ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The Forest Question

The Forest 'Question' Walter Fernandes I HAVE gone through Ramchandra Guha's review of "Towards a New Forest Policy: People's Rights and Environmental Needs" edited by Shared Kulkami and myself (EPW, April 28, pp 711-712). I was surprised "to see the distortion of its contents by the reviewer who has either not understood what it says even after reading the book or has deliberately quoted phrases out of context to distort their meaning. For instance, the reviewer says "The book starts with the naive statement that the intentions of those who framed the Indian Forest Bill were 'laudable'. " It is obvious from the context and the reference of Chakravarti that the book speaks of the intentions of safeguarding the country's vanishing forests. But the fact of the draft Forest Bill being a follow up of the National Commission on Agriculture which accused the forest dwellers of destroying forests, made those working among the tribals and forest dwellers feel that "both the context of the bill and the language in which the proposed legislation was couched, gave greater importance to protecting forests from the tribals and other forest dwellers than from the commercial- industrial interests that have been at the root of the malaise" (p 1). When did the intention of protecting the country's vanishing forests become naive? The only question is not whether forests should be protected but whether they should be protected from the forest dwellers or from the commercial-industrial interests.

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