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Conservation and Society
An interdisciplinary journal exploring linkages between society, environment and development
Conservation and Society
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   2009| October-December  | Volume 7 | Issue 4  
    Online since July 6, 2010

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Striving for a balance: Nature, power, science and India's Indira Gandhi, 1917-1984
Mahesh Rangarajan
October-December 2009, 7(4):299-312
Indira Gandhi's life (1917-1984) spanned much of the twentieth century. She was Prime Minister of the world's largest democracy for two spells that totaled fifteen years. To this day, her environmental legacy remains one that divides critics from admirers. One sees it as a defense against ecological impoverishment, especially in her initiation of wildlife preservation and environmental conservation. The other views these as thin legitimization for an authoritarian style of functioning. The two are not antithetical, but neither does justice to the subject nor indeed to her times. Drawing on her decades of letter writing to and from her father Jawaharlal Nehru and her speeches, the article also looks in some detail at her executive actions as Prime Minister. Issues of nature can hardly be separated from the political problems that bedeviled India in the late 1960s. Serious food shortages led to increased reliance on US food aid, but the Indian bid for autonomy led to inevitable strains over the issue. The Green Revolution reduced reliance on the West. It was paralleled by a sustained engagement with conservation issues that continued beyond the 1971 war with Pakistan. Here, the Indira period is divided into two broad parts, with a leftward tilt, especially around 1969, and a shift to a more pro-business attitude after 1980. These changes were also evident vis a vis forests and wildlife. Ecological patriotism requires careful attention for saving nature, although statist intervention was a concomitant of India's unique place in the Cold War later. As US contacts thawed; the opening was complemented by shifts in the political economy. Similarly, arbitrary slum demolition and forcible family planning were part of a larger shift to coercive polices during the 18-month long Emergency period. The article ends by asking how to study contemporary politics to better comprehend our ecological dilemmas. Even as ecological processes and economic exchanges unify the world, divisions between and within nation states are central to most issues. By looking at a key figure of the latter half of the twentieth century, the article hopes to shed fresh light on how to look at the relations of nature, science, and power.
  13,555 1,073 1
Accessing nature: Agrarian change, forest laws and their impact on an adivasi economy in colonial India
Sanjukta Das Gupta
October-December 2009, 7(4):227-238
This article discusses how changing access to nature impacted an adivasi people, the Hos of Singhbhum. Without romanticizing the pre-British past, it may be argued that for the Hos of the time there had been dependence both on the forest and on cultivation, which had ensured them a minimum livelihood. This paper explores how their access to nature gradually diminished under colonial rule through the twin governmental policies of expansion of the agrarian frontier and restriction of the forests to the indigenous population. This led to the sedentarisation of the adivasis, further contributing towards agrarian expansion in India. However, this article argues that the extension of cultivation did not, however, benefit the Hos. Instead, the nature of the increase in acreage in Singhbhum, led to new agricultural practices, which, together with the restrictive forest laws and lack of new irrigation facilities, led to an agrarian crisis in the region, forcing the Hos to leave their lands and seek their fortunes elsewhere.
  10,458 906 -
Conservation-induced displacement: A comparative study of two Indian protected areas
Asmita Kabra
October-December 2009, 7(4):249-267
Attempts at 'preservation via displacement' are an extreme manifestation of the 'fortress' or an exclusionary conservation paradigm, support for which has increased lately due to escalating conservation threats. While the policies and processes emanating from this paradigm have produced positive conservation outcomes for some Protected Areas, livelihood outcomes for the displaced people have seldom been as positive. This article examines whether the impoverishment risks arising from conservation-induced displacement tend to vary with the degree of marginalisation of the displaced community. In this light, this article examines in detail the impact on livelihood of conservation-induced displacement in two Protected Areas (PAs) of India. The article posits that understanding the dynamic livelihood context of displaced communities, especially the ecological base of their livelihoods, is critical to any assessment of their pre- and post-displacement livelihood strategies and livelihood outcomes (such as income, poverty, food security and health). A variety of livelihood parameters, including compensation received, consumption flows, agricultural production, monetary income, food security, headcount ratio of poverty and overall poverty indices have been studied, to understand the extent to which key livelihood risks arising out of displacement are addressed by the rehabilitation package and process in the two PAs. The Sahariya is a forest-dependent Adivasi community living in and around the Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary in the semi-arid tropical region of Madhya Pradesh. The Sahariya Adivasis of the Kuno Sanctuary were a socially, politically and economically marginalised community, whose lives and livelihoods were intricately linked to their ecological base. We found that inadequate attention was paid to this factor while designing and implementing a suitable rehabilitation package for the 1650 Sahariya households displaced from this PA. As a result, their material condition deteriorated after displacement, due to loss of livelihood diversification opportunities and alienation from their natural resource base. Displacement thus resulted in rapid proletarianisation and pauperisation of these households, and their 'integration' into the national 'mainstream' occurred at highly disadvantageous terms. The 430 odd households displaced from the Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary in the Western Ghats (a biodiversity hotspot in the Southern Indian state of Karnataka) consisted of relatively less marginalised social groups like the Gowdas and the Shettys, both of whom occupy a prominent place in the local politics and economy of this state. The share of agriculture in the pre-displacement livelihood of these households was relatively higher, and dependence on forest-based livelihoods was relatively lower than in the case of the Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary. I argue that this was an important factor that enabled these households to negotiate a better post-displacement deal for themselves. Consequently, the relocation package and process was far more effective in mitigating the potential impoverishment risks of these households. It appears, then, that the livelihood outcomes of conservation-induced displacement are generally biased against the poor. Further, the more marginalised a displaced community (or household) is, the less likely it is to obtain benign or positive livelihood outcomes after displacement. This has important implications for poverty and social justice, especially for Adivasi communities, which constitute a large proportion of those threatened with conservation-induced displacement, in India, in the coming years.
