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(1) Superior Staff
not managed by Government (4) Forest Science and Education (including all “ A"
and “B” charges of Forest School)
(e) Forest Settlement
“It may be interesting to compare for different periods the revenue and expenditure under the various heads, with the proportion of the gross receipts expended, and I add it for 1880-1, 1884-5 and 1897–8:
Commenting on the above figures as a result of the work of the Department during the thirty-six years since its inauguration, Ribbentrop wrote:
The cash revenue is not the only benefit the forests under the administration of the Department confer on the country. The value of forest produce annually consumed by right holders, given away by Local Governments as privileges and free grants, is very large indeed. It has only lately been attempted to estimate the value of such concessions, which during 1897–8 amounted to 35 lacs of rupees. This figure does not include the value of produce from forest areas and waste lands outside the control of the Forest Department, where mostly no restriction whatever exists.”
It will be noted from the above figures that the forestry estate managed in the interests of the peoples of India had vastly increased in value from the beginnings made in 1864. By 1900 it was a great charge, and one whose value to the country was incalculable. And if this was true in 1900, and it was undeniably true, it will be seen as this history develops that this vast estate is of infinitely greater value to-day, and has a potential value in the future which it is difficult to estimate.
THE PROGRESS MADE IN THE PROTECTION OF THE FORESTS,
NE of the first questions which faced the officers appointed in the different provinces to the newly constituted Forest Department was the necessity
of protecting the forests from the chief sources of injury to which they had been subject from time immemorial, reckless cutting, firing and grazing with the aftermath of serious erosion, under which their value in the more populous parts of the country was surely becoming decreased to a point which would finally reduce them to a practically worthless scrub. This proved a matter of the greatest difficulty.
It has been shown in previous chapters that the people looked upon the forests as a class of property in which, although they did not possess the ownership, they could enter and hack, burn, or graze their cattle at will. In the Central Provinces, for instance, large trees would be felled by the aborigines merely to collect the honey and wax from a few combs in the crowns of the trees, or in Burma to collect leaves from them for cigarette wrappers. The author saw instances of the former in the Chota Nagpur sâl forests at late as 1897, thus indicating how difficult it had proved to eradicate these long-prevalent ideas on the uses to which the forests could be put. Again, the method of shifting cultivation practised by the inhabitants of the hilly tracts throughout the country had resulted in the destruction of thousands of square miles of forest actually felled for the purpose, whilst fires from the burning of the cleared area spread into the adjacent forest and committed more havoc. The owners of cattle, moreover, annually fired the forest in order to get rid of the old dry, inedible material and thus obtain a new crop of young grass for their herds to feed upon as soon as the first rains made their appearance. The forests were also fired by hunters in order to enable them to move about more easily, and the same practice was resorted to in the areas in which heavy fellings were being undertaken by the representatives of timber merchants. Even after a forest law had been promulgated and when the boundaries of the forests had been clearly laid down on the ground the aligned boundaries did not at first convey anything to the neighbouring population, and the latter had to be educated into their meaning before it was possible to satisfy a court that the people had become cognisant of the fact that the forest inside a boundary was no longer open to the malpractices of any and every one who cared to go into it. The Indian ryot, a most conservative individual, faced the new position of affairs with extreme reluctance. The prosecutions which had to be instituted for offences committed against the new forest law brought the Forest Officers into bad odium with the natives for a considerable period of years after the first introduction of the amount of protection absolutely necessary if practical Forest Conservancy was to adequately take its place in the economic scheme of administration of the country. The illfeeling this forest police system and its work engendered was not confined to the people, but for years found its counterpart amongst many of the district officials in the forest districts. It was perhaps natural that the native officials from highest to lowest should sympathise and side with the people. They had absorbed similar views upon the subject of the forest and failed to understand that any necessity existed for its protection and closure to unrestricted acts of destruction. This feeling on their part persisted for many years, and to such a degree that it became necessary for the Government of India to issue an order that prosecutions of forest offences, especially fire offences, should not be undertaken in the court of a native magistrate unless he had first-class powers. It was not that the native magistrates intentionally let the convicted persons off lightly, but that they entirely failed to grasp the magnitude of the offence and resultant damage done to the forest; or the great risk to the forest which resulted from the commission in it of some, in itself, trivial offence, such as lighting a fire in the dry season to cook food, smoking, etc., from which no actual injury to the forest had accrued. But for a considerable period European magistrates were almost equally lenient in their punishments for forest offences. And this view-point can only be attributed to the ignorance which existed at the time amongst the British peoples on the subject of forestry and what it aims at and means to a nation, and especially to a great