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

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Coming Tragedy of the Commons

Coming Tragedy of the Commons Vandana Shiva FIVE million hectares of recovery of the commons in India each year could mean the end of rural poverty and a reversal of ecological trends of a collapse of critical life- support-systems of soil, water and vegetation. 'Yet the Wasteland Development Programme is not a recovery of the commons project. It is a privatisation of the commons project which threatens to accentuate rural poverty and increase ecological instability, because in one fell swoop it will rob the poor of their remaining common resources, the only survival base to which they have access. The usurpation of the commons which began with the British will reach its final limit with the Wasteland Development Programme. Chattarpati Singh of the Law Institute argues: "It is evident that till the end of the last century and in all historical periods before that at least 80 per cent of India's natural resources were common property, with only 20 per cent being privately utilised. . . This extensive common property has provided the resource base for a noncash, non-market economy. A whole range of necessary resources has been freely available to the people. Thus commonly available wood, shrubs, and cowdung has been utilised for cooking and heating, mud, bamboo and palm leaves for housing, wild grass and shrubs as animal fodder, and a variety of fruits and vegetables as food." These free commons have been the survival base for rural India. With reservation of forests, the first step in the privatisation of commons took place a century ago. Today, the next and final step in the disappearance of the commons is taking place as 'Wasteland Development'.

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