Indian Forest Act 1927
The Indian forest act was enacted in 1865. It was amended first in 1878 and again in 1927. This act did not focus on the conservation of forests in place of the laws of the British Colonial Government focused on control of extraction of timber from the forest. In this article, we will provide information about the Indian Forest Act 1927 that is useful for the environment section of the UPSC exam.
Reasons for implementation of the Indian Forest Act
The British government wanted forests in order to meet the demands of the massively expanding railways. The expansion of railways was very essential for the movement of imperial troops and to carry out trade.
The Royal British Navy needed wood to build their ships in order to protect their massive empire but there was a problem with the timber supply for it.
Wood was an essential component to lay down railway slippers and also served as fuel for running locomotives.
Also, the British government was worried about the use of forests in India by the local people.
All these reasons led to the execution of forest laws by the British Government.
Divisions of forests
Forests in India were divided into 3 different categories as per the Indian Forest Act of 1878.
- Reserved forest
- Protected forest
- Village forest
Villagers did not have the right to take anything from the reserve forest for their own use but they could use the forest products only from the village forests and protected forests to build their houses or for fuel.
What was the impact of the Indian forest act?
The Indian Forest Act of 1927 put a very severe negative impact on villagers across the country.
The regular but inevitable activities of villagers became illegal like fishing, hunting, collecting roots, grazing cattle and cutting wood.
The villagers started to steal wood by entering the forest without permission due to the restrictions imposed by the Indian forest act. They were compelled to offer bribes to forest guards otherwise they would capture these villagers.
They were harassed by offering free food to these forest guards and police constables.
The British Colonial Government decided to ban shifting cultivation practised by villagers through the Indian forest act. Ultimately, this resulted in the forcible displacement of many communities from their homes in forests.
The British Government thought that the practice of shifting cultivation would affect the supply of timber for railways because villages used to practice shifting cultivation. They also believed that valuable timber would be used as a fuel because shifting cultivation involved cutting forests and burning them in flames.
Shifting cultivation was banned by the Government because it was difficult to calculate the taxes due to shifting cultivation.
The British imposed restrictions on hunting and grazing by the local people. This is the reason many nomadic communities like Yerukula of Madras Presidency, Karacha and Korava lost their livelihoods.
Moreover, some of these tribes were labelled as criminal tribes. They were forced to work in factories, mines and plantations because of the strict supervision of the British Colonial Government.
The working conditions of these workers were very poor and the wages were very low. Also, they were not allowed to visit their homes.
Many workers from forest-dwelling communities like Oraons and Santhals of Jharkhand and Gonds of Chhattisgarh worked in tea plantations in Assam.
Rebellion in the Forest
Many Forest communities rebelled against the British government in different parts of the country. They were against the restrictions imposed on them. Some of the most popular leaders such as Alluri Sitarama Raju (Andhra Pradesh) Siddhu and Kanu in Santhal Pargana, Birsa Munda of Chotanagpur, carried out rebellions in forests.
The forest conservation act came into force in 1982 to address the problem of deforestation and it was amended two times in 1988 and 1996.