The 1878 Forest Act divided forests in India into three categories: reserved, protected and village forests. Foresters and villagers had very different ideas about a ‘good forest’.
The following points show the effect of Forest Act on the lives of foresters and villagers
(i) Villagers wanted forests with a mixture of species to satisfy different needs-fuel, fodder and leaves. Villagers could not take anything from ‘reserved’ forests. For house building or fuel, they could take wood from protected or village forests. On the other hand forest department needed trees that could provide hard, tall and straight woods for commercial use. So, they encouraged to plant only Teak and Sal and other trees were cut.
(ii) In forest areas people use forest products roots, leaves, fruits, tuber, etc. Almost everything is available in the forest for their livelihood.
The Forest Act meant severe hardship for them.
All their everyday practices cutting wood for their houses, grazing their cattle, collecting fruits and roots, hunting and fishing became illegal.
(iii) Villagers were forced to steal wood and if they were caught, they were at the mercy of the forest-guards, who even claimed bribe from them.
(iv) Women who collected fuel wood were scared of the forest guards. It became common practice for police constables and forest guards to harass villagers by demanding free food for themselves. Thus, it can be concluded that the forest act brought severe hardship for villagers across the country.