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

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Fake Stereotypes

We are dismayed by the editorial “Protecting India’s Protected Areas”, written by Praveen Bhargav and Shekar Dattatri (23 April 2011), and are particularly shocked that EPW chose to give this note space in the editorial section. The editorial questions two recommendations of the Saxena Committee on the Forest Rights Act, one of which ostensibly is to “dismantle” the forest management system while another is supposedly for “market-friendly” regulations on minor forest produce. The issues around the Saxena Committee recom mendations are far more complex than this caricature, but one would not suspect this from the editorial, which peddles old stereotypes and canards about forest dwellers, their rights and the Forest Rights Act. This requires a strong response.

Bhargav and Dattatri paint black and white stereotypes of community-controlled areas and state-controlled protected areas, seeking to set up a fake dualism between “bad community conservation” and “good state conservation”. They ignore the massive destruction that has taken place in government forests and many protected areas, as well as the examples of effective community conservation such as the Van Panchayats in Uttarakhand, more than 10,000 community-managed forests in Orissa, and the community wildlife reserves of the north-east. They imply that protected areas are the be-all and end-all of conservation, whereas it is now internationally accepted that landscape management, not walled off isolated enclosures, is absolutely essential to both protection of wildlife and effective environmental conservation.

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