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Forests were not only unable to maintain the control over the exploitation and management of the forests originally exercised by Brandis in the early days of the Department, but they had actually lost touch with the methods in force, and were thus without direct knowledge of the laxity which they had every reason to fear was making its appearance in some of the provinces. To Schlich is due the credit of putting an end to this retrograde step in the management of the forests. He was Inspector-General at the time, and in 1884 obtained the sanction of the Government of India to his scheme of centralising, in the office of the Inspector-General, the control of the preparation of working plans and the management of the forests under the provisions of these plans. As Ribbentrop rightly says (in his Forestry in British India, upon which much of the information in this chapter is based), “This was one of the epoch-making events in our forest history.” A working plans' branch which was to be a reality and not merely a name now came into being. The powers of control remained vested in the Inspector-General of Forests, but were largely increased. It would perhaps be difficult to improve on Ribbentrop's description (in 1900) of the progress in the introduction of working plans in India, of which the following is an extract :
“The preparation of working plans continued to be carried out by local agency and under orders of the Local Governments, but under the technical advice of the Inspector-General of Forests, who even after completion criticises each plan and submits it to the Local Governments with a recommendation or otherwise. The Local Governments accept the plans and sanction them if they think fit. Provision was made for cases in which Local Governments disagreed with the instructions issued by the InspectorGeneral of Forests for a decision by the Government of India. In spite of this, the policy of giving the Inspector-General of Forests such large powers of indirect interference with provincial forest management was severely attacked, but the Government of India remained firm, and wisely so. There have been but few differences, and in no single instance has the Government of India been appealed to. The machinery worked as smoothly as could be desired, and the Government of India, through the Inspector-General of Forests, obtained all the control required over the forest management in the various provinces comprised in the Bengal Presidency.
The progress has been as great as could be expected with the number of officers available for the work. By the end of 1884-5 only 109 square miles were worked under regularly sanctioned working plans. In 1886–7 this area had risen only to 339 square miles, but by the end of 1897–8 it had increased to 16,536 square miles, and in July, 1899, comprised about 20,000 square miles. The above figures only refer to the Bengal Presidency, where at present (1900) about two-fifths of all reserves are worked under regular detailed working plans. In Bombay and the Madras Presidencies the preparation and control of working plans is entirely local, and there is no technical adviser beyond the Conservator who submits the plans. In the Bombay Presidency regular working plans existed at the end of 1897-8 for 2484 square miles, and were under preparation for an additional area of 3514 square miles. In the Madras Presidency the staff has been too much occupied with forest settlements, and as regards working plans a commencement has but lately been made. At the end of 1897–8 plans existed for only 201 square miles, but were under preparation for another 1101 square miles, and may now be expected to increase rapidly. Similar progress
has been made in the character of our Indian working plans. Some of our earlier plans were over-elaborated, the principle of the weakest link in the chain had frequently been overlooked, and enumeration of the young stock and sometimes of inferior kinds of trees had made them too costly in time and money in comparison with their final prescriptions. The plans, however, which have been prepared during the last eight years are well balanced and practical in every respect. In the Bombay Southern Circle, however, a tendency seems still to exist to carry out the preliminary work in too great detail.
Experience has proved the wisdom of centralising the control of existing working plans in the provinces under the Government of India. At the beginning, especially when a change of officers had taken place, deviations from the provisions of such plans were the order of the day, and were more frequently, than not, carried out without the sanction of the Local Government or even of the Conservator, who under the Forest Department Code is permitted to sanction certain changes. Often such deviations were not even reported, but they were necessarily found out by the Assistant Inspector-General in charge of the Working Plans Branch in the Inspector-General's office, and were promptly brought to the notice of the Conservator of the Local Government; explanations were called for and the authority required for any deviation that might have taken place. By a strict adherence to this policy on the part of the Inspector-General of Forests, the necessity of the due observance of the provisions of regularly sanctioned working plans was gradually recognised, and there is now little to find fault with in this respect. Though, however, the control is now much easier than it was at the outset, the increase in the number of working plans much more than counterbalances this, and the examination of the annual control forms throws a great burden on the Office of the Inspector-General of Forests which year by year becomes a heavier one. It may at some future time become advisable to decentralise the control or to appoint another gazetted officer to assist the Inspector-General and to materially increase his office establishment.
The possibility of deviation which circumstances may render necessary or advisable has been fully recognised, and ample powers have been conferred on local Conservators to meet it. The rules on the subject stand at present as follows:
As regards deviations from an approved working plan, not amounting to a revision of the general scheme of management, exploitation in deficit (either as regards material or area) may be permitted on the order of the Conservator, who will, however, subsequently report results to the Local Government, and, in cases where the deviation from the provisions of the working plan is considerable or continuous, obtain the sanction of the Local Government thereto. The previous sanction of the Local Government should, in every case, be obtained when it is proposed to exploit in excess (either as regards material or area)-provided such excess is not caused by the accumulation of balances due to deficit exploitation in previous years or when it is contemplated to change in any way the character of the exploitation. Conservators may act in anticipation of the Local Government's sanction in the case of fire or other serious accident, or in case of exceptional seed-years, necessitating a sudden change in the plan. Copies of the orders of the Local Government sanctioning such modifications should be forthwith forwarded to the Inspector-General of Forests.'
