251. The District comprises two forest divisions, Melghat
and Amraoti. The latter contains the
forest of the 5 plain taluks of the District and the former, that of the Melghat taluk alone. The Amraoti Division consists of 4 ranges and the Melghat Division of 7 ranges, as follows:—
Amraoti with its headquarters at Pahora
Gugumal with its headquarters at Koha
The range officer of the last named has no forest actually in his charge but has control of the line of nakas or forest custom houses situated along the south side of the timber reserves. The total area of the District covered by forests is 1758 square miles, of which 253 square miles lie in Amraoti and the rest in Melghat. Thus the forest of the District represents 37.15 per cent, of the total area of the District. The forests are further divided into three classes, A or timber and fuel reserve, B or fodder reserve and
C pasture grounds. The area under the three classes is shown below separately for each division:— Area in square miles of classes.
Of the total area of the District forest, working plans have been provided for 702 square miles only, but for B and C classes are of course unnecessary. The A class forests of the Amraoti Division are worked under a plan prepared by Mr. E. E. Fernandez which has never been sanctioned. A new working plan for them is now under preparation. The principal state forests in the Amraoti Division are:— (i) The Chirori reserve which lies in the' Amraoti range and is situated partly in the Amraoti and partly in the west of the Chandur taluk about 10 miles east of Amraoti town.
The Lakhara reserve
Situated in the northeast of the division and lying in the Morsi taluk in the Morsi-Warud range.
Those in the Melghat Division are:—
The Bairagarh reserve
These occupy very nearly the eastern half of the Melghat taluk.
The area protected from fire consists of 531,405 acres (830 square miles) namely, the above reserves and the two large B class Forest Blocks near Amraoti. Thus the whole of the A class forest with the exception of the babulbans, and most of the B class is thoroughly protected.
252. Of the A class forests in the Amraoti Division the most important are the babulbans, small
woods of a few acres apiece scattered here and there throughout the plain taluka but amounting in all to a total of 7062 acres. They are commonly found in low-lying ground and along the banks of streams in the open country where there is an accumulation of soil washed in during the monsoons and fresh
moisture is plentiful even in the hot weather. Black cotton soil is most suitable. The babul (Acaciaarabica) is usually almost pure with a slight admixture of other Acacias (chiefly A.leucophloea and A.eburnea),Dichrostachyscinerea,BalanitesRoxburghii, rarely Prosopisspicigera and Azadirachhtaindica. In very wet low situations close to nullahs containing perennial pools the wild date palm becomes invasive. The babul is of great value as a furnisher of excellent timber for village purposes, of the very best fuel, of thorns for fencing and of pods as food for cattle. It is in great demand as furnace fuel for the numerous cotton ginning and pressing factories scattered throughout the country. On the rough hill sides in the reserves originally covered with salai (Boswelliathurifera) the characteristic growth is now an open, often sparse, scrub and stunted trees. Such salai as remains is used for fuel, and in the Shekhdari reserve teak (Tectonagrandis) is also found yielding small timber. Even under the most conservative treatment however nothing better than low open fuel reserves interspersed with a few timber trees can be hoped for in this division.
253. [This description was supplied by Mr. H. B. Bartlett, Divisional Forest Officer, Melghat.] The whole Melghat taluk with the exception of
Chikalda civil station and the jagir lands
is classified as forest, but in reality the
name is only applicable to the State forests of class A and B which are directly under the Forest Department. These latter forests comprise 849 square miles or one half of the taluk, and extend from the banks of the Tapti river—hereabout 1000 feet above the sea-level—southwards over hill ranges of 2000 to 3000 feet elevation (culminating in the Chikalda plateau 3664 feet and Bairat 3866) to the southern slopes of the Satpuras. From the east where they border on the Betul District they spread south-west to the valley of the Wan river. The forests are deciduous and the chief characteristic is the prevalence of teak and its tendency to grow gregariously. The best is found on the lower slopes of the valleys of the Sipna, Khandu, Khapra and Kuapati rivers in the Bairagarh reserve lying north of Chikalda, The more recently protected and dryer Gugamal reserve west of Chikalda contains less teak and of smaller dimensions and usually restricted to the heads of valleys, salai predominating
on the hills. The Chikalda plateau (excepting
the civil station) and the forests east and south-east form the small Chikalda and Kohana reserves, more recently constituted, and contain little but fuel. Associated with the teak is
found the small bamboo (Dendrocalamusstrictus) on northern
slopes and in all sheltered valleys, but rarely on the level.
