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Exclusion in Madhav National Park

This paper, using (largely qualitative) ethnographic data, explores Madhav National Park's strict exclusionary policy and how new conservation narratives could be developed there. It argues that the current exclusionary logic, as manifested at Madhav, is flawed. Biodiversity is rapidly diminishing. Autocratic governance precipitates alienation among the lower strata of local people and contributes to illegal resource expropriation. Park policy ignores locally-embedded ability to protect biodiversity and willingness to be educated to that end. There is a pressing need for biological protection at Madhav but severe deprivation also exists in the area. Consequently, site-specific strategies are required that build not solely upon biology or economics but combine these concerns with sensitivity to the lower strata of people that live around the park and to the potential social, material and cultural costs of conservation policies.

Exclusion in Madhav National Park

Is Policy Change Required?

This paper, using (largely qualitative) ethnographic data, explores Madhav National Park’s strict exclusionary policy and how new conservation narratives could be developed there. It argues that the current exclusionary logic, as manifested at Madhav, is flawed. Biodiversity is rapidly diminishing. Autocratic governance precipitates alienation among the lower strata of local people and contributes to illegal resource expropriation. Park policy ignores locally-embedded ability to protect biodiversity and willingness to be educated to that end. There is a pressing need for biological protection at Madhav but severe deprivation also exists in the area. Consequently, site-specific strategies are required that build not solely upon biology or economics but combine these concerns with sensitivity to the lower strata of people that live around the park and to the potential social, material and cultural costs of conservation policies.


Three village men killed in anti-Madhav National Park (MNP or Madhav) demonstrations [Jansatta, 1987, p 12]. We hate the national park (NP). All our cows are dying, we have no land to graze them. Get rid of the NP regulations (focus group (FG) 31). We need land but we need the animals too. I can’t imagine this area without any animals (FG h). MNP resembles a high security prison…Walls surround it and armed rangers march up and down to prevent local intrusion. Ironically though, the only animals that we saw in the park were domestic cattle. Maybe I am wrong but the whole operation seems like a lot of effort for no reward (author’s diary extract 2000).

I Introduction

Indian NP policy is exclusionary, seeking to preserve nature by delineating an administratively controlled, empty space: requiring state governments “to eliminate and thereafter prevent… [park]…exploitation or occupation” [IUCN 1994]. This has limited local access and precipitated some outright removal of villages.

ince the 1980s there have been challenges [though not absolute, e g, Karanth 2001; Thapar 2000 et al] to this accepted wisdom of “fortress” [Brockington 2002] conservation, asserting, for example, consequential local/official tensions and reductions in biodiversity [e g, Naithani et al 1992; for opposing view see Mishra et al 1998], and arguing that the policy of exclusion, the “hated term” [Kothari 2002: 3], is selfdefeating [for Indian challenges to exclusion Kothari et al 2000; Panjwani 2000; Saberwal et al 2001; Saberwal et al 2003; for complementary research elsewhere see Adams et al 2001; Agrawal et al 1999; Hulme et al 1999; Neumann 1998; Peluso 1993]. Alternative narratives go beyond humanity versus nature or “people versus tigers” [Singh 1997: 17]; rather, as part of a wider “political” or “liberation” [Peet et al 1996] ecology approach, they propose conservation-community development linkages, and more people, less state, orientated strategies [for Indian people-orientated strategies see Agarwal 1985]. This transition

has been influenced by the broadening of development goals, aiming to supplement economic growth with focus on people, their natural environment, subsistence and non-material needs: to enlarge people’s choices or “real freedoms” [Drèze et al 1996: 10; Sen 1999: 3] and to increase their participation in decision-making [for participation see Chambers 1997; Escobar 1995 et al].

Although research in Indian NPs, and elsewhere, has started to address why the policy of exclusion still operates, many parks, including MNP, remain largely unstudied.

As the opening quotations suggest, exclusionary controls appear dysfunctional at Madhav. This paper explores this apparent dysfunction and how new conservation narratives could be developed. Unusual for park-people studies in India, it provides a detailed examination of perceptions of the park and the park’s relationship with various population strata and groups. Such research [similar to some studies recently conducted in Nepal see Bhatt 2003; Campbell 2000] is important given the harsh realities of conflict evident in India.

II Background

MNP is one of the oldest protected areas (PAs) in Madhya Pradesh (MP). Larger than average, it is listed as covering

325.97 km2. It forms part of the Upper Vindhyan Hills, Central Highlands, Shivpuri district, MP: longitude - 77o38 `E to 77o55`E, latitude - 25o23 `N to 35o33`N. Altitude ranges from 360-490 m. There is one main perennial river, the Sindh, along the eastern boundary, and two artificial lakes, Sakhya Sagar and Madhav Sagar. Temperatures vary between 3oC and 48oC. Seasonally dry, the monsoon is July-September, with annual precipitation of 800 mm.

The park is in biogeographic zone 04B (semi-arid Gujarat-Rajputana) and has low tree densities and biomass averages [ISRO 1998]. Zone 04B is unusual for PAs in MP and also has low all-India coverage under PAs (2.8 per cent) [Rodgers et al 2000]. Northern tropical dry deciduous mixed forests dominate, while flat grasslands surround the artificial lakes. Principal flora consists of khair, teak, salai, kerghai, dhawda, tendu and palash. Pre-independence Madhav was “very good tiger country” [Gee 1964: 62] in which “tigers abound[ed]” [Bull et al 1926: 5] and supported a diverse range of other mammals, including leopards and sloth bears. Now, however, fauna is more limited, but includes chital, nilgai, chinkara, sambar, and a large variety of birds, including pond herons, white-breasted kingfishers, migratory geese and paradise flycatchers.

