Obstructed Access to Forest Justice: An Institutional Analysis of the Implementation of Rights Reform in Andhra's Forested Landscapes

Abstract

This paper considers the extent to which the Forest Rights Act 2006, potentially the most comprehensive institutional reform of forest rights in India since Independence, may ameliorate the high levels of chronic and acute poverty in forested areas of Andhra Pradesh. The passing of the Act in 2006 appeared to presage an historic reversal of the colonial origin processes of state marginalisation and oppression of the many millions who inhabit India's forested landscapes, and to usher in a more democratic era, albeit 60 years overdue. But can a stroke of the legislative pen so easily change the fortunes of the poor? Considering the huge momentum of the status quo forest institutions and marginalisation processes, and the minimal political power of the marginalised, what are the realistic prospects for actually achieving pro-poor reform? From a lifetime of fighting to protect the interests of the poor in Andhra, the late Balagopal reached a pessimistic conclusion: '… the motto of all land reform measures in India has been to do what little can be done for the poor without hurting the rich too much. … lobbies of the privileged constantly work to weaken reform.' Is dilution of reform inevitable, or can the weak really challenge the strong effectively using the democratic structures? This paper takes an institutional perspective to answer these questions, considering the implementation This paper considers the extent to which the Forest Rights Act 2006, potentially the most comprehensive institutional reform of forest rights in India since Independence, may ameliorate the high levels of chronic and acute poverty in forested areas of Andhra Pradesh. The passing of the Act in 2006 appeared to presage an historic reversal of the colonial origin processes of state marginalisation and oppression of the many millions who inhabit India's forested landscapes, and to usher in a more democratic era, albeit 60 years overdue. But can a stroke of the legislative pen so easily change the fortunes of the poor? Considering the huge momentum of the status quo forest institutions and marginalisation processes, and the minimal political power of the marginalised, what are the realistic prospects for actually achieving pro-poor reform? From a lifetime of fighting to protect the interests of the poor in Andhra, the late Balagopal reached a pessimistic conclusion: '… the motto of all land reform measures in India has been to do what little can be done for the poor without hurting the rich too much. … lobbies of the privileged constantly work to weaken reform.' Is dilution of reform inevitable, or can the weak really challenge the strong effectively using the democratic structures? This paper takes an institutional perspective to answer these questions, considering the implementation This paper considers the extent to which the Forest Rights Act 2006, potentially the most comprehensive institutional reform of forest rights in India since Independence, may ameliorate the high levels of chronic and acute poverty in forested areas of Andhra Pradesh. The passing of the Act in 2006 appeared to presage an historic reversal of the colonial origin processes of state marginalisation and oppression of the many millions who inhabit India's forested landscapes, and to usher in a more democratic era, albeit 60 years overdue. But can a stroke of the legislative pen so easily change the fortunes of the poor? Considering the huge momentum of the status quo forest institutions and marginalisation processes, and the minimal political power of the marginalised, what are the realistic prospects for actually achieving pro-poor reform? From a lifetime of fighting to protect the interests of the poor in Andhra, the late Balagopal reached a pessimistic conclusion: '… the motto of all land reform measures in India has been to do what little can be done for the poor without hurting the rich too much. … lobbies of the privileged constantly work to weaken reform.' Is dilution of reform inevitable, or can the weak really challenge the strong effectively using the democratic structures? This paper takes an institutional perspective to answer these questions, considering the implementation processes of FRA in the field. It is based on primary research conducted across six villages over 2008 to 2010.

Citation

Discussion Paper Series, Research Programme Consortium for Improving Institutions for Pro-Poor Growth, Manchester, UK, No. 47, 48 pp.

Obstructed Access to Forest Justice: An Institutional Analysis of the Implementation of Rights Reform in Andhra’s Forested Landscapes

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