Mixed with teak are more than a hundred common species. Saj (Terminaliatomentosa),tendu (DiospyrosMelanoxylon),palas
(Buteafrondosa) with its brilliant scarlet flowers, the fruit tree char (Buchananialatifolia), some mahua (Bassialatifolia) are
characteristic trees on low-lying lands. Dhaurd (Anogeissus
latifolia),lendia (Lagerstroemiaparviflora),tiwas (Ougeniadalber-
gioides) and the best bamboo clumps (Dendrocalamusstrictus) are
noticeable on lower slopes and plateaux;but it is here also that
the majority of indigenous species are represented. Haldii
(Adinacordifolia), often pure, grows to a large size. Moka
(Schreberaswietenioides) which yields a manna, mohin (Odina
Wodier) and bijasal (PterocarpusMarsupium) may be mentioned,
and on the steeper slopes the kusum (Schleicheratrijuga,) whose
early leaves show brightly on the hillsides in the hot season.
On poor and rocky ground the salai (Boswelliathurifera) marks
the type, associated with ganiar (CochlospermumGossypium) and karai (Sterculiawrens) the latter cleaning to bare rock
scarps associated with the so-called "Cactus"Euphorbianerifolia (Linn) and the wild plantain (Musasuperba). Creepers
are chiefly confined to narrow moist ravines and the lower
valleys. Of these mahul (BauhiniaVahlii) and gurar
Millettiaauriculata) the root of which is used for poisoning
fish, ara most common. On the Chikalda plateau Pinus
longifolia,Grevillearobusta,toon (CedrclaToona), a cypru and lautana (a pest which spread rapidly and choked the forests
until large sums were spent on its eradication) have been
254. The Forest Department was formed in Berar in
1865 by the appointment of an Assistant Conservator working under the
guidance of the Conservator of Forests, Central Provinces,
This officer, however, had little to do with the forests of the then Amraoti District, which were managed under the Waste Land Rules by the Deputy Commissioner. In 1867-68 a Daroga (Forest Ranger) was appointed in charge of these District forests under the immediate and sole orders of the Deputy Commissioner; but the forests continued to be managed exclusively on a revenue basis and were farmed out on yearly leases. The first step towards conservation of the forests was made in 1869 by dividing the forest tracts on the hills east of Amraoti into 5 blocks to be worked in rotation. People were allowed to cut and remove, free of charge, what they liked with the exception of certain specified trees: and. even for these nothing more than the Tahsildar's permission was necessary. Leases were freely given for cultivation till 1870-71, when they were stopped under orders of the Government of India. [Revenue and Agricultural Department No. 520, 26th October, 1871.]
In 1880-81, the same tract, 78 square miles in all, was placed under the control of the Forest Department; but the remaining area continued under the management of the Deputy Commissioner. In 1883, the Divisional Forest Officer was put under the orders of the Deputy Commissioner for the management of the District forests; but the sole control in matters of departmental finance and organization and of the State reserves was vested in the Conservator of Forests. In 1884, the position of the Divisional Officer was made that of an assistant in all forest matters to the Deputy Commissioner. He consequently ceased to have any direct official relations with the Conservator; these however, were resumed with certain modifications in 1901.