Surrounding population levels are increasing rapidly. Shivpuri town (1,131,900 people) and 130 villages, each of around 600 people, lie within a 10 km radius of park boundaries, and one village (Gatwaya) remains within. Adjacent village birth rates and those in Shivpuri town are relatively high: in 1999 amounting to 34.3 per 1,000 persons and 28.1 per 1,000 persons respectively. Approximately 50 per cent of village people are adivasi (scheduled tribe (ST)), and approximately 10 per cent are dalit (scheduled caste (SC)). Other local village castes include sardar, brahmin, baniya, thakur, gujar, kushwaha and dhakar. While the exchange economy is increasingly penetrating these villages, subsistencebased occupations remain dominant. Around 50 per cent of village populations combine mixed subsistence, fairly marginal, rain-fed sedentary agriculture with timber, and non-timber, forest produce collection. Other village occupations include wage labour (25 per cent), grazing of livestock for milk sale (20 per cent) and private/government services (5 per cent). Nearly 60 per cent of village people below the age of 30 are unemployed. About 50 per cent of villagers are landless, such that illegal dependency upon the park’s resources (again primarily for subsistence rather than exchange) is high [Shivpuri District Statistical Booklet 1999; MNP Report 2001].

III History

Exclusionary controls pertained at Madhav during the Mughal period, with part a hunting reserve assigned to the ‘badshah’ (emperor).1 The emperor Akbar is recorded as trapping wild elephants for sport at “Sipri” (the Madhav area’s old name) in 1564 (Gwalior State Gazetteer cited in Working Plan for the Shivpuri Division 1974-75 to 1988-89). Local people’s use of the forests was restricted, albeit lightly (a hierarchy of user rights prevailed). Hunting certain game, such as the tiger, was forbidden [Ali 1927; Bull et al 1926; Moosvi 1987].

Under early 19th century Scindia rule of Gwalior state (which included Madhav) policies that excluded locals from the park area strengthened. This Maratha family were renowned hunting enthusiasts [see Somers Smith 1908], and Madhav, just 6 km from their summer capital Shivpuri, soon became the family’s most popular hunting reserve.

During the period of treaty engagement with the British, conservation regimes (through new forest and game laws) were further tightened, primarily to sustain ‘shikar’ (hunting) as an imperial/princely “sport”, and ideologically to help reinforce elite (British and maharaja (male princely ruler)) rule [for further detail on imperial and princely policies and practice in this period see MacKenzie 1988; Rangarajan 2001; Sarkar 2000; Singh 1997; Tucker 1991]. Residence and local activity, such as cattlegrazing, gleaning and indigenous hunting, were outlawed. Under Madhav Rao (ruled from 1886-1925) tiger shooting was “strictly forbidden without the personal written permission of the maharaja, since he regarded his tigers as a social and political asset to the state” [Bull et al 1926: 241] and he did “not want to witness villagers in his private hunting grounds…Boundaries are integral to the management of these forests. Without them, the sport will be destroyed and the forests will be overrun… Penalties must…be imposed when regulations are breached” [Kotwal 1906: no pagination]. Madhav Rao directed that in his son, maharaja George Jiwaji Rao’s (ruled from 1925-1961) minority: “allowances…be paid to experts on forest lands for the safe and strict custody of the forests and hunting grounds” [His Highness the Maharaja of Scindia 1925: no pagination]. The Scindia’s strategies were widely known: a Central Provinces Forest Conservator noted the way in which “laws or rules for the protection of wild animals are effectively enforced” [Dunbar-Brander 1934: 1]. The later naming of the park after Madhav Rao commemorates this severity.

In the early mid-20th century the park was popular for elite shikar, and a prime focus of British visits to the state: “tigers were what Gwalior was known for” [Scindia 1987: 110, 152]. It attracted “many notable persons…with whom in the free life of the jungle His Highness became most intimate” [Bull et al 1926: 241]. Madhav Rao’s tutor wrote that “tiger shooting in Gwalior increasingly became very much reserved for the great and influential…it was the Commander-in-Chief’s shoot…Tiger shooting…was only available to the highest of British Officials” [Robinson undated: 31]. The Prince of Wales and viceroys Lords Hardinge and Reading shot in the area. The prince commented on the “excellence of shikar” there, and enjoyed “wonderful days of great sport and unaffected enjoyment” [Bull et al 1926: 150, 151]. In April 1914 Lord Hardinge there shot supposedly2 the largest tiger recorded as killed in India on a “marvellous and unprecedented” [Hardinge 1933: 52] excursion, and thanked the maharaja for “the most wonderful sport” [Hardinge reproduced in Rangarajan 1999: 207] and for making him ‘Bada Laat’ (biggest among the lords) [Scindia 1987: 110]. Lord Reading is also reported as there bagging a record-sized tiger in 1923 [Kesri Singh 1969: 160].

Approaching independence, elite-only animal viewing, including from a viewing lodge for the maharaja and his guests, was introduced.

