Greenhorn wisdom

Forest protection in a Midnapore village has created prosperity - and local heroes

By Fabienne Tingry
Published: Thursday 31 August 1995

Greenhorn wisdom

Green zeal: guarding the fores FIFTEEN years of tough struggle have today borne fruit ... rather, trees. This is a saga of forest regeneration through local initiative in Chharadan village of Midnapore district. And the hero of the saga is Madan Khatua, whose mantra through these years was to save the forests from avaricious fellers. Chharadan Tarun Sangha (ci,s), the village youth club, had been active since 1971. After games, the youths often anguished over the vanishing forests. Horinakhuri, a neighbouring village, where Jyoti Nayak had already proposed a village committee, inspired Madan and his mates.

By 1983, informal z@ps were taken for forest protection. Later on, the Chharadan Jungle Sangrakhchan (forest protection).Committee (cisc), was formed as a CTS wing. This committee set up rules against felling. The forest was guarded day and night. Some villagers, naturally, disputed this erosion in their daily income. The local Communist Party of India Marxist (cpi-m) bosses joined hands with the dissenters, terming the well-to-do Khatua families as jotedars (landlords) and, therefore , class enemies.

Towards the end of 1984, the voluntary organisation, Rural Development Association (RDA), launched an awareness campaign in the villages here. By 1985, the RDA organised people from 12 villages into a committee. Unfortunately, internal dissensions soon guillotined the committee.

In 1985, at a meeting convened by the cpi-m at Bhangabandi, Madan declared that "when the forest would have regenerated, wood also will be available for home consumption. There is, therefore, no reason for stopping a movement which will @ring benefits to the poor".

But pressure mounted against the Khatua family. The local committee of the cpi-m prevented the labourers from working on the 40 acres of land of these 3 families. They even attacked Madan after a meeting in Mohalclanga.

The influence of the cJSC, however, slowly grew, as I year of protection brought to the fore the differences between the non-protected and protected forests.

In 1989, due to problems in protecting the large area initially defined under the Chharada:n forest, 80 hectares were selected a 'nd delimited for morelefficient protection and regeneration. At that time, the Forest Department held a meeting with cisc to define the rights of the parties involved.

On July 12, 1989, the state government issued the Sarkari Adesnarna (order) which defined the new rules and regulations for forest management, and how the benefits will be shared. And after all these years, the movement now has gained the support of all sections of the local people.

Fabienne Tingry is an organic farmer, and activist in Ranchi

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