Forest for whom? Animals, tribes or Govts?

Aug 28, 2023

The concept of forests and their purpose is often subject to interpretation. Some may believe forests exist primarily to protect animals and preserve diverse tree species. Others may argue that forests ultimately serve human interests, including the government’s role in managing and utilizing forest resources. However, it is important to acknowledge the historical impacts on Indian forests, particularly during the British colonial period. The British engaged in activities such as hunting and logging, often involving local tribes. Additionally, they introduced large-scale tea and coffee plantations, which had lasting detrimental effects on forest ecosystems. These actions set in motion a decline in forest health and biodiversity that continues to be a concern.

The Indian Forest Act of 1865, introduced by the British colonial government, unfortunately, prioritised their commercial interests over the welfare of indigenous tribes and wildlife protection. This law granted the British government extensive control over forests, allowing them to exploit the resources for economic gain. They designated certain areas as reserved forests, imposed regulations on the commercial use of forest products, and restricted local involvement in forest management. Sadly, similar practices continue to be followed by the Indian government today.

The British saw animals as mere objects of enjoyment, treating them as prey for their leisurely pursuits. On the other hand, the current government views them as money-making machines, capitalising on activities such as safaris to generate significant revenue. It is disheartening how many forests remain meticulously clean, with grass and small trees cut along the roadsides in the name of wildfire prevention. In reality, this cleanliness is often maintained solely to facilitate safaris.

These observations highlight the ongoing exploitation of forests and wildlife, where profit takes precedence over conservation and the well-being of indigenous communities. We must challenge these practices and work ethically towards a more sustainable approach to forest management that respects nature and prioritises the long-term health of our ecosystems.

The Indian Forest Act and its subsequent amendments have indeed been subject to various interests and motivations of different governments. These laws have often aimed to gain more control over forests, promote timber plantations, and even facilitate encroachments at the expense of indigenous communities and wildlife. All of this is done under the guise of protecting forests.

The latest bill proposed by the union government allows forests to be treated like any other land, providing opportunities for development as permitted by the government. This approach prioritises human interests and neglects the rightful space that animals deserve. We encroach upon their territory and then complain when they venture out and cause conflicts with villagers. We forget that the forests belong to them, not to us.

The government’s plan to establish zoos further highlights our disregard for the freedom and existence of these species. We make them sacrifice their lives and ensure their extinction for our convenience.

Our insatiable greed and power-driven nature know no bounds. We may act compassionate and empathetic. But ultimately our true nature as cruel beings surfaces. If we have truly valued the natural way of life and the purpose of forests, the government should step aside and allow indigenous tribes to be the natural guardians of the forests. Forest officers are unnecessary in the middle of the forest, where we can witness numerous human constructions.

When the new Forest Act came into place, it has become evident that the government’s interests lie in further intervention and commercialisation of the forests. The government seeks more investments and economic gains, disregarding the need to protect forests to maintain ecosystems and preserve the lives of indigenous communities. It seems no stone will be left unturned in the government’s relentless pursuit of implementing its agenda.