When British rule ended (1947) and the Scindias relinquished their powers, Gwalior became part of independent India’s Madhya Bharat state (incorporated in 1956 into MP). In the early 1950s the power of the princely and colonial elite declined. Concomitantly, stringent exclusionary controls relaxed and local use significantly increased.3 During the 1950-60s, Madhav became open access, subject to timber felling, non-timber forest produce collection, wildlife poaching (for meat and hides), agriculture and stone quarrying. “Twenty years after the maharajas were shorn of their powers, both the tigers and the jungles had vanished, plundered and been vandalised” [Scindia 1987: 152]. E P Gee observed the “excessive poaching” after independence when “the protection given…by the former Maharajas… suddenly ceased” [Gee 1964: 61]. Subsequent park plans record the “turn of history…(when protection)…became lax…the territoryusedfor cultivation…laxity permitted damage of the habitat by local people” [Management Plan for MNP, Shivpuri 1989-90 to 1993-94: 2].

Such exploitation facilitated local subsistence and, to a lesser degree, exchange, with limited market penetration of adjacent villages. It also reflected long-standing elite-peasant subjugation: some rejected “shooting regulations as a form of colonial restraint and…shot down wildlife everywhere” [Schaller 1967: 4].4 At Madhav, poaching emerged “with vengeance...local man destroyed all that nature gave…[wanting]…to avenge those over whom he had been ruled” [Working Plan for the Shivpuri Division 1974-75 to 1988-89: 61, 57]. Interviewees also suggested that “local people came onto the land to show the Scindias their new found independence”. It was “liberation from repressive princely rule”.

This was part of the context of government calls for more refuges for vanishing wildlife, as “life would become very dull and colourless if we did not have these magnificent animals and birds to look at and to play with” (Nehru’s forward in Gee 1964: no pagination). In 1958 165.32 km2 of Madhav was constituted (by the Madhya Bharat National Parks Act (1955)) as Shivpuri NP, one of the earliest NPs in independent India. From 1972 village relocation began, with consequent loss of land and at most minimal compensation, but often none.5 Park designation also extinguished the use rights of local people in boundary villages.

There was an early attempt at wildlife restoration: a park superintendent drove “the neighbouring forests with…beaters, to coax back scattered remnants of wildlife into the new park area” [Gee 1964: 61]. In the 1970s exclusionary controls were reinforced when, as part of the “new enclosure movement” [Katz 1998: 47], India’s first national level Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1972 (WPA) was passed, forbidding any human residence in or material use of parks, with harsh penalties for transgression. Thereafter it was renamed Madhav. Ever stricter exclusionary controls were then perhaps underpinned by the government’s approach of self-reliance and detachment from the west: salvaging the wild could perhaps contribute to a new self-confident nationalism, to “ecological patriotism” [Sankhala 1991]. It was also likely motivated by profit. Developing corporate capitalism saw NPs as a potential leisure/tourist commodity and a future source of commercially valuable biodiversity.

In 1983 and 1999, still driven by similar motivations, but also to provide additional space for various animals’ annual migration patterns, the park was extended to cover an area of 325.97 km2, and permanent park staff increased to around 100.

Save for one (Gatwaya), all seven villages (populations of around 600 each) in the extension have either been deserted or formally relocated. Once a year, local people from the relocated villages are permitted to enter the park, free of charge, to visit ‘Ballari Mata’ (a temple located in the extension area). However, other than that, all local use, land and residence rights in the park have been extinguished. For example, in 1999 Ballarpur was relocated (under the ministry of environment and forests, Beneficiary Oriented Scheme for Tribal Development), and 90 families (around 70 per cent adivasi), the majority of whom were historically almost completely dependent upon the park for survival, were moved to 2 km outside its boundary, without (as this research suggests below) adequate compensation.

IV Methodology and Study

Primary research for this initial study was orientated towards determining perceptions of, and experiences associated with, the park, and ascertaining the extent to which the aims underlying the exclusionary policy are achieved and why.6

Data was attained primarily though intensive, qualitative methods: 27 semi-structured interviews (for informants with “professional” links to NP policy and/or practice) and 66 focused groups (FGs), differentiated along socio-economic group (SEG) (indicated by income level), age and gender lines (for “lay” informants). Participants for FGs (6 per FG) were drawn from Shivpuri town, four boundary villages (Thakurpura, Binega Colony, Karodhi and Kathmai), and the most recently relocated village (Ballarpur). FG participants broadly reflected the spread of local castes. This study preserves anonymity by excluding identifying participants’ particulars.7

Time constraints limited the use of more in-depth ethnographic techniques, but the research spanned a sufficient period to construct some relations of “researcher”/”researched” trust, and to avoid the heavily-criticised “parachute in” model [Adams et al 1997, Campbell 2001; Kapoor 2001]. Initial exposure to local people and the park’s operations was obtained whilst teaching in a nearby school in 2000. The specific fieldwork was carried out in two tranches; in 2002 (this study’s principal research) and 2004, together amounting to over three months in the field.8

The principal justification9 for the exclusionary policy is that it maintains high biodiversity (“the variability among living organisms from all sources” (UNEP 1992 Article 2: 3)). This research suggests first that neither the policy of exclusion nor the objective upon which it is based is achieved at Madhav, and second that this is possibly linked at least partly to the autocratic means of park governance, lack of alternative livelihoods for forest-dependent peoples, lack of stakes in the park resource and its management, and lack of sufficient local environmental education. In conclusion this paper points to the urgent need to foster more integrated, inclusive, actively participatory approaches to conservation that could better achieve both biodiversity preservation and human development at Madhav.

V Aim Fulfilment?

