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The Lodha, the Mahali and the Santal, three forest dwelling Scheduled Tribes of India are found to domicile in the forest clad areas Paschim Medinipur district, West Bengal. They belong to three distinctly different traditional occupations which treat them as hunting and gathering, substantial craftsman and settled agriculturist, thereby they hail from dissimilar economic status in socio-economic point of view but socio-culturally they are keen to one another and their techno-economy absolutely forest based. The Indian Forest Act 1865 as amended in 1878 and 1927 compelled these tribes to forego their traditional occupation, because of an embargo contained in the Indian Forest Act, which debarred them from entering the forest. Compelling these people to find new ways of sustaining livelihood since they could not pursue their age-old traditional occupation any more. This was the first and vital impact of the Indian Forest Act on these tribes. Rehabilitation was a far cry though a few concessions were spelt out in the Indian Forest Policies of 1894, 1952 and 1988, impugned contents of Five Year Plans in the context for these men was not adequate enough.
Post-Independence they were not considered much, barring a few programmes which have barely reached them. At the outset these tribes were forced to adopt changed economic pursuit to maintain livelihood. Adoption to the economic change and adaptability of new economic pursuit are the interesting aspects of these tribes. The present sequel shall peer into the legal reckon and its consequences of the Forest Act, Policies and Five Year Plans on the selected forest dwelling tribes in the context of the Parliamentary affairs of India . It is fact that, due to the Indian Forest Act these tribes have bifurcated to new economic status because of different occupational practice abdicating their traditional occupation. They lost their age-old rights over the forest; thereby, these tribes were compelled to do away with their traditional occupations and find new way of sustaining livelihood. The dismal situation prevailed since the inception of the said Act which is still in force pushing these tribes in utter dismay. 1894, 1952 and1988 Forest Policies, Five Year Plans which provided few concessions to these people which was/are not adequate enough.
Post-Independence planning and rehabilitation programmes tailored for them have not reached them properly. The dismal situation continues even today, making them a bewildered lot, persona-non-grata and not interested in the forest respectively, but life goes on. The chosen tribes were compelled to adopt change in economic pursuit, for which the inception of the Indian Forest Act is to be held solely responsible. This sequel aims to find their present socio-economic, socio-cultural, along with techno-economic conditions and sustenance of livelihood under the implemented Forest Act, Policies and Five Year Plans in the form of a legal reckon and its consequences on these forest dwelling tribes. This is of immense importance wherefrom the Parliament shall be appraised of the intricacies of the said Act with the Five Year Plans and Forest Policies.
The study will be relied upon participant observation, case study method, interview schedule confined to the Lodha, the Mahali and the Santal settlements of Paschim Medinipur District of West Bengal. The habitats of deep inside the forest and its fringe shall be the consideration of collection of data. The area of study shall be restricted to the selected villages under concerned Ranges of four Forest Divisions, the Jhargram, Medinipur,Kharagpur and Rupnarayan Forest Divisions, Paschim Medinipur. The choice of these forest ranges are based on plentiful availability of the Lodha the Mahali and the Santal respectively, as they are the chosen tribes of the present study.
Sample villages will be considered from deep inside the forest and fringe of it. The villages situated beyond 2 kms from the Official Forest boundary inside the forest considered as deep inside the forest, while on other side settlements within 2 kms. or outside the official boundary of the forest shall be termed as fringe villages formulating the study area. The sample villages for the study shall be restricted to a pair of villages inside the forest and its fringe. 50 Nos. of households in each sector of selected tribes will be emphasized upon. Sample population would be 1000- 1200 approximately out of 200 families.
There are sixteen tribal groups spread over in West Bengal, the Lodha the Mahali and the Santal are those, who reside deep inside the forest and its fringe of Paschim Medinipur and other forest clad districts respectively. Being traditionally hunter gatherer the Lodha, their economy totally depended on the forest. The Mahali, who engage themselves in various crafts are essentially basket weavers making baskets from Bamboo and Atar, a typical creeper plant (very rare now), so forest is/was their main source of livelihood sustenance. The Santal are settled Agriculturist within the or adjoining to the, or in the vicinity of the forest. The pattern of cultural upliftment derives out of the work culture and their co-habitation with other caste peasants.
