the forest department cut trees freely to meet the British war needs.
    • In Java, just before the Japanese occupied the region, the Dutch followed a scorched earth policy, destroying sawmills, and burning huge piles of giant teak logs so that they would not fall into Japanese hands.
    • The Japanese then exploited the forests recklessly for their own war industries, forcing forest villagers to cut down forests.
    • After the war, it was difficult for the Indonesian Forest Service to get this land back. As in India, people’s need for agricultural land has brought them into conflict with the forest department’s desire to control the land and exclude people from it.

Intext Questions

Activity

(Page No. 81)

Question: Each mile of railway track required between 1,760 and 2,000 sleepers. If one averagesized tree yields 3 to 5 sleepers for a 3 metres wide broad gauge track, calculate approximately how many trees would have to be cut to lay one mile of track.
Answer: Average number of sleepers required per mile = \frac{{(1760+2000)}}{2} = 1880 sleepers
Average number of sleepers obtained from one tree = 4
Therefore, approximate number of trees to be cut = \frac{{1880}}{4} = 470 trees

Activity

(Page No. 83)

Question: If you were the Government of India in 1862 and responsible for supplying the railways with sleepers and fuel on such a large scale, what were the steps you would have taken?
Answer: The Government of India should have taken the following steps:

  1. In areas where trees are cut for making sleepers, plant similar nature of trees to those that are cut, so that the forest cover is maintained.
  2. Try to increase coal mining and supply this to the railways as fuel instead of wood, for running the steam engines.
  3. Limit the cutting of trees by the natives of the forest to only what they personally require and not allow them to trade in wood.
  4. Prevent poachers from entering the forests to cut wood illegally.

Activity

(Page No. 86)

Question: Children living around forest areas can often identify hundreds of species of trees and plants. How many species of trees can you name?
Answer: The causes of the revolutionary disturbances in Russia in 1905 were

  • Bean tree
  • Neem tree
  • Mango tree
  • Cucumber tree
  • Tamarind tree
  • Sal tree
  • Begonia tree
  • Oak tree
  • Banayan tree
  • Boo tree
  • Dates tree
  • Miller tree
  • Been tree
  • Black pepper tree
  • Kidney bean tree
  • Mahula tree
  • Chantal tree
  • Bamboo tree
  • Another is a vodka here which is going in khandamal district of odisha

Activity

(Page No. 96)

Question 1. Have there been changes in forest areas where you live? Find out what these changes are and why they have happened.
Answer: There have been a number of changes in forest areas in India since independence and some which have occurred in my district are as follows:

  1. Entry to forest area is restricted and the Forest Department has posted guards to check any illegal entry.
  2. Although, the number of trees in the forest has increased, reduction of rainfall in recent years has stunted the growth of trees.
  3. The Adivasi villagers living inside the forest areas are gradually leaving their traditional occupations and migrating to the towns for education and jobs.
  4. A number of wild animals like tigers and elephants are sometimes seen on the edges of the forest, but they do not venture out for fear of being killed by human beings. Earlier the tigers used to come into the nearby villages and take away animals and small children at night.

Question 2. Write a dialogue between a colonial forester and an Adivasi discussing the issue of hunting in the forest.
Answer: A sample dialogue is given below:

  • Colonial Forester (CF): Who are you? What are you doing inside the forest at this time?
  • Adivasi (A): I am a villager living in XYZ village on the south edge of this forest. I have come to hunt some animals for feeding my family.
  • Colonial Forester (CF): Don’t you know that we have banned the hunting of animals in the forest? Go away, you cannot be allowed to hunt animals. It is illegal.
  • Adivasi (A): I need the flesh of the animal so that my wife can cook the food. I regularly hunt for animals and nobody has stopped me before
  • Colonial Forester (CF): No, you will not be allowed to do this. Only Britishers are allowed to hunt animals. Go back to your village. Otherwise, you will be arrested
  • Adivasi (A): Okay, if you say so, I will go. But I will return.

NCERT Solution

(Page No. 48)

Question.1. Discuss how the changes in forest management in the colonial period affected the following groups of people :

  • Shifting cultivators
  • Nomadic and pastoralist communities
  • Firms trading in timber/forest produce
  • Plantation owners
  • Kings/British officials engaged in hunting.

Answer.

  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 difficult 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.

Question.2. What are the similarities between colonial management of the forests in Bastar and in Java?
Answer. The similarities between colonial management of the forests in Bastar and Java were :

  1. Forest laws were enacted in Java and Bastar.
  2. These laws restricted villagers’ access to forests.
  3. Timber could be cut from only specified forests and under close supervision.
  4. Villagers were punished for entering forests and collecting forest products without permit.
  5. Permits were issued to the villagers for entry into forests and collection of forest products.
  6. Both had a forest service.
  7. Both followed a system of forestry which was known as scientific forestry.
  8. 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.
  9. Constables and forests guards began to harass people.

Question.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.

Answer.

  1. Railways: Railways contributed significantly to the decline of forests in India. Where ever 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.

Question.4. Why are forests affected by wars?
Answer. The impact of the First and Second World War on forests was tremendous. In India, the forest department cut trees freely to meet British war needs. The British needed to strengthen their Navy and timber was needed to build warships.

In Java, the Dutch enforced ‘a scorched earth’ policy. They destroyed sawmills and burnt huge piles of giant teak logs so that the Japanese could not get it, during the war.

The Japanese, who invaded Indonesia, exploited the forests for their own war needs. They made forest villagers cut down forests. Many villagers used this opportunity to destroy forests and expand cultivation. When the war was over the Indonesian forest service was unable to get the forest land back from the villagers.

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