MNP is neither sustaining highly biodiverse conditions nor preventing human intrusion.

Historical accounts emphasise Madhav’s abundant flora and fauna [Gee 1964; Hardinge 1933; Kesri Singh 1969; Scindia 1987]. However, evidence from field visits, ecological records, recent independent studies and from local people (though encompassing a diverse and often mutually conflicting picture of the factors responsible for biodiversity reductions) all indicate that decline and degradation is evident in the park.

Tigers have become locally extinct, and other animals, such as the sambar, and plants increasingly rare. Satellite remote sensing data [ISRO 1998] of certain community parameters such as biomass and species richness and certain patch parameters, shows around two thirds of the park experiencing high levels of disturbance. Two national highways cross Madhav, and much of its northern range and extreme southern portion are heavily degraded: the ground is bare. Older local people (in Shivpuri town and the studied villages) almost universally recollected more wildlife and flora in their youth. Lack of tourism (1,167 tourists per month) was most commonly attributed across all genders, castes, age groups and socio-economic divides to the park offering “nothing to see”. While pictorial conceptualisations of Madhav from children’s FGs often depicted a range of wild animals (Figure 1), discussions revealed that they were based

Figure 1: Conceptualisations of MNP Drawnby Children’s FGs

Note: FG 12, female, aged 10, HSEG. Note: FG 22, male, aged 13, MSEG.

Note: FG 10, male, aged 14, HSEG. Note: FG f, female, aged 16, LSEG.

Figure 2: More Conceptualisations of MNP Drawnby Children’s FGs

Note: FG 22, male, aged 14, MSEG.

Note: FG 9, male, aged 10, HSEG.

on assumption rather than experience: the children had never seen most of these in the park. For park management too: “sadly this park has lost the diverse magical animal kingdom that it once had. There has been too much human pressure on the land to enable the park authorities to protect wildlife in the way they are supposed to.”

There was also widespread consensus as to active human presence: “most of the villagers go to the NP. They collect wood and they fish in the lakes. They also hunt deer”. Several of the pictorial representations of the park created by children’s FGs in the villages and Shivpuri town also confirmed this (Figure 2). In 57 of 66 FGs, and all interviews, some illegal use was mentioned (Table 1). Local villagers (primarily adivasi and dalit) carrying head-loads of wood and cattle in the park is a frequent sight: over 10,000 head graze illegally there. Interviews attributed lack of tourism to the park’s “not particularly peaceful or aesthetically pleasing” nature. Two of the most common criticisms among medium and HSEG FGs of all genders, castes and age groups was that it was not idyllic or natural (green and vegetated): “local people bring their cattle into the park so there is no peace”, “it is meant to be a place that we can escape to, to feel relaxed but it is not”, “other NPs are far more refreshing. The park is almost as populated as Shivpuri!”.

In summary, “Madhav…has gone from being one of the most famous wildlife areas in India…Biodiversity there is a thing of the past”.

VI Problems

Top Down Approach

Madhav’s exclusionary approach appears dictatorial and seems, to lack local support. NP policy is administered by the MP state forest department (its wildlife wing) through the MP principal chief conservator of forests (wildlife). It is then implemented locally by MNP’s director, deputy director, rangers and the forest guards.

Official MNP reports illustrate the authoritarian and locally unpopular nature of the approach: “the familiar image of the forest department before the public is of one permanently saying no to everything and trying to keep the forests a closed affair. People therefore harbour a permanent grievance against the department” [Working Plan for the Shivpuri Division 1974-75 to 1988-89: 115]. Village FG discussions supported this. Negativity towards forest guards and rangers was high among most LSEG village informants irrespective of age, gender or caste, primarily because they were the enforcers of a policy blind to local people’s needs: “the main problem is with the guards. They have weapons and are unfair. They know that we need wood but they stop us from getting it”. “The rangers see us starving but they still take us to court when the cows go into the park”.

There is no local “lay” participation in park policy formulation or implementation, and no official avenues for complaint. Only 36 of 396 FG informants knew the director’s name, and 321 said that they had neither met him nor had contact with any NP officials. Acknowledged contact was unlinked to participation (Figure 3), with LSEG informants (primarily from adjacent villages and adivasi or dalit) almost only interacting with officials during illegal use: “[they] charge us five hundred rupees for a cow and one thousand five hundred rupees for a buffalo if they are on NP land and they take them away and put

Table 1: Illegal Resource Extraction
FG Characteristics FG Excerpt
8 Female “We have seen it [illegal use] for ourselves. There are always
Middle-aged cattle grazing in the NP and villagers walking around to
High SEG collect firewood”.
3 Female “Many use the forest’s wood as fuel. Deforestation is a major
Old problem in the region”.
High SEG
17 Male “Animal capture is going on there. The park is big and the
Middle-aged walls are low and locals are killing the animals for their private
Medium SEG purposes. There is not enough security because the park
area is very wide”.
21 Male “The natural beauty is fading day by day because the
Young villagers are cutting the trees down for cooking”.
Medium SEG
25 Male “Yes I know some people who kill the animals. They feed
Old them bad things to kill them, they poison them”.
32 Female “Some people can enter into the NP secretly and they hunt
Middle-aged the peacocks and things and they take wood and things”.

them in a cage. If we go to get the animal then we are locked up too”.