The Inspector-General is assisted in the work of control by the Superintendent of Working Plans, who is also Assistant Inspector-General of Forests, who is, for special qualifications and merit, drafted from time to time from the various Provincial Lists. The following officers have served in this position :
Mr. J. W. Oliver (Burma List), subsequently Conservator of the School Forest Circle and Director of the Imperial Forest School
Mr. R. H. C. Whittall, died as Conservator of the Punjab.
Mr. E. P. Dansey (North-Western Provinces List), subsequently Conservator, Central Circle, North-Western Provinces and Oudh,
Mr. E. E. Fernandez (Assam List), subsequently Officiating Conservator, Central Provinces, Northern Circle, in 1900.
Mr. W. E. D'Arcy (Punjab List)-author of a valuable treatise on Working Plans-died as Conservator of the Central Circle, North-Western Provinces and Oudh.
Mr. J. L. Pigott (Assam List), subsequently Conservator of Forests to the Mysore Government in 1900.
Mr. C. G. D. Fordyce (Bengal List), officiated during a three months' vacancy.
Mr. F. Beadon Bryant (North-Western Provinces List), for 35 years.
Mr. G. S. Hart (Punjab List), officiated during a three months' vacancy
Mr. J. H. Lace (Punjab List), from 22nd February, 1900.”
As in other forest services on the continent of Europe, the preparation of working plans requires from the officers entrusted with the work skilled professional knowledge combined with a wide outlook, a grasp of detail and a capacity to appreciate the position and requirements, the susceptibilities and possible opposition of the local and other population to provisions they may wish to incorporate into their plans. Something more than the mere ordinary professional knowledge and training is required to produce the good working plans officer, even when a certain period of service has given him the essential experience and knowledge of the inhabitants of the countryalways a first necessity in India.
Such being the requirements, it is not surprising that with a recognition on the part of the Local Governments of the very great importance of this work, officers were picked to act as Working Plans Officers in charge of the preparation of plans for certain forest areas, and when necessary, junior trained officers from the Imperial Branch were selected to serve as their Assistants. Further, owing to the arduous nature of the work and its importance, staff pay was awarded to the officers engaged upon it. By the end of the period here dealt with selection as Working Plans Officer became regarded as the blue riband of the various local forest services in the provinces, the only possibility open at this period to the Forest Officer below the rank of Conservator of getting away for a time from ordinary divisional routine. To the smart junior, selection as Assistant on working plans, provided he fulfilled the promise of his selection, meant early distinction amongst his fellows.
For at this time research and the Research Institute and the Staff appointments which were to come in their train had scarcely reached the stage of academic discussion; whilst the Dehra Forest School appointments as Instructors did not, many Forest Officers felt, lead in the direction they wished to follow.
INDIAN FOREST LITERATURE AND RESEARCH, 1850–1900
HE century which had elapsed since the British
first began to institute enquiries into the value (from a timber-producing point of view) of the
southern forests of the country was extraordinarily meagre in the production of a forest literature dealing with the Indian forests. Numerous official reports connected with the forests of the country were drawn up, but these were not available to the public nor generally to the officers of the Department after its formation. Those in authority saw and read them, and they then followed the usual fate of such documents and were filed and pigeon-holed. The only book dealing with the early days of Forest Conservancy which apparently became available to the public was Cleghorn's Forests and Gardens of Southern India, published in 1861. This book to a certain extent dealt with forestry matters and problems, for it was a description of the author's tours in the forests of the Madras Presidency, and forms a valuable record of the period (1856 to 1859) for which it was written.
A book of great interest and value to the Forester on the eastern side of India is Hooker's Himalayan Journal, published at much the same time.
With these exceptions the early books at all relating to the forests were botanical in nature, such as Balfour's Timber Trees, Timber and Fancy Woods of India, Colonel Beddome's Flora Sylvatica of Southern India and Ceylon, and Sulpiz Kurz's Forest Flora of Lower Burma.
Later, Brandis published his Forest Flora of North-West and Central India. Then came Gamble's List of Trees, Shrubs and Large Climbers found in the Darjiling District, Bengal, Talbot's Systematic List of the Trees, Shrubs and Woody Climbers of the Bombay Presidency, and Gamble's Bambuseæ of British India, and one of the most useful and practical books of all for general use by the Forest Officers throughout India, Gamble's