255. Melghat forest history is somewhat different from
that of the Amraoti Division. The
Melghat came under British rule with the rest of Berar in 1853, when there was no forest administration. Aboriginal Korkus were scattered over the tract practising dhya cultivation and selling timber in the Berar plains. The first measure of protection was taken in 1858, when under the Commisioner's orders, a red belt was painted round teak trees to prevent unlicensed cutting. In 1864-65
Colonel Pearson, then Conservator of Forests of the Central Provinces, examined the forests and made proposals for their management. In 1865-66, Captain, K. J. L. Mackenzie, then Assistant Commissioner Melghat, demarcated as reserved about 400 square miles of forest (Bairagarh reserve) and started protection and regulation of export. It was as a result of Captain Mackenzie's enthusiasm that Mr. Ballantyne who had been trained in the Edinburgh School of Forestry came out to India to take charge of this tract. In 1869 Sir Dietrich Brandis, Inspector General, of Forests, inspected the Melghat forests and drew up a scheme for their management which has formed the basis of all subsequent working. From 1866 indiscriminate felling of trees in the reserve, was practically stopped, and from 1870 fire protection was started and by 1872 extended -to the entire reserve. In 1874-75 Bairagarh was divided into 40 blocks for working purposes and the experimental cutting back of, unsound teak was started in the Sipna valley. Extensive tracts of old cultivation along both banks' of that river were planted with pure teak. At the same time bamboo cutting was regulated. In 1876-77 the Gugumal reserve was demarcated and fire protected. Bamboo cutting in both reserves was regulated on a three years' rotation. The area of reserved forest in 1876 was 725 square miles and that of unreserved forest was 927 square miles. In 1880 temporary cultivation on the banks of streams and on the slopes of hills where a plough could not be used, was forbidden and the cutting of bamboos for fodder was also prohibited.
256. The Berar Forest Law was passed in 1886, and rules for the constitution and management
the various classes of State forests were, issued in 1892. Thus according to the rules in force, the A and B class forests of both the divisions of the District are strictly under the control of the Forest Department. It is still laid down that the Divisional Forest Officer is an assistant in forest matters to the Deputy Commissioner, but the latter's authority is rather interpellatory than direct and consists of a right to be informed of measures taken or proposed. Forests of A and B class are in practice managed entirely by the Forest Department, the head of the
District being consulted on such matters as fixing rates of royalty, matters, that is to say, affecting the general population and not of a purely technical nature.
257. Forests of C class, however, stand on a different footing. Scientific forestry is not practised
in them. There is considerable timber growth in parts of the Melghat C class and a few patches in the plains which should have been classified as babulbans: but no attempt is made to conserve or improve these and no check is put upon their wholesale destruction. In A and B class forests, grazing by camels, sheep and goats is forbidden and grazing licenses are separately issued for each particular forest: a C class grazing pass is valid throughout the District. Shooting is permitted in C class under the same rules that apply to Revenue lands; in the Reserves, a special, license is required. There are three sub-classes:—
C i. Forest outside the Melghat reserved for pasture and ordered not to be resumed
during the term of Settlement.
C ii. Do. do. and not ordered not to be
resumed during the term of Settlement.
C iii. All pasture forest within the Melghat.
In practice the difference between the three is that C i. is revenue paying pasture, C ii. (of which there is no longer any in the Amraoti District) free pasture, and C iii. a tract of 656 square miles of inhabited but backward country; the latter contains of course plentiful pasture land which is grazed under the same system as C i, but much of the land has been taken up for cultivation, a thing not generally permitted in the C class elsewhere. The tract includes the whole western portion of the Melghat as well as the southern foothills and a small area in the pargana of Katkumbh in the east. It was originally forest in the usual sense, and though containing good culturable soil was owing to its extreme unhealthiness but sparsely populated. The policy observed was to attract settlers and open up the country with a view to a regular settlement. The result is that the landhas mostly been denuded of valuable timber and an area of 165,934 acres (or 259 miles), paying Rs. 51,015 revenue to Government,
has been brought under cultivation. The land is leased out yearly by the Tahsildar, the unit of assessment being the yoke of sixteen acres. In practice the Forest Department have little or nothing to do with this tract, and preliminaries of settlement in it have recently been commenced. Both here and in the plains where the C class lands are mostly isolated survey number and small blocks of pastures, a somewhat complicated system of dual control is in vogue, which has not worked particularly well. Licenses to cut trees are issued by the Deputy Commisioner with the concurrence in case of certain trees of the Conservator. It lies with the Forest Department, however, to see that concessions are not abused and trees not cut without license. Villages lying in certain blocks of C class have free-grazing rights. Elsewhere patels issue grazing passes from pass books supplied to them by Tahsildars and credit the receipts as forest revenue into the sub-treasuries. The pass books are however checked not by the Tahsildars who issue them but by officers of the Forest Department, and a lack of systematic co-operation between the two departments has led in the past to a great deal of uncertainty, and, it is to be feared, has opened the door to occasional peculation. The best aspect of the arrangement has been that it gave to village pasture the sanctity attaching to State forests; to bring it under cultivation required the consensus of the Deputy Commissioner, Commissioner and Conservator, the sanction of the Resident and a notice in the Gazette. Even this advantage was cast aside some years ago in an attempt (which has proved fairly successful) to civilize some of the wandering criminal tribes by inducing them to take to agriculture on easy terms. The reorganization of the whole system is in progress. C iii., as already mentioned, is to be brought under settlement; of the C class lands in the plains all blocks less than 160 acres in extent, except such as are capable of being made babulbans, will probably be disforested and made over to the Revenue Department as revenue pasture lands: the remainder are to be managed by the Forest Department alone.