In the most recently relocated village of Ballarpur, villagers (70 per cent adivasi) also complained of the autocratic methods of park governance, including an absence of any adequate formal system to inform them about the relocation proposals, to glean their views and demands, and to facilitate any collective bargaining. Reportedly an official only once came to old Ballarpur to

discuss relocation, and even then only few could participate: “yes,

some official came on one day but he was very rude and he only

Figure 3: Reasons for Previous Contact with NP Officials
90- In the social sphere
80- When buying a MNP entry ticket
70- At the MNP information



50-Low socio-economic focus group Medium socio-economic focus group

High socio-economic focus group


When boating at the Sakhya Sagar sailing club in MNP

spoke to some of the men and he left quickly”. No Ballarpur FGs participant was provided with a land acquisition notice, or any formal explanation of why they were to move, or even any complaints procedures. Moreover, making an objection to the terms of land acquisition requires a written letter which is problematic for illiterate villagers.

In addition, material relocation compensation appears inadequate for Ballarpur. Mixed, fairly precarious, rain-fed, sedentary subsistence agriculture, combined with timber and non-timber forest produce collection, were the primary occupations of the largely ST population of old Ballarpur. Each family was promised Rs 28,000/family, (to cover foodstuffs, medicines, transport, community facilities and fuel plantation), land (2 ha) and a house (5,000 square feet) in the new location. Even the landless, who had only locally recognised user rights, were promised formal land titles at the new site. However only 42 of 90 relocated families have received land (and then not the originally landless), and several families claim to remain without monetary compensation. To compound matters, the land provided is unproductive, treeless and exposed with thin, dry soils, unlike that of old Ballarpur (high grade: deep and fertile). Fuel is not available and, contrary to expectation, provision of seed and agricultural equipment has been insufficient. So not only have livelihoods based on forest produce collection been lost but most agricultural yields have diminished. Furthermore, lacking proper access, the new villagers’ capacity to enter into mainstream society and the exchange economy is restricted even when, unusually, desired. Although official statistics are lacking, and old Ballarpur exhibited signs of poor human development, according to FG participants, relocation has not improved, and has in some ways damaged, their situation: new (like old) Ballarpur is not electrified, healthcare and education facilities are inadequate, and infant mortality has increased since relocation, allegedly due to lack of clean drinking water. Recent government promises to provide additional dug-wells are as yet unfulfilled. Some NP and district authority informants also relayed, though in a less extreme way, a similarly negative picture: “yes, Ballarpur is a problem. The people there are not happy or well. More needs to be done to improve their situation”.10

Even with sufficient material compensation Ballarpur informants almost universally relayed that nothing could compensate for the now lost cultural and historical meaning of original Ballarpur. Village adivasi religious beliefs are largely centred on natural phenomena and their spiritual powers. There were numerous ancient and sacred areas in and around old Ballarpur to which access is now forbidden. Access to a particularly famous old Ballarpur temple, ‘Ballari Mata’, is permitted annually on one sacred day, but that is little compensation for the cultural loss.

Negativity extended to the youngest groups. A seven-year-old adivasi boy described the NP’s “ecological expropriation” [Albert

When caught using the40park illegally

30-When organising trips to

MNP during wildlife week 20-

When told about the details 10

of village relocation package


1994] as follows: “we don’t have much food anymore...You should get rid of the NP…The old Ballarpur was our home, we want it back…They said they would give money for medicines but they did not give now. My brother is very sick…When we lived in the NP we used to get ‘mahua’ (a source of food, fodder, oil and fuel) and other plants and wood for our daily needs…now we have nothing…we didn’t even know it [the relocation] was going to happen”.

The exclusionary policy’s failure to consult and to empower has contributed to widespread local alienation among all studied villagers regardless of gender, caste and age, and irrespective of ownership of alternative agricultural land or alternative livelihoods. However particular resentment lay with the landless and unemployed: namely, adivasi and dalit villagers (sardar, gujar and kushwaha villagers, who generally own more land, seemed to be the least resentful of park policy). The 1983 extension, involving further restriction of traditional grazing and the closure of eight stone quarries inside, resulted in violent clashes between local miners, graziers and NP officials, including the death (as noted in this paper’s opening headline) of three consequently unemployed dalit stone quarrying villagers in an anti-exclusion blockade on June 23, 1987 by over a hundred local people (again largely adivasi and dalit) of a main road through the park. While the park authorities now officially acknowledge such resentment and its connection with loss of local employment, little has changed since mine closure.11 The majority of participants in 6 of 7 FGs conducted with old, LSEG men and the majority in 5 of 7 FGs conducted with middle-aged, LSEG men are still unemployed.

During the most recent park extension the ministry of environment and forests permitted a very modest measure in the hope of limiting local hostility, allowing, up to March 31, 1996, “removal of existing material and completion of mining operations” in the park’s proposed extension area (letter dated December 1995, from the minister of environment and forests to the MP chief minister, cited in Thapar 2000: no pagination). This was a very short term measure, and involved no attempt to find sustainable alternative occupations for local people. Inevitably LSEGs negativity towards park policy still remains.

Alienation has also led to active subversion, primarily by landless, unemployed adivasi and dalit villagers: “in the past we ate much fish, but now you are not allowed to fish in the NP so the villagers are angry so they fish there anyway out of spite”. Although few participants in village FGs directly admitted self-use of park resources, participants regularly attributed illegal material use to others in the same FG, resulting in counter-accusations, suggesting such dissident use by most participants.