In 1865 the Indian Forest Act was implemented as amended in 1878 and 1927, which put an embargo in entry to the forest, thus their economy was totally hit. They lost their age-old rights over the forest; thereby these tribes were compelled to do away with traditional occupations and find a new way of sustaining livelihood. The dismal situation prevailed since the inception of the said Act which is still in force pushing these tribes in utter dismay. 1894, 1952 and1988 Forest Policies, five year plans which provided few concessions to these people which was/are not adequate enough.
Post-Independence planning and rehabilitation programmes tailored for them have not reached them properly. The dismal situation continues even today, making them a bewildered lot, persona-non-grata and not interested in the forest respectively, but life goes on. The chosen tribes were compelled to adopt change in economic pursuit, for which the inception of the Indian Forest Act is to be held solely responsible. This sequel aims to find their present socio-economic, socio-cultural, along with techno-economic conditions and sustenance of livelihood under the implemented Forest Act, Policies and Five Year Plans in the form of a legal reckon and its consequences on these forest dwelling tribes. The study has immense importance wherefrom the Parliament shall be appraised of the intricacies of the said Act with the Five Year Plans and Forest Policies.
Indian forest and its natural phenomenon is a synergy from time immemorial. Human civilization and its cultural heritage always encouraged the society and people at large. Its vast area, rich sources of flora, fauna, and inbuilt resources build up strength of the nation which attracted people in large scale. Potentiality of life sustenance influenced the closer acumen for shelter, having abode in its deep enclosures and fringes.
The Indian Forest was explored by the different invaders, where time scale is a historical identity who maintained speciality in their own manner. The East India Company was one amongst the many, exploring India during early 18th Century. They were allured by the forest and its gigantic implicit. In 1760 they took charge of India as British India, The Indian flora, fauna and its limitless credibility, immanency magnetised them towards the Indian bosky. Sensing that they had little knowledge of the intricate contents within it, incapability of charging on the forest and forest products which had boundless commercial potentiality, while their rival, tribal counterparts were better acquainted with it, who knew the forest as if it was their palm. Realizing the fact and to established the absolute supremacy over the forest the then Government made a rule with law relating factors, ultimately an Act as Indian Forest Act, which came into force during 1865, amended in 1878 and finally in 1927 which is still in vogue.
The present study will peer into the crux of implementation, effectiveness of the Indian Forest Act, Policies, Five Year Plans and its legal reckon and consequences on socio-economic, socio-cultural and techno- economic adaptation, extracting the reasons responsible for it, in the context of Forest Dwelling Tribes which enhance welfare of the Tribes and benefiting Parliamentary affairs. There was no research work on The Indian Forest Act and its impact on the Tribes till 2013. Dr. Suparna Sanyal Mukherjee in her thesis entitled “Impact of Indian Forest Act on the Tribes of Paschim Medinipur 2013”. The first ever research on the matter, has narrated of the changes brought about in the life of the Lodha (one of the studied tribes) due to the Act. She has found the inclination of the Lodha towards food growing. The Vth edition, 1989 of B.R. Beotra, on Law of Forests, explains the Legislative history, National Forest Policy, Objects and Reasons, Scheme of the Act, Scope of the Act, its thirteen chapters and eighty-six sections. Forests and Tribes are the two sides of the same coin. They have a common history of suffering, neglect and exploitation so both are considered synonyms with backwardness. Forests and Tribal’s are exploited for various reasons. Many species of flora and fauna are extinguishing, The Forestry and Tribal Development by R.S. Shukla, tried to find out the reasons behind it, at the same time explained that some tribal groups are also becoming extinct.
Economic development of Tribal’s – Approach, Method and Strategy, by Sri Kishore C Padhy, introduced the notions of tribe and castes, which explained the primitive way of living, habitation in the remote areas and less easily accessible areas, denoted in the colonial period of India. Subsistence system of different Societies and Strategies for their Development, by N. Pattanaik,also describes the tribal situation in the Pre-British and British period. History of Forestry in India, by Ajay S. Rawat, pointed out the history of Indian Forestry and the root cause of the on-going disaster of deforestation, what lay behind the radical transformation of the social system of resource use that took place under the British Regime.