258. The chief sources from which forest revenue is
collected are grazing fodder, and timber; to which may be added
bamboo and other minor produce, firewood and charcoal. Timber which abounds in the Melghat is practically absent from the Amraoti Division. The firewood, grazing and fodder, however, provided by the latter are closer at hand and more convenient for the villages of the plains. In the Amraoti Division, the babulbans, the grass in pasture lands, gum, mangoes and mahua are sold by auction, the purchaser undertaking the extraction. Grazing is allowed on annual passes issued by patels for C class forests and by the regular forest staff for A forests. The right of grass and grazing in each babulban separately is also auctioned separately and prices ranging up to Rs. 5 or Rs. 6 per acre per annum are realised: hence the great value of these apparently insignificant blocks. Other produce is sold on passes at the rates fixed by the Local Administration. The produce of this division is too limited in quantity and inferior in quality to find a way beyond its borders. Existing lines of export consequently merely serve to distribute the produce such as it is over the division itself. In the Melghat Division timber trees are marked and sold standing to purchasers, who cut and remove the timber to forest depots, where it is measured and passes are obtained. Bamboos are cut by purchasers in the open compartments under permits, and then exported for sale. Minor produce, as a rule, is collected by purchasers and either sold locally or removed for export to the revenue stations (nakas). All such produce, with the exception of certain products, consumed locally is free. Mahua and mango trees are put up to auction in the village, and the lessee has the right to collect fruit and flowers; the right to collect lac, gum, harra and other commercial products and the right to distil rusa grass oil are usually leased out. Speaking of Melghat exports Mr. Bartlett says: 'Owing to the distance of Bairigarh and Gugumal reserves from the Berar plains, the forest export is practically restricted to teak and tiwas timber and bamboos. Of minor produce lac, myrobalans, the fruit of the hilda and rusa oil are the most important. Some firewood is removed from the south of the Gugumal reserve and from Kohana, but it is from the southern C iii. forests (pasture lands where no control is exercised over the felling of trees) that the bulk of fuel is exported as well as most of the fodder grass and rasa oil. These latter forests also supply grazing for the cattle of the majority of the plain villages near the border. The demand for fodder grass in and around Ellichpur is met by the Hatighat ramnah and the Kohana reserve. The principal markets for timber are Ellichpur, Popatkhera and Jhiri Bazar (the latter two supplying Akot), and some produce is taken direct to Burhan. pur and Khandwa. Much of the produce of the C iii. forests is consumed locally.'