In June 2004 a young local adivasi boy was killed by a crocodile while illegally fishing in the Sakhya Sagar Lake. This precipitated yet more local anger. It was contended that if regulated subsistence fishing had been permitted (perhaps through a permit system), with proper arrangements and areas for such fishing, this accident would not have happened. LSEG responses to the incident were largely subversive: “no people won’t stop fishing in the lake. It will probably increase. The guards…deserve to face problems”.

The negative impact of the park’s autocratic structure seems to be exacerbated by corruption. Forest guards and rangers are either from, or rent accommodation in, villages around the park, and have personal relationships with individuals in the local population.12 Connivance between forest guards/rangers and certain villagers allows privileged unpunished park access, and causes resentment. Many villagers from all five villages studied suggested that: “the park policy is very unfair…we are forbidden from entering the park at all….but what is worse is that some people still can if they are friends with the guards”. Some members of the NP and district authorities also agreed: “it is difficult because many of the rangers do not punish illegal forestrelated activities because they are either paid off or they know the villager that needs punishment”. “Sometimes they (rangers) cannot really enforce the protection because they know everybody around here”.

VII Role of Livelihoods13

Although specific village statistics were lacking, deprivation levels were clearly high in all those studied, as they are in much of rural India: “[we] were invited to spend the evening with the family of one of the teachers at Thakurpura village school…I was shocked by how little food was eaten. The children were given half a ‘roti’ (unleavened Indian bread) and a small portion of ‘dhal’ (lentil soup) each and the adults little more”. Much of the population (particularly adivasi and dalit villagers) lack sufficient food, fuel and water, there is limited access to modern medical care, with high population growth and infant mortality rates. Education, transport, communication and other facilities are also limited. Larger scale statistics for Shivpuri district show a similar picture. In 1999, in rural areas, infant mortality was 98 per 1,000 live births and 42.5 per cent were living below the poverty line. Such figures are far higher than equivalents for urban Shivpuri and MP as a whole [Census of India 2001; Shivpuri District Statistical Booklet 1999; Tata Services 2001-02].

While patterns of rural underdevelopment are very common in India, and the deprivation around Madhav is clearly not solely linked to the existence of the park, this research revealed that many local people perceive there to be a connection between the severity of such deprivation around Madhav and park policy. In all five villages studied the most common LSEG reason supplied for their personal livelihood sustenance problems was NP restrictions limiting access to the park land, upon which

Figure 4: Example of a Flow Diagram Created by a LowerSocio-economic Village Focus Group Indicating the Rangeof Problems that MNP Is Seen to Cause

Different focus groups were asked to identify and write down the problems they No land doctors electricity medicine

considered themselves to be experiencing, the reasons for this suffering and then to make and to discuss amongst themselves the language they used.

Note: FG c, male, middle aged, LSEG.

60 per cent + of each village’s population at least in part depend for subsistence (Figure 4).

Moreover, a link between SEG level and knowledge of specific individuals illegally using the park was evident. HSEG informants were less likely personally to know people who used the park illegally than low. Hence illegal use is perhaps primarily to fulfil the most basic livelihood needs of LSEG villagers rather than to supplement the already sufficient incomes of local HSEGs or for the commercial purposes of outsiders. “[Poor] people do take from the park but they have to. Otherwise they cannot provide for their families”. “In the end the villagers do need to survive and if the only way to do this is through using NPs then they will”. As the majority of LSEG FG participants claimed “we will be very happy if the NP is abolished because we will get land because at the moment we cannot survive. We really need the NP land. By stopping us from using it the officials are stealing our rights of survival. Sometimes we have to go against the rules, otherwise our children will die”. “We cannot go there [to the NP] and we need to get wood. We have nothing. The park is the only source of fuel that we have, so we have to use it.” The exclusionary policy is, of course, not the only factor contributing to the severe village deprivation evident around the park, but, at least from the local perspective, it exacerbates it.

In addition, the park offers little compensating local employment. Park rangers, deputy rangers, forest guards and office staff largely come from the local area, but other than that the only park jobs (a mere 135 at a time) open to local people are seasonal and sporadic, such as road building, fence maintenance and vegetation clearance. Moreover, access to these jobs tends to favour those with prior connections to permanent park employees and villagers (largely sardar and gujar caste) already with alternative livelihoods: “the only people who get employed by the authorities are in the families of rangers. It is always the same, the rangers push their friends forward to get the work….so we get nothing”. “Yes it is completely unfair…why should people who already have their own land also get the NP jobs?”

Madhav’s policy fails to take sufficient account of villagers’ difficulties in fulfilling their basic existential needs from sources outside the park. Thus a livelihood deficiency, common in much of rural India, intensifies, precipitating illegal resource expropriation and environmental destruction within the park boundaries.

The extent of local village poverty, the park’s minimal revenue, and the probable lack of significant external financial support mean that improving the livelihoods of local people within the framework of a strict exclusionary policy is likely to be impossible. For example, since 2000 “eco-development” schemes (or “park outreach”, first advocated as a strategy in the National Wildlife Action Plan 1983) have been introduced at Madhav (under the India Eco-development Project). These aim to provide local people with alternative livelihood measures and new income generating skills (such as carpet weaving and tailoring) to reduce dependence upon park resources. Eco-development groups have supposedly been set up in 29 of 130 villages which surround the NP. However, villager informants asked about this had not heard of them: “I always get such blank looks whenever I mention eco-development or try to describe what it is”. Park management agreed that where implemented it has had limited success.

