An example of Innovations in forest Governance: A Module for securing developmental goals with conservation.

Dr VK Bahuguna

(The writer is a retired civil servant)
The Bureaucracy is the instrument of governance and implementation of policy decisions as per the rule of laws and conventions set by the rulers. It functions in a very organized and systematic manner and if performs its duty honestly and efficiently becomes a great agent of change and welfare of people. The bureaucracy however, is severely criticized all over the world for log jams it puts on minor issues, insensitivities to public feelings, red tapism and road block for the innovations and run afters those who dare to innovate among them. In a country of India’s diversity of challenges faced by its people in diverse situations the success of delivery of government programme to people depends upon the commitment and efficiency of the bureaucracy.

But there always are change mongers in every system whose enterprise, zeal and innovations brings resilience, long term credibility and ultimately faith in the system. In the midst of failures of government programmes there are people who with their sheer perseverance and hard work have rewritten the laws of governance. This writer is going to discuss one such example of forest conservation and tribal development reviewed by him recent while visiting some tribal and forested areas in the hinterland of Khandwa District in Madhya Pradesh.

The Khandwa District of Madhya Pradesh has lot of dry teak forests where many tribal communities are living in and around the forests. The Kol, Korku, Sahariya and Baiga tribals have registered the highest population in Khandwa and there were large number of forest villages created during British period for execution of forestry works and these people were deprived of basic civic amenities. The situation however, changed after the inaction of Forest Rights Act 2006. This writer has visited the Chattu-Pattu and Bangda villages inhabited by Korku and Gond tribes around 70 km away from Khandwa last month and forming part of Anwlia Range office under the Khandwa Forest Division. This writer discussed with beneficiaries of the various incomes generation activities created by the forest department for these villages for a decent livelihood. The irrigation facilities have promoted wheat and vegetable cultivation but sadly the millets are vanishing fast.

The most noteworthy thing in the area is the creation of a skill development centre at Anwlia in the year 2010 for which funds were tied up from the Tribal-Sub plan of the State and central governments. It was the innovative thinking of the then Divisional Forest Officer Mr SS Rawat and his staff presently overseeing this centre as the Chief Conservator of Khandwa Circle which led to the establishment of this centre. The skill development centre was created through a public-private partnership with the local Non-Government Organization named as Self Employment Education Society (SEES) and with a bare minimum investment. The skill development centre focused on the advantage of location of the Khandwa town on the main Railway Track of all trains going to major South Indian cities like Bangalore. The centre had trained one thousand fifty tribal youths belonging to Korku and other tribes till June 2016. The Six hundred Boys were trained for security guards, computer handling for data entry and driving the vehicles and four hundred fifty girls were trained in cloth stitching, tribal art and beauty parlour jobs. The training is for duration of three months for each trade in a batch of 35 and the also covered personality development. After completion of training the placement services are activated by the centre. The NGO SEES was paid eight thousand rupees per candidate for three months training. It was heartening to learn that out of 450 trained girls 176 are working in Bangalore’s Shahi Exports Private Limited a textile company and others are taking up their independent work in nearby places. One of the girls who had come home from Bangalore for the Holi festival was present with her baby and informed that they are provided safe guarded accommodation and dining and crèche facilities and a good salary of more than Rs 8500 on initial appointment. The Vardhman Industries at Mandideep near Bhopal have recruited 450 boys as Security Guards. Those who were trained in driving are on their own and self employed.

This innovative example of use of forest department in training the tribal youth for livelihood was executed through the NGO with bare minimum investment of around 10 lakh Rupees. The building and infrastructure for the training was however, created separately by the forest department. The cost benefit analysis makes it a very nice replicable model of employment generation for the tribals and reducing their dependence on the forest and land based resources. The success have been achieved very silently without blowing the trumpet but the district administration Khandwa must take a clue from this and help this centre grow a model employment generation venture by adding up more trades with financial support. The district administration should focus more on animal resources and horticulture development and creation of infrastructure for primary sector. The centre was training its last batches when this write visited it on 26th March 2019 and would require fresh infusion of funds to continue this endeavour. The forest department should submit a comprehensive project before the skill development, rural development and tribal development ministries of government of India covering the entire state with site specific modules. The CAMPA funds could also be tied up. This should be a part of the ten thousand crore project on tribal livelihood and infrastructure announced recently by the tribal affairs ministry of the government of India.

In nutshell, implementations of such modules provide a larger message for the planners for reshaping the developmental programmes of the country by interlinking the conservation of forests, with income generation and growth of primary sector activities through infusion of technology. The emphasis of forest management should be on conserving the forests, soil moisture and bio-diversity and making people less dependent on forests through such activities which will ultimately not only lead to better livelihood, fulfilling climate change mitigation and adaptation on broader scale by covering the entire landscape but will also assimilate the tribal youth in the mainstream society where they will enrich it with their culture, language, art and music. It is in this light that the recommendations of the National Commission on Scheduled Tribes that the Indian Forest Service (IFS) should be entrusted with tribal development need to be seen. It is time that the government of India takes a call considering the future of the country.

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