Editorial 1: A conservation Bill that endangers forest rights


The expeditious passage of the Wild Life (Protection) Amendment Bill, 2021 in the Rajya Sabha this winter session — this followed its passing in the Lok Sabha during the monsoon session — needs comment.

Wildlife Protection Act (WPA), 1972

  • Wildlife Protection Act (WPA), 1972 has safeguarded numerous species of wild animals and plants by prohibiting all forms of hunting and, more importantly, creating inviolate areas where wildlife conservation may be carried out.
  • The amendment further invests in this conception of protected areas and species by bringing in newer species to be protected, augmenting the penal repercussions. While the aspects of protecting species from the wildlife trade, in line with international standards, have received thoughtful scrutiny by civil society, Members of Parliament and the Parliamentary Standing Committee, the impact of the criminal legal framework adopted by the WPA is less known.

Features of the WPA Amendment Bill, 2022l:

  1. Implement the provisions of the CITES: CITES is an international agreement between governments to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plantsdoes not threaten the survival of the species.
  2. Provides much more power at the hands of the Central Government: The central government can designate a Management Authority, which grants export or import permitsfor the trade of specimens.
  3. Central Government can regulate or prohibit the import, trade, possession or proliferation of invasive alien species (plant or animal species which are not native to India and whose introduction may adversely impact wildlife or its habitat)
  4. The central government may also notify a conservation reserve ( typically act as buffer zones to or connectors and migration corridors between established national parks, and wildlife sanctuaries)
  5. Reduces the number of schedules from Six (currently) to Four now: Currently, there are six schedules: protected plants (one), specially protected animals (four), and vermin species (one). The new bill removes the schedule for vermin species.
Schedule I       Animal species that will enjoy the highest level of protection Schedule II      Animal species that will be subject to a lesser degree of protection Schedule III     Protected Plant species Schedule IV    Specimens listed in the Appendices under CITES (scheduled specimens)
  1. The Act entrusts the Chief Wildlife Warden, appointed by the state, to control, manage and maintain all sanctuaries in a state.
  2. People possessing live specimens of scheduled animals must obtain a registration certificate from the Management Authority.
  3. The Bill allows for Commercial Trade In Live Elephants. The Bill, therefore, allows for commercial trade in elephants. This is contrary to the previous act (WPA, 1972) which specifically prohibits trade in Wild Animals including captive and wild elephants.
  4. For sanctuaries falling under Scheduled Areas (where FRA 2006 is applicable and comes under the 5th Schedule), the management plan must be prepared after due consultation with the Gram Sabha concerned
  5. States can declare areas adjacent to National parks and Sanctuaries as Conservation Reserve, for protecting flora and fauna, and their habitat.
  6. Increases the Penalties: For General violation ( increases to Rs 1,00,000 from Rs25,000) and for specially protected animals ( increases to 25,000 from Rs 10,000)

Criminal laws and wildlife conservation

  • The need for criminal laws to assist wildlife conservation has remained unchallenged since its conception. From regulated hunting to complete prohibition and the creation of ‘Protected Areas (PA)’ where conservation can be undertaken without the interference of local forest-dwelling communities, State and Forest Department control over forests would not have been possible without criminal law.
  • In this context, pitting wildlife species against communities as human-animal conflict has eluded the true cost of criminalisation under the WPA. The recent move to increase penalties by four times for general violations (from ₹25,000 to ₹1,00,000) and from ₹10,000 to ₹25,000 for animals receiving the most protection should raise questions about the nature of policing that the WPA engenders.

Study based in Madhya Pradesh

A study by the Criminal Justice and Police Accountability Project (the CPA Project examined arrest records, FIRs, offence records of the police and Forest Department in Madhya Pradesh) found that:

  1. Persons from oppressed caste communities such as Scheduled Tribes and other forest-dwelling communities form the majority of accused persons in wildlife-related crimes.
  2. Forest Department was found to use the threat of criminalisation to force cooperation, apart from devising a system of using community members as informants and drawing on their loyalty by employing them on a daily wage basis.
  3. Cases that were filed under the WPA did not pertain solely to the comparatively serious offence of hunting; collecting wood, honey, and even mushrooms formed the bulk of prosecution in PAs.
  4. Over 95% of the cases filed by the Forest Department are still pending.
  5. Hunting offences that were primarily filed against Schedule III and IV animals (wild boars) which have lesser protection than tigers and elephants formed over 17.47% of the animals ‘hunted’ between 2016-20.

