Structural Change

Structural Change

Question

Give a brief account of the impact of colonial forest policy in North-East India.

Answer

Impact of colonial forest policy in North-East India:

(i) Beginning of railways: The advent of the railways in Bengal...marked an important turning point, which saw the conversion of its forest policy in Assam (Assam was then part of the Bengal province) from one of laissez faire into one of active intervention. ...The demand for railway sleepers transformed the forests in Assam (this included all the present-day seven sister states) from an unproductive wilderness into a lucrative source of revenue for the colonial administration.

(ii) Area under Forests: Between 1861 and 1878, an area of approximately 269 square miles had been constituted as reserved forests. By 1894, the area had gone up to 3,683 square miles. And, by the end of the nineteenth century, the area of forests under the department was 20,061 square miles (constituting 42.2 per cent of the total area of the province), of which 3,609 square miles comprised reserved forests.

(iii) Effect on Tribal Peoples: Significantly, large areas of these forests are located in the hill areas occupied by tribal communities who for centuries depended upon and lived in close harmony with nature.

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