Chapter : 1. Forest Society and Colonialism

Emergence Of New Opportunities And Benefits

The process of adjustment and the necessity to evolve in changing circumstances brought out the best amongst the foresters. New trade in forest products by the colonisers in collaboration with the locals created new opportunities and generated employment in forest areas. This was a worldwide phenomenon and had its negative aspect too. Now the simple forest people were at the mercy of their foreign employers who used all means to exploit them. They even used force and torture to extract the maximum out of them. The rubber plantations of Brazil and Putumayo in the Amazon area involving the Munduru and Huitoto Indians, respectively, during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries are instances of how growing demand for rubber was changing the lifestyle of a primitive traditional society.
The adivasis or forest tribes of India, as they are called, were equally badly affected although the use of jungle products like animal hides and horns, spices, herbs, wood and its products etc., for trade was nothing new for them. But the element of foreignes as traders and officials was a new development for them too and so were the trading regulations introduced by the British on forest products. Many of the tribes and pastoral communities lost their occupation because of changing economic pattern due to their previous vocations like hunting, gathering and grazing. Even the Banjaras, the nomadic salesmen lost their job as their product were either not in demand or due to restrictions they were unable to procure them. The criminalisation of certain tribes, a feature of colonial India, was a natural corollary of the changing economic conditions during the British period of Indian history. The plantation industry discussed earlier too played havoc with the lives of the people as many of them were displaced from their homes to work in far off areas. The tea gardens of Assam attracted migrant lobour from Jharkhand and Chattisgarh as tribals provided cheap labour to the planters and with nothing at all to do in their native places they at least could earn their bread albeit in bad working conditions.

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