Forest Policy and Indigenous People in Colonial and Post Colonial Period

Topics: Forest, Kerala, Forestry Pages: 44 (12420 words) Published: January 18, 2013
2.0 Introduction
Forest policy and management has been a subject of considerable debate and conflict ever since the British established a Forest Department and enacted legislations related to forestry in the 19th century. The imperial needs dictated the British interests in the Indian forest resources, which resulted in the establishment of control over forest resources. In the process, at least two crucial aspects of forest management were ignored. First, the well-established traditional systems of conservation and sustainable use, and second, the critical ecological and social role that forests played (Ashish Kothari 1994). The colonial system of forest management was continued even after 1947 with little modifications, emphasizing revenue generation and commercial exploitation, while its policing orientation excluded villagers who had the most longstanding claim on forest resources. The tribals especially were confronted with the vagaries of forest management that continuously eroded their life-styles and simultaneously the assertion of State primacy over natural resources deprived them of an important means of subsistence(Guha 1983).

In this context, an attempt is made to review colonial and post-colonial forest policies by examining the debate on the ownership of forests between British and Indian colonial officers, especially the officials of the Madras Presidency who happened to be more articulate at that time. The first section, deals with the relation between tribals and forests, the second section explains the evolution of State control over forest resources. The third section is on colonial forest policy and on the process of establishing colonial control over natural resources, the fourth section focuses on the forest policies of independent India and on the changes in forest management and the last section contains conclusions.

Forests play a vital role in sustaining the life supporting systems of a country's environment and the quality of its people. The livelihood activities of tribals center on the forests in which they live. The tribals get food from the forests by shifting cultivation, apart from picking varieties of edible and herbal roots, tubers, creepers, fruits, leaves (detailed descriptions of these activities are given in the chapter-4). The major source of food production for them is shifting cultivation, which is an integral part of the economy in tribal culture. About 25 percent of India's tribals (70 million) practice shifting cultivation (Reddy 1983). The Report on Forest and Tribals (1982) indicates shifting cultivation is practised by at least 109 tribal communities in 233 blocks in 62 districts spread over 16 states. In Andhra Pradesh it covers nearly 17,000 hectares in 9 blocks, 92,000 hectares in Arunachal Pradesh, 69,000 hectares in Assam, 83,000 hectares in Manipur and 72,000 hectares in Meghalaya are under swidden cultivation (GO1 1982).

Besides this, tribals collect varieties of minor forest produce(MFP), which includes fodder and grasses, raw materials like bamboo, canes and leaves, gums, waxes, dyes and resins and several forms of food including nuts, wild fruits, and honey. National Commission on Agriculture(1976) has classified MFP as i). fibers and flosses, ii). grasses(other than oil producing), bamboo, reeds, and canes, iii). oil seeds, iv). tams and dyes, v). gums, resins and oleoresins, and vi). leaves. These often play a critical part in the livelihood of the tribal. Most of the MFP come from forests although some trees yielding MFP are found on private fields and also provide valuable assets, and subsistence and cash. Seventy percent of the MFP are collected from the five states Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa and Andhra Pradesh, where 65 percent of the tribal population live(Guhal983). On a rough estimation it has been...
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