Aerial view of Forest

By, Dr. D Dhanuraj and Rahul V Kumar

In India, there is a huge demand for timber that is met largely through imports. State-led forest policies have been lax in meeting this requirement. This policy paper analyses the existing forestry policy of India. The paper explains that intervention of the state to conserve and improve forest coverage has not been successful. It observes that many of the justifications by the states to intervene in forest management curtail individual decision to plant and fell trees.

Introduction

Forests are a useful resource to people. Commercial forest produce supports construction and other development activities in the economy. Production of timber in private property will be profitable not only for economic growth but also as a business venture.
However in India, several other considerations could affect taking up timber production as a business venture in an individual?s private property. Free market exchange is interrupted by interventions from the state. In the face of the growing need for timber, the federal state has ventured on a variety of alternative measures to ensure its control over this sector. State-sponsored social forestry, which began during the late 1970s, started as a measure to increase the forest coverage in India.ii Currently there is a serious effort by the federal state to re-invent social forestry to increase production of timber at the level of the private individual. In this context, there are two major questions that surface while considering private timber production in India as an offshoot of state-sponsored social forestry.

1) Why should the state interfere/What is the state?s logic in interfering with an individual?s decision to plant or fell a tree?
2) Does the state?s logic of increasing forest coverage as a reason for this intervention stand the test of verification?

In India, trees in the federal states are classified by the respective state departments into different categories depending on their commercial value as well as zones which are demarcated based on ecological criteria. Cutting these categorised trees and transiting them requires the permission and presence of state officials at various levels.

Methodology

The report has tried to evaluate the role of the state by comparing state rules and legislations with stakeholder responses. Stakeholder responses were collected through extensive interviews. Planters, traders, furniture units, and forest officials were interviewed to collect responses for this comparison. Secondary data sources are also used in the analysis.

You can view the detailed report here: Social Forestry Report