Forest Rights Act (FRA), 2006:

  • Forest rights, individual and collective, as part of the Forest Rights Act (FRA) were put in place to correct the injustice meted out by forest governance laws in recognising forest-dependent livelihoods. The natural overlap of recognising forest rights in intended-as-inviolate PAs was quickly resolved by making the FRA subservient to the WPA, thereby impeding its implementation.
  • In the field work carried out, it was noticed that while individual forest rights in buffer zones of the Kanha National Park of Madhya Pradesh were recognised, the same cannot be said of collective rights over usage of forest resources, fishing, and protecting forest resources.
  • Fishing, which forms an important part of subsistence for tribal communities, has come to be regularly criminalised as part of the WPA. In cases recorded by the Forest Department, as noted above, the very fact that these occurred in PAs led to the offence becoming punishable by three to seven years.


Criminal cases filed by the department are rarely compounded since they are meant to create a ‘deterrent effect’ by instilling fear in communities. Fear is a crucial way in which the department mediates governance in protected areas, and its officials are rarely checked for their power.

Unchecked discretionary policing allowed by the WPA and other forest legislations have stunted the emancipatory potential of the FRA. Any further amendments must take stock of wrongful cases (as in the case of fishing) and resultant criminalisation of rights and lives of forest dwelling communities.

Editorial 2: The rise of rural manufacturing


There is growing evidence to suggest that the most conspicuous trend in the manufacturing sector in India has been a shift of manufacturing activity and employment from bigger cities to smaller towns and rural areas.

This ‘urban-rural manufacturing shift’ has often been interpreted as a mixed bag, as it has its share of advantages that could transform the rural economy, as well as a set of constraints, which could hamper higher growth.

Role of ‘conducive ecosystems’:

Given the size of the Indian economy and the need for balanced regional development, the dispersal of manufacturing activities is a welcome sign. However, the compulsions of global competition often extend beyond the considerations of low-wage production and depend on the virtues of ‘conducive ecosystems’ for firms to grow.

The movement of manufacturing away from urban locations was brought out by the World Bank in a report a decade ago (“Is India’s Manufacturing Sector Moving Away from Cities? Policy Research Working Paper, World Bank”). This study investigated the urbanisation of the Indian manufacturing sector by “combining enterprise data from formal and informal sectors and found that manufacturing plants in the formal sector are moving away from urban areas and into rural locations, while the informal sector is moving from rural to urban locations”. Their results suggested that higher urban-rural cost ratios caused this shift.

Recent data from the Annual Survey of Industries for 2019-20, shows that the rural segment is a significant contributor to the manufacturing sector’s output. While 42% of factories are in rural areas, 62% of fixed capital is in the rural side.

Status of Indian economy: National Statistical Office (NSO) in 2022 released the estimates of the Indian Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth for the fiscal year 2020-21 (FY’21). The decline in GDP, at 7.3% , was slightly better than expectation. The provisional estimates of annual national income (2020-21), released by the National Statistical Office (NSO), reports that the agriculture sector continued its impressive growth performance, reiterating that it still remains as the vital sector of the economy, especially at times of crisis. The manufacturing sector continued its subdued growth performance, failing to emerge as the growth driver, with production interruptions due to localised lockdowns to be blamed. Unemployment data released by the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) which says, “In May 2021, India’s labour participation rate at 40 per cent was the same as it was in April 2021. But, the unemployment rate shot up to 11.9 per cent from 8 per cent in April. A stable labour participation rate combined with a higher unemployment rate implies a loss of jobs and a fall in the employment rate.” Business confidence index (BCI), from the survey by the industry body FICCI, plummeted to 51.5 from 74.2 in the previous round. The survey also highlights the weak demand conditions in the economy. Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) has slipped to a 10-month low indicating that the manufacturing sector is showing signs of strain with growth projections being revised lower.

