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

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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.

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