Looming largesse

Looming largesse a multi-state World Bank (wb) loan for some tribal populations in India is in the pipeline, making it the first time the country might receive such a loan. The loan is to focus on the central Indian tribes that depend on forests for their livelihood. The money will be distributed among Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh. But Peter Jipp, senior forestry specialist in wb's South Asia Rural Development Unit at Washington qualifies the loan proposal, saying: "We have only begun to conceptualise it right now. Nothing has been finalised as yet.' Actual disbursal of funds of a wb loan takes anything from one to three years from the stage of early discussions.

If it comes through, it would be after a long gap that the bank will promote a loan that is not state specific. Jipp says: "Previous experience has made the states usually reluctant to take up loans that have other states involved with the Union government as a central anchor to the activities.' Thus, the loan being fashioned right now will curtail the role of the Union ministry of environment and forests (moef). A drastic shift from earlier loans on forest-based livelihoods in which the moef had a central role.

Speaking on December 4, 2004, at a seminar on "Unlocking Opportunities for Forest Dependent People' at New Delhi, wb officials disclosed that India had leveraged loans to the tune of us$830 million between 1970-1990s (see table: Benevolent rise). The money was sanctioned for state social forestry projects across the main forested states and national projects for research and development as well as social forestry (excluding projects woven around protected areas and managed by wb's biodiversity department).
Beyond the forest department Jipp says, "We are thinking of involving the line departments in the project', referring to the rural development, irrigation and tribal affairs departments that states have to run their rural development schemes. The project will route funds to these departments for rural development works instead of funding only the forest department. "We have realised that the forest department does not have the capacity to carry out such functions. They are understaffed for even their usual activities of conservation and protection at this moment.'

In the past, the joint forest management (jfm) programme, funded by the Bank, worked on the principle that the forest department needed to change its role and take on social development activities. But wb officials as well as some experts present at the conference emphatically noted that the jfm project had failed to secure tenure and permanence of rights for the people and therefore needed to be revisited. In fact, the wb is reviewing the jfm programme. It has undertaken studies in three states, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and Assam, in this regard. Though the final report is yet to be compiled, the state reports have been completed.
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