Roots of change : front line workers and forest policy reform in West Bengal
Front line workers and forest policy reform in West Bengal
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dept. of Urban Studies and Planning.
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This dissertation examines the case of forest policy reform in the Indian state of West Bengal. In 1989, the Government of West Bengal adopted a policy of involving local communities in the protection and management of state owned forest lands, generally called Joint Forest Management (JFM). Through JFM considerable progress has been made in (a) establishing joint management arrangements between communities and the Forest Department at the local level and (b) actual forest regeneration. The case is interesting from the point of view of policy reform because in contrast to prevailing stereotypes in the literature, JFM was a case of the forest bureaucracy acting in an innovative, non-self interested fashion, at some cost to its own power. Moreover, the initiative for involving people in forest management came from the Forest Department before organized demands for participation from forest communities. What is especially striking about the case is that the cooperation between the Forest Department and villagers that made JFM possible emerged and spread at a time when relations between the two had long been characterized by high levels of distrust and conflict. In the prevailing literature there are two conventional explanations for the policy change-one focuses on the leadership of a few progressive mid-level forest officers and the other on the formation of autonomous informal protection groups through community initiative. I examine these two explanations closely and find that they only partially explain the trajectory of JFM in West Bengal. The main factual omission in these explanations is the supportive role played by the Association of front-line workers of the Forest Department. I argue that because of the difficult work conditions faced by front-line forestry workers they took up the call for a forest policy that would involve local people in management and protection. These efforts were successful because their Association was closely linked to the political party in power. Support for the policy change from the grassroots, front-line workers, the political party and reformist senior foresters squeezed the opposition from reluctant foresters. This alternative explanation of front-line workers and their union helps fill the gaps in earlier accounts and illustrates how, contrary to received wisdom, public sector unions can play a progressive role in policy reform.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dept. of Urban Studies and Planning, 2000.Includes bibliographical references (leaves 311-321).
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Dept. of Urban Studies and Planning.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Urban Studies and Planning.