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Colonial Rule and Pastoral Life

Under colonial rule, the life of pastoralists changed dramatically. Their grazing grounds shrunk, their movements were regulated and the revenue they had to pay increased. Their agricultural stock declined and their trades and crafts were affected badly.



Colonial Rule and Pastoral Life


There were several rules and acts imposed by the colonial rule. They were,

Waste Land Rule

  • The colonial state wanted to transform all grazing lands into cultivated farms.
  • Land revenue was one of the main sources of its finance.
  • To colonial officials all uncultivated land appeared to be unproductive. It produced neither revenue nor agricultural produce. It was seen as ‘waste land’ that needed to be brought under cultivation.
  • From the mid-nineteenth century, waste land rules were enacted in various parts of the country.
  • By these rules uncultivated lands were taken over and given to selected individuals.
  • These individuals were granted various concessions and encouraged to cultivate in these lands.

So the expansion of cultivation inevitably meant the decline of pastures and a problem for pastoralists. 

Forest Acts

By the mid nineteenth century, various forest acts were also being enacted in the   different provinces.
  • Through these acts some forests which produced commercially valuable timber like deodar or Sal were declared reserved.
  • No pastoralists was allowed access to these forests.
  • Other forests were classified as 'protected'.
  • Some customary grazing rights of pastoralists were granted but their movements were severely restricted.

These Forest acts changed the lives of pastoralists. They were now prevented from entering many forests that had earlier provided valuable forage for their cattle.

Criminal Tribes Act

  • British officials were suspicious of nomadic people.
  • The colonial government wanted to rule over a settled population.
  • They wanted the rural people to live in villages, in fixed places with fixed rights on particular fields.
  • Such a population was easy to identify and control.
  • In 1871, the Colonial government in India passed the Criminal Tribes Act.
  • By this act many communities of craftsmen, traders and pastorals were classified as criminal tribes.

The Criminal Tribes Act added to the owes of the pastoralists.

Indian Grazing Tax

  • To increase its revenue, the Colonial government looked for every possible source of taxation.
  • Pastoralists had to pay tax on every animal they grazed on the pastures.
  • In most pastoral areas of India, Grazing Tax was introduced in the mid-nineteenth century.
  • The tax per head of cattle went up rapidly and the system of collection was made increasingly efficient.
  • By the 1880s the government began collecting taxes directly from the pastoralists, after which each of them was given a pass.
  • To enter a grazing area, a cattle herder had to show the pass and pay the tax.
  • The number of cattle he had and the amount of tax he paid, was entered on the pass.

The Indian Grazing Tax was a big blow to the pastoralists.
All the rules and regulations resulted in the loss of grazing ground which caused many problems.

India has 2.4 per cent of the world's land area and 20 per cent of the world's livestock population. The estimate is roughly 450 million animals. For all these animals the government has only demarcated 13 million hectares in the country as permanent grazing lands. This has led to scarcity of fodder for all the animals. The demarcated grazing lands are used up at a fast rate and these lands don't get time to regrow. In time overgrazing leads to land degradation. The problem of overgrazing has a cycle that is difficult to break.


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