By Ghasiram Panda

Political Parties Manifesto and vision on Forest resources in Orissa
Wednesday, April 08, 2009
Political Parties Manifesto and vision on Forest resources in Orissa

By Ghasiram Panda

Now the temperature is high due to election. All the political parties are busy in their planning for the forthcoming fight. As a part of this many parties have already released their manifesto and others are in the line to do so. But many people say that the manifesto is a farcical affair. This also seems to be correct to some extent as neither voter read this before casting their votes nor the parties show any seriousness to keep the promise in the manifesto after winning the election.  Still importance of the manifesto cannot be ignored as the foresight, commitment and principle of a political party can only be visible through its manifesto. Basing on the manifesto the literate voters can take decision and impress others in this regard and government can be pressurized in future to keep their promises.

Odisha Jungle Mancha is a State level organization of twelve thousand villagers who are actively involved for forest protection and management. This forum generally works for management of forest by the community. Though management of forest by community is an age-old practice, it has not been recognized by government. Now this forum has tried to incorporate its demand in the manifestoes of all prominent political parties taking the scope of election. Experience shows that importance is given to gain cheap popularity by creating eye catching slogans rather than giving priority to issues having serious concern. This is evident from the manifestoes of many prominent political parties. Though the parties are competing to provide cheap rice to people, all are silent about proper utilization and management of natural and human resources in the State. We should not forget that cheap rice can end the hunger, but not their poverty. If we honestly want to drive the people towards development we have to make them self-sufficient. Their participation in resource management of the country is to be augmented. 

Forest is very important natural resources in Orissa. Government data reveals that percentage of forest area in the state is 37.34 and 30% of total land of our State is covered with forest. 40% of total populations depend on these forests for their livelihood. Besides this, role of forests in environment protection is also important as it makes the streams & rivers perennial, protect against storms, increases ground water level and obstruct soil erosion.

The manifesto of Congress released from the centre states that “The Indian National Congress commits itself to strengthening people’s movements whose objective will be to protect and preserve our bio-resource and ensure their sustainable use”. The National Congress at Centre has come forward to hand over the management of bio-resources to the people. But the Orissa Congress is salient on the same. The BJP has not taken the forest or environment as a separate issue. Under the heading of ‘Development of ST, ST and backward class’ they have stated to formulate law to assert the right of ST on the forest. But it is essential to clarify what kind of policy or rule they will introduce after formulation Forest Right (Recognition) Act-2006. The BJD has kept a separate chapter on the heading of ‘Environment, Forest, Wildlife and Animal Husbandry’. It is not clear why they want to keep the animal husbandry with environment, forest and wildlife though previously it was with agriculture. Progress in the joint forest management programme by Forest Protection Committee and Forest Development Council and success of afforestation programme has been described as a success of the party. But they have over sighted the fact. The people’s right has shrink in the process of joint forest management. Now this is in total control of forest department. It is a well known fact that the Forest Protection Committee works in the sweet will of the Forester in the name of people’s participation. The tribes depend on natural forest for their livelihood. The natural forest area is decreasing due to afforestation programme and it has affected the livelihood of the people. So it is how far justifiable to tell this a success? Importance has been given to protect forest  and create new forest in the forthcoming days. But the leaders of BJD should understand that it is not possible to protect forest from destruction unless the people are entrusted with management of forest. This is not exaggeration that even on today in around twelve thousand villages people are managing forest resources basing on their needs. Though this effort has highly been acclaimed at national and international level, no legal recognition is accorded by the State government yet. It is appreciable that the Sambruddha Odisha and Samajwadi Party have promised to handover the forest management to the people.

Natural resources like forest will be ended up easily if policy is not formulated for entrusting people for its renovation, protection, management & utilization and to encourage them who renovate and protect forest with their own efforts.  

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