The Bold Voice of J&K

Historical importance of forests

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G L Khajuria

Nature has endowed the Indian sub-continent with luxuriant and plentiful forest wealth. The vast and varied climatic and geological conditions bore forests of different types and intensities ranging from dry thorny forests to wet evergreens. The coniferous forests of hilly region and the deciduous types along foot kills conglomerates many valuable species which serve for the use of construction of houses, bridges and score of other purposes. The original inhabitants of the country had great reverence for forests and a groove of trees around temples were of ample importance of these trees were considered as sacred as our Gods and Goddesses. And cutting or removal of any of such tree was considered a sin. Under some compelling conditions of a tree was removed, five to ten saplings were planted out to absolve oneself of the sin so committed.
As such, the forests played a prominent part in the cultural and spiritual development of our generations. The Rishis and the Munis is search of salvation and attainment of wisdom had their Ashramas in the sylvan surroundings of these forests. The Ramayana and the Mahabharata give an attractive description of forests like Dandakaranya and Nandavan. The wildlife consisting of a variety of mammals, birds and reptiles also received due attention for their protection and conservation.
When Lord Rama told Laxman to fetch firewood for cooking by his consort Sitaji, He advised him to remove only dead-dried branches of tree. He forbade him not to cut green branches. Even our Gods and Goddess were much conscious of forest whereas we human are always have become lusty and are hell bent to go to any extent to fill our ladder by injury to the vibrant lush-green trees. It is dismaying, painful and ironical too. When we chop-down those trees more for our greed than our need, Lord Buddha preached, ‘The forest is a peculiar organism of unlimited and benevolence which sustains us by all means. It offers shade even to the axe-man who falls it.’ Around 2000 BC, there is evidence of a flourishing Dravidian civilization existing I consonance with the forests that were then in such abundance. The early Aryans were pastoral people interacted in the pursuance of agriculture but they also cleared forests only in the areas where they actually settled down, establishing habitations and institutions in the beautiful surroundings of the forests. The records of Chinese pilgrims (600 BC) refer to dense Indian forests even in the North-West regions where much depletion of forests has occurred now. Records relating to Alexander’s invasion (327 BC) mention existence of dense forests. Babur, the first Mughal emperor to real Indian in early sixteenth century is reported to have shot in these forests indicating existence of dense forests and wildlife in that period. The abundance of forests created an impression that resources were inexhaustible and thus there was no organized effort to conserve and maintain the forests. Casual instructions appear to have been issued by different ruler from time to time to regulate fallings and earn maximum revenue.
During the reign of Chandra Gupta Murya (300 BC), a superintendent of forests was appointed to look after the forests. The protection of wildlife was also a part of his duty. Sometimes specified species of timber value were proclaimed by local rulers as ‘Royal Trees’ felling of which was prohibited without permission otherwise the forests were open to all and the public obtained their requirement without restrictions. The Muslim rulers did not have much special interest in the conservation and organized management of forests.
Their main interest in forests was for hunting. Areas with good wildlife were declared as “Royal hunting reserves” and thus received some protection. But increase in population and need for extension for agriculture continued to make incursions on forest land and its produce. The increasing demands of land for expanding agriculture and demand of timber for Navy and other constructional purposes made considerable inroads on forests and forest wealth so much so that it was felt that the forests may not to continue to meet the demands for timber unless some concrete steps were taken for their conservation and maintenance.
In 1855, Lord Dalhousie, the Governor General issued a memorandum to the Government of India outlining policy of conservancy for the whole country. By that time, it was clearly recognized by the administration that if the forest were to be conserved, proper scientific management was necessary. In 1856, Lord Dalhousie appointed District Brandis to take charge of the forest and after 22 years in 1878, the Government honoured Brandish with the title of companion Indian empire and he served a knight commandership in 1880 in recognition of the meritorious service he rendered during the period of 19 years.
Brandis was truly the founder of Indian forestry and it was always befitting to commemorate his achievements. As soon as Brandis was appointed as Inspector General of Forests Cleghorn was appointed to assist him.
They were responsible for methodical system of Management of forests in all states. A separate forest enactment as introduced that time. Moreover, with the passage of time, the demand of forest officer increased for the better control and Management of forest. While Forest Research Institute (FRI) came into existence in 1906, the status of forest school was raised to that of college. A separate two years course was started in 1912 at Dehradun to train science graduates for the provincial forest services of states. The cadre of these officers formed a link between Indian forest services and forest rangers. It was, however stopped in 1928. The forest research institute is located in a spacious campus called the New Forest. It has fine buildings and vast field research areas. It provides facilities for research in forestry and has received worldwide recognition. The institute is associated with professional training for the forest officers both in the superior as well as the junior levels. The trainings included trainings included within the college as well as outside in the field ion forest management and other allied fields. The college impact training to the forest officers on such pattern which make them physically and mentally fit which makes then adequately stout in the administrative and executive activities.
With the passage of time, the Indian forest college was re-incarnated and named Indira Gandhi Forest College, Dehra Dun. A short administrative course is imparted at Lal Bahadur Shastri College on Public administration at Dalhousie.
The Forest Research institute is overall looked by the Director of F.R.I. and colleges. The forest colleges are both for Indian Forest Officers and Forest Ranges officers under the overall control of the Principals. The FRI and colleges are of global fame where trainees from all Indian states including foreign countries are imparted trainings.
With the passage of time, the Indian states opened rangers training college in their respective states. After a detailed imparting two years course, the trainees are awarded degrees to serve in their respective states.
(The author is former
Deputy Conservator of Forests, J&K).

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