This is the result of a steady stream of investments in rural locations over the last two decades. In terms of output and value addition, rural factories contributed to exactly half of the total sector. In terms of employment, it accounted for 44%, but had only a 41% share in the total wages of the sector.

Case study: Tamil Nadu government has undertaken a rural transformation project in partnership with the World Bank to promote rural enterprises in the farm, off-farm and non-farm sectors. The Tamil Nadu Rural Transformation Project (TNRTP) now has an official brand name, Vazhndhu Kattuvom (We shall live and show), and looks beyond poverty alleviation to develop a business ecosystem that nurtures skills and fosters entrepreneurial capabilities among self-help groups (SHGs) and their households.

Agriculture: the lone bright spot:

  • Despite the lack of fiscal support, an important contributor to the better-than-expected economic performance was the resilience of the rural economy, particularly the agricultural sector. While rural areas were the first point of refuge for a majority of migrants who during COVID-19 -induced lockdown, returned from urban metropolitan areas, agriculture was the only major sector (other than electricity, gas, water supply and other utility services) which reported an increase in Gross tops Added (GVA) in 2020-21. It not only provided jobs to returning migrants but also sustained the economy in the rural areas.
  • Agriculture has not only been the biggest saviour during the period of the pandemic but has consistently been an important driver of the economy throughout the last five years which has seen the economy slow down sharply. The average growth rate in agriculture GVA in the last five years, at 4.8%, is significantly higher than the GVA growth of the economy as a whole, at 3.6%, in the last five years.

Manufacturing advantages in rural areas:

Studies have documented several causes for the relatively steady rise and presence of rural manufacturing. Rural areas have generally been more attractive to manufacturing firms because wages, property, and land costs are all lower than in most metropolitan areas.

  • Broadly there could be three explanations for this shift of manufacturing away from urban locations:
  1. factory floorspace supply constraints. When locations get more urbanised and congested, the greater these space constraints are. The continuing displacement of labour by machinery as a result of the continuous capital investments in new production technologies. In cities, factories just cannot be expanded as opposed to rural areas. Thus, increased capital intensity of production is one reason for this trend.
  2. Production cost differentials: Many firms experience substantially higher operating costs in cities than in rural areas, with inevitable consequences for the firm’s profitability and competitiveness.
  3. Possibility of capital restructuring — there is a tendency for growing capital accumulation and centralisation by large multi-plant corporations. Big firms deliberately shift production from cities to take advantage of the availability of less skilled, less unionised and less costly rural labour.
  • The shift in manufacturing activities from urban to rural areas has helped maintain the importance of manufacturing as a source of livelihood diversification in rural India. In the aftermath of trade liberalisation, import competition intensified for many Indian manufacturers, forcing them to look for cheaper methods and locations of production.
  • One way to cut costs was to move some operations from cities to smaller towns, where labour costs are cheaper. This trend helped to make up for the loss of employment in some traditional rural industries. The growth of rural manufacturing, by generating new jobs, thus provides an economic base for the transition out of agriculture.

Challenges ahead

  • The shift towards rural manufacturing faces two major challenges:
  1. Though firms reap the benefits of lower costs via lower rents, the cost of capital seems to be higher for firms operating on the rural side. For instance, the rural segment accounted for only 35% of the total rent paid, while it had 60% of the total interest payments. The benefits reaped from one source seem to be offset by the increased costs on the other front.
  2. There exists an issue of “skills shortage” in rural areas as manufacturing now needs higher skilled workers to compete in the highly technological global ‘new economy’. Manufacturers who depend only on low-wage workers simply cannot sustain their competitive edge for longer periods as this cost advantage vanishes over time. Manufacturers who need higher skilled labour find that rural areas cannot supply it in adequate quantities.


This suggests the need for clear solutions to the problems of rural manufacturing and the most important is the provision of more education and skilling for rural workers. A more educated and skilled rural workforce will establish rural areas’ comparative advantage of low wages, higher reliability and productivity and hasten the process of the movement out of agriculture to higher-earning livelihoods.


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