VIII Human Activity: Inherently Destructive?

The exclusionary policy at Madhav views local people’s desire to use the land for their subsistence needs (primarily LSEG adivasi and dalit villagers) as intrinsically anti-conservation, and their activities as inherently destructive, reckless and incompatible with the maintenance of high levels of biodiversity. They must thus be completely separated from the park’s nature. This research suggests a more nuanced and internally contradictory reality.

LSEG villagers’ occupations can certainly be depredatory. First, even superficial visual observations show that the park is far more biologically diverse than the surrounding area. Its boundaries frequently mark a divide between denuded land outside and less denuded land within. Second, there is a spatial correlation between previous stone quarries sites (where many LSEG villagers worked) and overt visual degradation. Third, many of the most visibly denuded areas of natural habitat in the original park are those closest to surrounding villages, which are subjected, more than other park areas, to subsistence activities. In summary, it would be a gross simplification, highly romanticised and Orientalist [see Freeman 1999; Inden 1986; Jeffery 1998; c f Said 1978], to suggest that the local LSEG villagers studied all have stringent conservation values and engage in activities and traditions that are fully based on ecological wisdom. This all perhaps points to some biological benefits of exclusionary controls even as they fail socially.

However, the research simultaneously pointed to the potential at Madhav for more inclusive alternatives to the exclusionary policy. As many as 38 of 42 LSEG village FGs conducted (spanning all villages, genders, ages and several castes) revealed some local LSEG knowledge and ability concerning sustainable resource use. Yet this was practised only on private-owned village land. This private land is usually used in a more careful, sustainable way than the NP areas over which they have no rights. Observations and village FG discussions both suggested that if LSEG villagers are involved in responsibility for the land, they are more willing to manage, and often do manage, the resources in a sustainable way. As one landless middle-aged dalit man from Karodhi village said, “of course we would better tend the land if it was ours, isn’t that human nature? I liken it to any possession. People are more likely to fear that their possession will be lost than another’s possession from which they cannot draw benefit”. Several adivasi FGs in Ballarpur explained how, on land they previously owned, they never fully cut down trees but rather had developed partial cutting methods: “we cut off branches thereby allowing the trees to re-grow”. There was also active LSEG tree planting on villager-owned land in four of the five villages under consideration: “the villagers…[plant]…a type of tree from the acacia family, a non-thorny acacia, it is called ‘babul’. It grows very fast and then you can use it to build huts and for fuel”. By contrast, without local custodianship LSEGs act in detrimental ways: “we hate the NP, of course we don’t care about it, the NP is rubbish for us”. One dalit woman in FG 31 admitted taking more wood from the NP than she needs “to serve the officials right”, and many claimed that others did this.

Further, exclusionary controls at Madhav ignore that many LSEG villagers (largely but not exclusively ST) hold religious beliefs, including ‘dharma’ (a set of rules), which can limit destruction. Village FG discussions revealed that much contemporary activity is still dictated by traditional religion which advocates harmony with nature and the valuing of all forms of life. At ‘Bhurakho’, a waterfall and sacred grove surrounding the Madhav Shwar temple, which was a distinctly green oasis in an otherwise fairly degraded area of the NP, there seemed to be significant potential for such small-scale locally-driven protection. Moreover, while medium and HSEGs living around Madhav were almost unanimous as to the aesthetic pleasure that highly biodiverse nature gave them, and how important it was to preserve it, similar emotions were also present to a lesser yet still fairly significant extent among LSEGs. They, however, (unlike the more privileged) also want the park land for subsistence purposes. Although on numerous occasions they have lost livestock and crops to wild animals, in 30 of 42 LSE village FGs, positive attitudes towards such animals came through: “oh no, we don’t dislike the animals. They are beautiful. I would like to see them more”. “Wild animals and plants are very important. We don’t want them to be destroyed. It would be a bad state of affairs if all the animals were killed.”

Furthermore, even in the absence of clear conservation values and sustainable agricultural methods among LSEG villagers, the research suggested significant untapped potential for change through education. At present, primary schooling among LSEGs in the villages studied is minimal. There is a small government primary school in Thakurpura, but the teacher/student ratio was around one to fifty. The other villages have no school, and distance largely prevents attendance elsewhere. Ongoing environmental education among LSEGs in these villages is thus almost non-existent. This is compounded by the park’s failure to try to educate local LSEG people unknowingly destructive practices and conservation ideals. All but one of the village heads felt that while much anti-conservation behaviour by LSEG villagers is intentional, some, such as grazing unnecessarily large numbers of unproductive cattle, is not. Instead of using the park’s budget (around Rs 5,090,000 per year) to educate, it is primarily spent on various measures to enforce the exclusionary policy, such as repairing boundaries and employing staff. In contrast, in Shivpuri town, outside the NP regime, local government has run a very successful initiative with poorer members of the urban population replacing cattle grazing with stall-feeding. This suggests that local people are not unwilling to change. While the NP does have an education policy, it is primarily focused upon informing paying park visitors, the majority of whom are the local medium to HSEGs (mercantile classes and service communities) from Shivpuri town or tourists from elsewhere in India and (to a lesser extent) abroad. The park’s information centre and guides can only be used by legitimate park visitors rather than legally invisible LSEG villagers. Unable to afford the entrance fees, but central to the park’s biodiversity reductions, they are ignored. There has been an annual “National Wildlife Week” attempting to encourage park representatives to educate local people about sustainable methods and conservation. However, this initiative has only reached the more privileged members of local society. Park officials visit some local private and government schools in Shivpuri town during Wildlife Week, but none venture into the villages: neither the teachers in Thakurpura village school nor any LSEG village participant in the research had ever heard of the scheme.

