Forest rights as the blight of nature

Written by Malvika Singh | Updated: Dec 30 2006, 05:30am hrs
Early 2007, the 60th anniversary year of Indias independence, will herald the entry of tribal communities into the forests of India, hitherto an illegal intrusion into what were reserved and protected areas that are now open for entry. The national wealth in these tracts of land have been handed over to specified communities who are impoverished, having been victims of failed governance over many decades and exploitation that was not checked by administrators.

This new Forest Rights Bill will open the floodgates of opportunity for the tribals who will be swamped by land and timber merchants with resources to buy out forest land and produce via benami transactions, a tradition that Indians are familiar with. Also, privately-held forest lands in the Northeast are bald hill upon bald hill where the traditional jhuming to regenerate the land has been replaced by the denuding of entire hillsides. Timber contractors abound in the region, exploiting all they can lay their hands on. The CPM, led by Brinda Karat who is described as the mother of the new Bill, needed to step out of the frame, open its eyes, and look at the desertification of a great, rich and valuable tropical environment. It is proof enough to believe that a majority of representatives of the authorities, enforcement squads, sarpanchs and suchlike, will not be able to fight the onslaught of merchants with largesse to dangle as they scout for the land they would like to usurp from the poor and destitute.

Tribals, who have experienced the administrative failures of the past, will sell out a fast as they can, and make good for their children who, in circa 2007, must aspire to migrate from the fringes of the forests into a new life of possible opportunity much like the young of other communities. In a country where health and education services have had an abysmal record over 60 years, it is hard to believe that the same babus will deliver a better life for tribals in the jungles of India. As exploitation accelerates, poverty and social unrest will increase and the Naxal movement, which is sweeping India, will have thousands of new followers.

No policy that looks good on paper can be activated with honest application as long as the calibre of intellect, attitudes of negativity and corrosiveness of administrative functioning remain the way they are today. The sharp degradation of governance has led all policies initiated to assist the less privileged into the thrall of corruption and continuing failure. So 2007 will go down in history as the year when the last surviving natural treasury of India was opened to loot and plunder in the name of the poorin an effort to solicit their votes for an election after which their status will be defined as penury. Hopefully the gods, who the Left do not believe in, will cast a curse upon those who destroyed the pristine home of their vehicles, their vaahans!

The CPM, led by Brinda Karat who is described as the mother of the new Bill, needed to step out of the frame, open its eyes, and look at the desertification of a valuable environment
As the forests fade away, and as the tiger is forced out from his hereditary habitat by human beings who have been permitted to encroach, the king of the jungle will be compelled to wander through villages looking for food. A plethora of absurd newspaper articles will follow, telling stories about a new breed of man-eaters. Then, to deal with this menace, licenses will be distributed to the powerful to legitimately kill endangered species that were till now protected by law and a new form of shikar will become a coveted sport.

The water catchment areas of this land will be brutally degraded, resulting in a new set of incurable, waterborne diseases, and in some areas there will be no water at all for future generations. Limited knowledge on such profound issues is dangerous, far more destructive than no knowledge at all. India is suffering at the hands of intellectually superficial policymakers and administrators who enforce skewed laws. Rather than corrupt the existing mechanisms further through benign neglect, the UPA should clean up the administration, establish regulations for the appropriate functioning of the babu, restrict them from misusing their positions, and encourage citizens to use the forum of the Right to Information in an effort to cleanse a corrupted system. Babus need not be conserved so that they may perform on the bidding of the political class.