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Panchayats versus Forest Protection Committees

This paper compares the community-based forest protection groups and the village councils or the panchayats in Jharkhand and West Bengal provinces from a forest management perspective. Panchayats are institutions meant for village-level governance with an all-round development focus. They are provided with Constitutional rights, and their structural and functional network links them to larger state politics. They have also been given responsibilities, mostly as coordinators, in joint forest management (JFM). The forest protection committees (FPCs) and the voluntary forest protection groups, on the other hand, are newly established bodies meant for forest management alone. They have limited power to enforce their objectives and little autonomy to negotiate with other institutions. Yet, villagers use these forest forums, both formally and informally, to secure forest usufruct. The panchayats, on the other hand, are not always sensitive to the forest-based needs of the villagers. The paper argues that to make forest committees subservient to the panchayats and the dominant village polity would not make for effective forest management.

NGOs in Joint Forest Management and Rural Development

As a result of new initiatives to include NGOs in the JFM system, new groups have stepped in to work on forest management issues and the older established NGOs have begun to put the 'forest' component on their agendas. This paper discusses the work of two NGOs, working on rural development forestry in Bengal and Jharkhand, respectively. It finds that villagers, on involvement with institutions from outside, begin to expect multisectoral and integrated rural development agendas to be included in the NGOs' work plan. For an NGO to have an impact, a mere populist agenda will have to give way to readjustments that takes into consideration a more strenuous regime seeking new allies and a new legitimacy.
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