1. Forest Society and Colonialism
Mainly tea, coffee and rubber plantations were grown during the colonial period. The choice of what is to be grown and what not was based on European preference and not according to the suitability of Indian conditions. The cultivation of large areas for one commercial crop was bad for the soil and affected foodgrain production of the area. But the worst effect of this was on the forests. Large forest areas were converted into plantations by claring them and then selling them off to Europeans. A few remarkable examples may be cited here, some of which are still functional.
In 1850 there had been only large tea plantation in British India producing 2,00,000 pounds of tea annually, but by 1871 the number of tea estates was 295. As India got more tightly linked to British industrial needs and markets more plantations and plantation based industries in tea and coffee developed. The plantation area was also extended considerably in 1920 and the government aimed at afforestation of ravine lands.
These plantations not only become a major source of revenue but also ‘a way of life’ for the Europeans. Even after independence the legacy they left became and asset for the indigenous trade. The extent of impact of plantations on Indian lifestyle and culture is not to be belittled.
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