[For the information on Rusa we are indebted to Mr I. H. Burkill, Reporter on Economic Products to the Government of India,]
259. Two minor forest products of the Melghat may be mentionad, lac and rusa oil. Of the former there is a large quantity, but unfortunately the Korkus regard it as unclean, and cannot be prevailed upon to touch it. The Gond has no scruples about the matter, but is unfortunately ignorant of the best methods of cultivation and gathering. It is proposed to import a few skilled lac-pickers from the north of the Central Provinces and teach them, and it is hoped that the cultivation may then prosper. Rusa on the other hand is freely handled by both tribes. The oil which is used in preparing itr and other perfumes is obtained from a variety of the grass Cymbe-pogon [2 Ve (Andropogon,] Martini, which the distillers know as motia (or "pearly" alluding to the value of the oil); there is an inferior quality called sofia (or " second rate ") which yields a pungent oil, and at least two other varieties which are never used for distillation. In the plains of Berar the grass is called tikhari.Motia is collected along the southern slopes of the Gawilgarh hills and also northwards on the banks of the Tapti. Sofia rules in the centre and at the higher elevations; it also occurs in patches in the midst of motia but in no great abundance. The breadth, colour and hang of the leaves are the chief characteristics by which the eye can distinguish the two varieties; the scent is the final test. The grass flowers at the end of the rains, and this is the time for distilling. Stills are erected beside streams up and down the little valleys, and villagers collect the grass. There is then a rush to get the most out of the short time when the work can be done, for the
fine scent of the grass depreciates alike if kept too long uncut or if stacked too long after cutting. The still owners attempt to compromise both by stacking and by prolonging the time over which the grass is reaped. In the beginning of October one may see a little sun-dried rick of grass ready stacked for use by the side of every still. A distillery consists of a row of cauldrons, usually three or four on a built-up range of fire places at the edge of a stream, and from the cauldrons bamboo pipes pass to receivers submerged in the stream. Two sizes of cauldron rule, one taking more than twice as great a charge as the other; the best are made of copper, inferior ones of iron. The best receivers have long necks but many distillers work with neckless receivers. The sand and mud of the stream gets in small quantity into the oil, and makes a sediment together with soot and copper oxide from the still. The distilled oils are collected together in Ellichpur and other centres and decanted off the sediment; thence the chief part finds its way down to Bombay for export to Europe.
260. The total revenue derived from the forests of the
District in 1890-1891 was Rs. 272,817.
in 1900-01, however, owing to the
famine it was Rs. 97,360 less than this figure. Even in that year, as the following table shows, the forests more than paid their way, ending with a substantial margin of close on three-quarters of a lakh in hand. In subsequent years, the revenue of the Amraoti Division has steadily increased, while that of Melghat also has shown an immense improvement. By far the largest item of Amraoti revenue is, as might be expected, grazing and fodder, the largest in the Melghat being timber.
The following table shows Forests receipts andexpenditure in the Amraoti District:—
261. Of the total area of 1758 square miles of the District forest, 903 square miles (69
from A forest and the whole of C forests) is open for grazing to all animals all the year round. The remaining area of 791 square miles of A forest (780 from Melghat and 11 from Amraoti) is closed for grazing to all animals except, those belonging to forest villagers which can he grazed only on an area of 774 square miles of the Melghat A reserve. It is estimated that 389,678 head of cattle grazed in 1906-07.
262. The, District does not contain any private forests.
There is, however, in most villages of
the five plain taluks of the District some area—apart from that occupied by the Government forests—set aside for free grazing. Many of these so-called grazing lands are in reality dense babul thickets and consequently of little use for pasture. Such area amounted to 44,275 acres in 1906-07; the whole of the former C ii. forest has been included in this area. The Melghat jagirs contain some 51,032.acres' of land under forest, but it is of little importance.
263. Of 236 miles of road in the District controlled by the Public Works
Department 99½ have complete avenues, 46¾ miles have
avenues that still contain gaps, 2¾ miles have been lately
planted with young trees and 87 miles have no avenues.
Parts of the Amraoti-Ellichpur and Amraoti-Morsi roads are
well shaded, but as a rule, the avenues are very poor. The
District Board maintains small avenues of about seven miles
in all, and the Amraoti Camp Municipality has also a few
miles. In Ellichpur civil station are one or two very fine
avenues, especially one known as ' the Mall.' The trees most
usually planted are nim, mango, mahua, tamarind and various
members of the fig tribe.