IT HAPPENS ONLY IN INDIA,
GREAT JOB MR. PARMAR
it is good to eat as many as vegetables and fruits (totally vegetarian), but my aurvedic doctor asked me to stop eating every...
I AM the law," said Bumble, the parochial beadle in Charles
Dickens' Oliver Twist, terrorising his wards into submission.
The ministry of environment and forests' new draft
Conservation of Forests and Natural Ecosystems Act is packed
with Bumblesian hauteur. Claiming to revise the highly-criticised Indian Forest Act of 1927, it seeks to lay down the law to
restrict people's traditional rights over reserved forests, which
are owned and managed by the state, and to
sharply curtail the area of village forests in which
local communities could exercise more independent control. All this, as the very name suggests,
at the behest of the conservationist lobby's aesthetics. It is another matter that this lobby has
quite a few erstwhile hunters heading it.
This time round, the hunted are human
beings - the hundreds of nomads who seasonally roam these forests, and the forest-dependent
villagers in nearby settlements. Joint forest management has
had its successes in some states: but now the law - rather, the
MEF - will lay down the contours of such participation,
including participation by withdrawal and extinction. Sections
5 and 34 of the draft act prohibit state governments from
granting pattas or occupancy rights to unauthorised encroachers on reserved or protected forests without the Centre's permission. Naturally, the encroachers will be defined by the forest department, never mind if they have been inbabitingthe
area long before the forest department's birth in 1864. SUCfA
blatant centralisation of power is based on the vague concep
of "carrying capacity". The act doesn't try to define the con-
cept but arbitrarily leaves it to the discretion of the local
The 1927 act was, in fact, more generous. Its vindictivq
descendant will whittle down areas for possible conversice
into village forests, because the forest departmem
has kept the the best land for itself, limited peo.
ple's access to it and then handed them meash.
alieady- degraded land elsewhere. In India.
reserved forests, covering 41.5 million ha, am
nearly twice as large as the 23.5 million ha of pro.
tected forests. Those highly-despised British had
at least put in a clause in their 1927 act by which
village forests could be constituted from reserved
forests. The Nepalese are just about getting introoduced to democracy, but their Forest Act of 1993 says, "T1w
District Forest Officer may hand over any part of a nationd
forest to a user's group in the for i of a community forest.
By contrast, the draft act, both in terms of its contents and
the manner in which it was drafted, contradicts India's farne at
being the world's largest democracy. But then the Foren
Department, owning one- fifth of India's total land area, is the
country's biggest landlord and the landlord traditionally is dw,
law. One hopes it meets Bumble's fate - it perishes.