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close this bookThe Improvement of Tropical and Subtropical Rangelands (BOSTID)
close this folderPart II
close this folderChanging patterns of resource use in the Bedthi-Aghanashini valleys of Karnataka state, India
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentIntroduction
View the documentThe setting
View the documentHuman communities
View the documentTraditional patterns of resource management
View the documentColonial period
View the documentAfter independence
View the documentRecent trends
View the documentReferences

Traditional patterns of resource management

The System

In the pre-Colonial period, Indian society had evolved an interesting pattern to regulate competition over resources. The villages were made up of populations of several endogamous caste groups knit together in a web of mutual dependency. Each caste group had a specific, hereditary, and often exclusive function assigned to it. Thus, any given Achari household had the exclusive responsibility for carpentry operations for certain village households, or a given

Ambiga household for supply of fish to certain other village households. In turn, farming households provided a defined proportion of their farm produce to the Achari or Ambiga households who served them. The village community as a whole also provided a portion of their produce to the king as tax.

The cultivated land was often owned communally by each clan - all households of a given caste group in the village. The king, in theory, owned all uncultivated lands and waters and had the right to assign a portion of it for cultivation. The village community, however, effectively controlled all these resources, which were partitioned in a way that assigned monopoly rights over certain resources to a particular clan. Thus, only Halakkis collected bivalves and only Ambigas fished open waters. There were further regulations in the use of resources such as timber or fuelwood that were required by all clans of the village and gathered from uncultivated lands controlled by the village community as a whole.

This was, then, a system producing only low levels of surplus for the ruling elite and with extensive communal management of resources based on socially accepted customs and conventions. It probably permitted sustainable use of the resource base that served a village community (Gadgil and Malhotra, 1983; Gadgil, 1985).