NCERT Class 9 History Chapter 4 - Forest Society and Colonialism

Chapter 4 - Forest Society and Colonialism

Question 1: What is deforestation? Explain briefly the factors responsible for deforestation during colonial rule.
The disappearance of forests is referred to as deforestation.
• First, the British directly encouraged the production of commercial crops like jute, sugar, wheat and cotton. The demand for these crops increased in nineteenth-century Europe where foodgrains were needed to feed the growing urban population and raw materials were required for industrial production.
• Second, in the early nineteenth century, the colonial state thought that forests were unproductive. They were considered to be wilderness that had to be brought under cultivation so that the land could yield agricultural products and revenue, and enhance the income of the state.
• By the early nineteenth century, oak forests in England were disappearing. This created a problem of timber supply for the Royal Navy.
• By the 1820s, search parties were sent to explore the forest resources of India. Within a decade, trees were being felled on a massive scale and vast quantities of timber were being exported from India.
• The spread of railways from the 1850s created a new demand. Railways were essential for colonial trade and for the movement of imperial troops. To run locomotives, wood was needed as fuel, and to lay railway lines sleepers were essential to hold the tracks together.

Question 2: What are the various uses of forests in our day to day life?

→ Uses of forests for tribal people
• In forest areas, people use forest products such as roots, leaves, fruits, and tubers for many things.
• Fruits and tubers are nutritious to eat, especially during the monsoons before the harvest has come in.
• Herbs are used for medicine, wood for agricultural implements like yokes and ploughs, bamboo makes excellent fences and is also used to make baskets and umbrellas.
• A dried scooped-out gourd can be used as a portable water bottle. Leaves can be stitched together to make disposable plates and cups, the siadi (Bauhinia vahlii) creeper can be used to make ropes, and the thorny bark of the semur (silk-cotton) tree is used to grate vegetables.
• Oil for cooking and to light lamps can be pressed from the fruit of the mahua tree.
→ Uses of forests for common people
• The paper in the book, desks and tables, doors and windows, the dyes that colour clothes, spices in your food, the cellophane wrapper of toffee, tendu  leaf in bidis, gum, honey, coffee, tea and rubber all comes from trees.
• The oil in chocolates, comes from sal seeds, the tannin used to convert skins and hides into leather, or the herbs and roots used for medicinal purposes.
• Forests also provide bamboo, wood for fuel, grass, charcoal, packaging, fruits, flowers, animals, birds and many other things.

Question 3: Who was appointed as the first Inspector General of Forest in India? What were the suggestions given by him?
Dietrich Brandis was 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. This system would need legal sanction.
• Rules about the use of forest resources had to be framed.
• Felling of trees and grazing had to be restricted so that forests could be preserved for timber production.
• Anybody who cut trees without following the system had to be punished.

Question 4: Describe briefly about the system of scientific forestry introduced by Dietrich Brandis.

• Brandis set up the Indian Forest Service in 1864 and helped 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’. Many people now, including ecologists, feel that this system is not scientific at all.
• In scientific forestry, natural forests which had lots of different types of trees were cut down. In their place, one type of tree was planted in straight rows. This is called a plantation.
• Forest officials surveyed the forests, estimated the area under different types of trees, and made working plans for forest management.

Question 5: When was the Forest Act enacted? How many times was it amended?
The Forest Act was enacted in 1865, it was amended twice, once in 1878 and then in 1927.

Question 6: How were forests classified on the basis of the Forest Act of 1878?
The 1878 Act divided forests into three categories: reserved, protected and village forests.

Question 7: How did the forest laws affect the shifting cultivators, hunters, and traders?

→ Shifting cultivators
• One of the major impacts of European colonialism was on the practice of shifting cultivation or swidden agriculture. It was practiced in many parts of Asia, Africa and South America.
• European foresters regarded this practice as harmful for the forests. They felt that land which was used for cultivation every few years could not grow trees for railway timber.
• When a forest was burnt, there was the added danger of the flames spreading and burning valuable timber.
• Shifting cultivation also made it harder for the government to calculate taxes. Therefore, the government 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.

→ Hunters
• Before the forest laws, many people who lived in or near forests had survived by hunting deer, partridges and a variety of small animals.
• This customary practice was prohibited by the forest laws. Those who were caught hunting were now punished for poaching.
• The forest laws deprived people of their customary rights to hunt, the British saw large animals as signs of a wild, primitive and savage society.
• They believed that by killing dangerous animals the British would civilise India.

→ Traders
• In India, the trade in forest products was not new. Adivasi communities traded elephants and other goods like hides, horns, silk cocoons, ivory, bamboo, spices, fibres, grasses, gums and resins through nomadic communities like the Banjaras.
• With the coming of the British, however, trade was completely regulated by the government. The British government gave many large European trading firms the sole right to trade in the forest products of particular areas.
• Grazing and hunting by local people were restricted.
• In the process, many pastoralist and nomadic communities like the Korava, Karacha and Yerukula of the Madras Presidency lost their livelihoods.
• Some of them began to be called ‘criminal tribes’, and were forced to work instead in factories, mines and plantations, under government supervision.

Question 8: Describe some of the common customs and beliefs of the people of Bastar.

• Bastar is located in the southernmost part of Chhattisgarh and borders Andhra Pradesh, Orissa and Maharashtra.
• 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.
• In addition to the Earth, they show respect to the spirits of the river, the forest and the mountain.

Question 9: Why did the people of Bastar revolt against the colonial government? What was its outcome?

• 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 were 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 fires.
• Subsequently, these came to be known as ‘forest villages’.
People of other villages were displaced without any notice or compensation.
• For long, villagers had been suffering from increased land rents and frequent demands for free labour and goods by colonial officials.
• Then came the terrible famines, in 1899-1900 and again in 1907-1908. Reservations proved to be the last straw.
• In a major victory for the rebels, work on reservation was temporarily suspended, and the area to be reserved was reduced to roughly half of that planned before 1910.

Question 10: Who were Kalangs?

• The Kalangs of Java were a community of skilled forest cutters and shifting cultivators.
• They were so valuable that in 1755 when the Mataram kingdom of Java split, the 6,000 Kalang families were equally divided between the two kingdoms.
• Without their expertise, it would have been difficult to harvest teak and for the kings to build their palaces.

Question 11: Explain the provisions of the forests laws passed by the Dutch in Java.

• In the nineteenth century, when it became important to control territory and not just people, the Dutch enacted forest laws in Java, restricting villagers’ access to forests.
• 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.

Question 12: What do you mean by blandongdiensten system?
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.

Question 13: Who was Surontiko Samin?

• Around 1890, Surontiko Samin of Randublatung village, a teak forest village, 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 organise it were 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.

Question 14: What was the impact of World War on forests?

• 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 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.
• Many villagers used this opportunity to expand cultivation in the forest. After the war, it was difficult for the Indonesian forest service to get this land back.

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