Forest and the First Nation in Post-colonial India

Souren Bhattacharya
Subhasree Pal


India has the second-largest tribal population after Africa. Most of them are greatly dependent on forests and their produce for their livelihood. Indian Forest Act of 1865 was the first attempt of colonial govt. to assert a monopoly right over forest resources. By the act of 1878, the customary rights of the villagers were denied. In the post-colonial period, the national forest policy of 1952 also asserted the monopoly of the state over the forest in the new brand ‘national interest'. There is a sharp rise in the production of industrial and fuelwood. The blind acceptance of the colonial policy of practice of monoculture and denial of customary rights to the forest dwellers destroys the ecological balance, and make them ecological refugee. There is a shift of policy towards commercial interest and export-oriented forest management. But this strategy shift is invariably against the interest of the tribal community who inhabit forest areas. There is growing use of Minor Forest Produce (MFP) for different purposes but the profits are reaped by processing industries while collectors of MFP would get wages at subsistence level. The loss of control over resources often compels the tribe to use the forest in an unsustainable Fashion leading to an alienation of man and forest. This paper spotlights how do the exogenous changes in different forested areas badly hamper allocation of food, fuel, fodder, medicine and even ritual rights of the tribal community and their relation with the forest.

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