  8,912 1,405 12
Victims of conservation or rights as forest dwellers: Van Gujjar pastoralists between contesting codes of law
Pernille Gooch
October-December 2009, 7(4):239-248
The Van (forest) Gujjars, surviving as forest pastoralists in the central part of the Indian Himalaya, are a people who, due to their nomadic lifestyle, have since colonial rule found themselves at the margin of Indian society. This paper will look at the relationship between the Van Gujjars and their forest base in a historical perspective from colonial rule to 'conservation of nature' and the 'rights of forest dwellers' and further discuss how changing codes and rules of power affect the society-citizen-nature / forest relationship for the community. We will look back into history and see how a system of strict control and regulation of Van Gujjars as nomadic pastoralists without a fixed address, initiated during colonial time, was continued by the national state of India after independence. We will further discuss how a history of unequal treatment and marginalisation of Van Gujjar pastoralists has continued into the present. What is manifest here is 'the forest' as a contested space: a site of power struggles, where forest dwellers are threatened with displacement in order to provide space, first for modern forestry and revenue producing land, and later for conservation of nature. The paper further looks at the latest developments where the Van Gujjars now have obtained domicile rights such as voters' rights and have been linked with Government services for education and health. It finishes by discussing the new possibilities and hopes for the community provided by the The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act.
  8,678 1,151 3
Of land, legislation and litigation: Forest leases, agrarian reform, legal ambiguity and landscape anomaly in the Nilgiris, 1969-2007
Siddhartha Krishnan
October-December 2009, 7(4):283-298
This paper provides a history and sociology of how and why the Janmam Act, an apparently well-intended scheme of agrarian reform in Gudalur, South India, has had unintended social, legal and ecological consequences. The Act sought to abolish a largely forested janmam (Zamindari) estate and reform its tenures. Some of its provisions pertaining to acquisition of forests leased to planters are still operative four decades since. Legal ambiguity, constituted chiefly by litigation and also by long periods of legal incertitude, has rendered ambivalent the revenue and forest departments administration of forests in leases. Planters have expanded and forested portions of leases have been occupied by migrant peasants. Forest leases appear legally and ecologically anomalous to the state. Popular and legal resistance to state efforts in establishing its interests, especially conservation, is rife. Due to sheer denudation and agrarian conversion, Gudalur is ceasing to be a constituency for conservation. This even as a title seeking social constituency has emerged, albeit problematically, because peasant claims are untenable as per the Act. Such local complexities, with distinct agrarian afflictions, have been wrought by the reformatory scheme and contribute to scheme incompletion.
  7,774 711 -
Judicial fiats and contemporary enclosures
Naveen Thayyil
October-December 2009, 7(4):268-282
This article examines the problematic processes in a case that has had few parallels in Indian judicial history. The apex court in T. N. Godavarman took upon the responsibility of deciding how forest resources in the country should be accessed and who is (or is not) to have such access. Purportedly done to protect the environment, through the 'clarification and fine-tuning' of national forest-laws, the case has seriously affected the life, livelihood, and habitat of millions of marginal groups. Recent trends demonstrate the wider trend of constitutional courts assuming the roles of adjudication, administration and legislation, all rolled into one, whereby they become problematic sites for creating a hierarchy of conflicting public interests, which claim constitutional validity from different vantage points. Thus, constitutional values of 'protection of environment' and 'justice - social, political and economic' 'are pitted against each other' where unelected courts take it upon themselves to define the legitimate precincts of the theoretical discourse of sustainable use / development; and importantly also implement it into 'everyday' 'reality, in the way it feels fit'. The article seeks to make sense of this contemporary process of forest governance.
  5,405 566 2
Predicaments of power and nature in India: An introduction
Gunnel Cederlof, Mahesh Rangarajan
October-December 2009, 7(4):221-226
  3,686 730 -