Recommendations for Revision of Joint Forest Planning & Management Order (JFPM) in Karnataka
1) Any changes to the structure of JFPM must be through suitable amendments in Chapter III (Village Forests) of the Karnataka Forest Act, 1963 and corresponding changes in the Karnataka Forest Rules, 1969, and not through a new G.O. The reason is that a structure based on Rules has much more longevity and legal sanctity than a G.O.
2) The new Rules must cover not just the process of formation of Village Forest Committees and their operation, but also the process of identification and notification of Village Forests, i.e., the land that is to be managed by the VFC.
3) This process of constituting a Village Forest and its VFC must be available “on demand”, i.e., whenever people from a village community come forward and apply for setting up of a Village Forest and VFC, the official machinery must be required to respond in a straightforward and time-bound manner. In this connection, it would be worth looking at the Van Panchayat Rules of the Uttar Pradesh government (copy attached.)
4) Any land at the disposal of the Government, irrespective of its legal status, including all categories of forest lands (Reserve Forests, Protected Forests, Village Forests), Gomaal, Anadheena, lands under the control of various corporations and departments, roadsides, canal sides, foreshores of tanks and any other land free of individual privileges and rights should be available for constitution of Village Forests, provided the villagers are willing to take responsibility for the management and protection of these lands. (If any individual privilege or right holder is willing to give up their privileges, rights, private land or private forest land to the Village Forests, they must be allowed to do so and such land must be included as Village Forest).
5) Suitable bodies like the Village Forest Tribunals must be set up at the district level and state level to facilitate and monitor the constitution and functioning of Village Forests.
6) Village Forests can be formed at the village or hamlet level. The general body of the VFC must contain all registered voters (i.e., adult males and females) of the settlement or hamlet or village or groups of these for whom the Village Forest has been constituted. But it must exclude those who have individual rights and privileges like soppinabettas, Kumkis, baane, etc Unless these privilege-holders are willing to give up their privileges and merge those areas with the Village Forest.
7) A Village Forest Management Committee (VFMC) must be duly elected by each VFC to manage the affairs of the Village Forest and the Village Forest Committee on a day-to-day basis. Ten members including five women shall be elected to the VFMC. The committee must include at least two members from scheduled Castes and schedules tribe and one each landless labourers and Village artisans.
8) The elections to the VFMC shall be held within a month of notification of the Village Forest. The VFMC will elect the President, Secretary and Treasurer of the VFC from amongst its members. At least one of them must be a woman.
9) The VFC must have the rights to harvest and consume all products that are permitted to be harvested under the sustainability norm. The VFMC must have the right to regulate the use and harvest of the forest products. Payment to Government agencies should be only for support services rendered.
10) The norms for ensuring environmental benefits, sustainable use and equitable distribution must be laid down by the VFMC and submitted to the Village Forest Tribunal at the district level which would monitor its implementation.
11) Other powers as mentioned in Section 10 (v), (vi) and (vii) of the JFPM order issued by the Government of Karnataka in 1993 and Chapter III (Management of Village Forests) of The Karnataka Forest Rules, 1969, can apply to the VFMC with suitable modifications.
12) The section on Village Forest (Section 28 in Chapter III) of the Indian Forest Act, 1927 and the rules found therein can be used as models for the constitution of the Village Forests. The basic spirit of the Village Forest rules must be drawn from the tenets of the National forest Policy, 1988. The principles laid down in the Kumaon Panchayat Forest Rules 1931, UP Van Panchayat Rules 1976, Orissa Village Forest Rules 1985, and the Rajasthan Gram Dan Act can be followed.
(A Forum for Promotion of Participatory Forest Management in Karnataka)