In summary, contrary to the premise underlying the exclusionary policy, neither conservation nor sustainable operations are completely alien to local villagers. Rather, particularly among LSEGs who are primarily responsible for damaging park biodiversity, internal contradictions exist. On the one hand they need to survive, they lack of access to environmental education, and they are resentful about their landless status and their lack of stakes in the park’s land. Combined, these encourage destructive exploitation. Conversely, many hold traditional knowledge and beliefs about nature, have ability to act in a sustainable fashion when circumstances are conducive, and value biodiversity. There is therefore significant potential for a shift from preoccupation with the fully-fledged large-scale autocratic policies of exclusion, to developing, expanding and involving LSEG forest-dependent local people in a more inclusive set of small-scale conservation initiatives at Madhav that take into account and achieve both biological and anthropogenic sustainability.


This article has suggested that strict exclusionary controls at Madhav are failing. Biodiversity is rapidly diminishing. Autocratic governance precipitates local LSEG alienation and contributes to illegal resource expropriation. Absolute closure of access to the forests and village relocation has substantially destabilised local forest-dependent peoples’ basic livelihoods. Lack of any local LSEG stakes in the park inhibits sustainable use. Park policy ignores locally-embedded ability to protect biodiversity and willingness to be educated to that end.

At present, Madhav, though still an important NP, is nonfunctional. Its current fortress logic is failing to prevent biological decline whilst simultaneously having a debilitating effect on the livelihoods and attitudes of LSEGs who have few alternative sources of survival. Village relocation was botched. The park’s enforcement measures are ineffective and induce corruption. Very little has been done to address the material and cultural problems that forest-dependent people living around the park face. Educational efforts with local communities are non-existent. There is no meaningful flow of tourism revenues to local people or any other forms of benefit-sharing system. This has all combined to create severe park authority versus villager antagonism, and contributed to unsustainable, damaging expropriation of the park’s natural resources.14

There is a pressing need for biological protection at Madhav but also, as documented in this article, severe anthropogenic deprivation exists in the area. Consequently, site-specific strategies are required that build not solely upon biology or economics but combine these concerns with sensitivity to the lower strata of people that live around the park and to the potential social, material and cultural costs of conservation policies. There are untapped opportunities latent in local communities around Madhav which, through the cultivation of more integrated, inclusive, actively participatory approaches to conservation, could better achieve both biodiversity preservation and human development there.15




1 While beyond the scope of this article, there are also indications of exclusionary policies in ancient Indian law see Thapar 1998, Gupta 1998.

2 It is important to be sceptical of records noting exact sizes of tigers shot in India in the past as Gee (1964: 62) emphasises.

3 This trend of increasing local use was not Madhav-specific, but widely apparent in India see approach paper on Wildlife Conservation Programmes for the Seventh Five-Year Plan 1985-90: 1.

4 Schaller’s research was on Kanha NP but this is also in MP. 5 One compensation case is still pending: 150 villagers from Lohar Khar lost land to the NP, and still await payments.

6 This is a social, ethnographic study, but also discusses ecological research, without purporting to be fully comprehensive. This approach reflects the need for social/ecological science communication in such contexts, and at least ameliorates the fundamental failure to “cross disciplinary boundaries” [Adams 1990: 8].

7 ‘Wealth Ranking’ [Chambers 1997: 118] was used to ascertain local context-specific criteria for socio-economic class, followed by visits to areas in which certain populations “clustered” [Bernard 1994: 89]. In the event income levels were largely decisive: Lower SEG (LSEG) informants

– incomes Rs 0 to 2000 per month. Medium SEG (MSEG) informants – Rs 2,000 to 5,000 per month. Higher SEG (HSEG) informants – Rs 5,000+ per month. Most LSEG informants were villagers, while most medium and HSEG informants were from Shivpuri town; all the villages studied were located within 5 km of the park boundaries.

8 This article is based on the 2002 data, supplemented by some further data gathered in 2004. For a more detailed analysis of the 2004 data see Beazley 2005.

9 See IUCN 1994 for high biodiversity as a key justification for exclusion. Whilst in this article I analyse Madhav in the context of achieving high biodiversity, it is also at least open to argument how universally accepted and relevant such an objective itself is see Croll et al 1992a, b, Guha et al 1997, Kemf 1993, Koziell 2001, Redclift et al 1994.

10 While the displacement package that Ballarpur villagers were supposed to receive mirrored that provided at Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary, the implementation of it at Madhav seems to have been even less effective.

11 A possible exception to this lack of change in park policy is the recent attempt to introduce “eco-development” initiatives into selected adjacent

villages. However this scheme does not seem to be having much success.

12 See Vasan 2002 for an excellent study on relationships between forest guards and local people in Himachal Pradesh.

13 Livelihood defined as “the capabilities, assets…and activities required for a means of living”, DFID 2003: Section 1: 1.

14 Moreover recently, in contrast to other parks in MP such as Kanha [see Schaller 1967 onwards] and Panna [see e g Chundawat et al 1999], very little research has been conducted at Madhav.

15 For specific policy suggestions and recommendations to create this alternative, more participatory and inclusive park system at Madhav see Beazley 2005.


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