The most common terms for tribes was Aborigines, was pointed out by Risley (1903), Elwin (1944). Dalton (1960), Thakkar (1941). Other terms in use for the so-called aborigines was delineated in the Backward Hindus, by Ghurye (1963), Ethnic Minorities (Pathy 1988) Fourth World (Sengupta 1982), Tribes in Transition (Desai 1960) are some researches of social science and Anthropology. Some authors use the term Adivasis or Autochthones of the land, implying that they were the early settlers. It is a fact that the tribal leader and representative of the Assembly, Jaipal Singh coined the term Adivasi to refer to tribal people. Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, the formulation of the Indian constitution argued against it and opted for the term Scheduled Tribe in order to ensure more effective implementation of and compliance with the legal and administrative concessions and benefits meant for them. Recently, there has been renewed interest in the use of the terms Adivasi, roughly translated now as Indigenous People. The Global content of this renewed interest is traced to the UN declaration in the year 1993, as the International year of Indigenous People where another term was considered, “Native” on the basis of 500 years of Columbus’s discovery of the New World.
According to Prof. Dhirendra Nath Majumder – the aboriginal Society is the collection of a few families who have similarities in their names, live in a particular region, use the same language, follow the same religious norms in profession and marriage, and have a co-ordination among themselves. Peddington comments – they are the members of such group who speak the same language, occupy the same land, and have homogeneity in their cultural life. Prof. P. K. Bhowmik explained about the Lodha, of their Socio-cultural, Socio-economical, religious life in his book, The Lodhas of West Bengal, 1963. Prof. A. K. Danda in his Article in ASI Journal, March, 2002, Vol – 51, No. 1, Page 103-111, under the heading of “Predicaments of Marginalised Community: The Lodha, observed that the Lodha on abolition of the Criminal Tribes Act in 1952, were not reimbursed with their Rights over the Forest,which they considered to be their own. The rehabilitation programmes designed by the Administration is not reaching to them, thereby development becoming not fruitful to the Lodha.
The entire ambit of forestry in India has been compassed by S.S. Negi’s India’s Forests, Forestry and Wildlife, in the year 1994 and Forest for Socio-economic and Rural Development in India, 1996. Ethnolinguistically, The Mahali belongs to the Mundari Group of tribes, Risley – 1892, Sengupta – 1969. Customary behavioral pattern, Socio-cultural aspects, basket making is their economical purview and a brief ethnographic attempt was pointed out by Dr. Shyamal Kanti Sengupta, 1970 in The Social Profiles of the Mahalis.
Mr. K.P. Chattopadhyay, who described in detail the myth, how Kherwal became Santals. Social, cultural, Socio-economical aspects of Santals, their agro-economy and agricultural norms, how it has kept a balance with changing society was looked into by P.C. Roy, 1916, in Socio-Cultural process and Psychological Adaptation. N.G. Basu 1987, described the dependence on the forest, agro-silviculture, forestry development, forest based Socio-cultural performances and community forestry in the Forests and Tribal. Impact of the Joint Forest Management and Forest Protection Committee and how it has influenced the program in several districts of the State, with the local people, a comprehensive review detailing was delineated by Prabir Guhathakurta and Subimal Roy, in the year 2000, in their book Joint Forest Management in West Bengal – A Critique.
Dr. Suparna Sanyal Mukherjee described why the Lodhas are abdicate their traditional occupation in The Lodha – Compelled to Abdicate Traditional Occupation Due to Indian Forest Act, The International Journal Of Humanities & Social Studies, Vol 3 Issue 11, Nov-2015, Page-238-24. She also narrated in her article Indian Forest Act & Democracy: Effects on Traditional Tribal System, Main Stream Weekly, Vol LIV, No 18, New Delhi, April 23, 2016. pp- 17-19. Srijani Dey Bhattacharjee in 2011 also established that the British Administration hit the Khashi economy and socio- cultural aspects which was totally forest based, in her article British Administration in Khashi Hills, ASI March 2011, vol-1, page 61-74.
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