Third CSE Media Fellowships on ‘Forests as Habitat’ | Centre for Science and Environment


Third CSE Media Fellowships on ‘Forests as Habitat’

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July 1 - 31, 2003

The Centre for Science and Environment’s (CSE) third media fellowships on ‘Forests as Habitat’ extended from July 1 to July 31, 2003. The prestigious fellowships offered journalists from the print and other media a unique opportunity to travel, research and report on the conditions of local forest communities and their homes – India’s forests – with the aim of bringing issues such as resource rights and governance into the forefront of national discourse.
Forest communities across India, whose lives have been inseparably tied to forests for centuries, are being dispossessed of their homes, livelihoods and their rights over resources through policing and policy. It has thus been a continuous fight for existence for about 500 million of the poorest of the poor.
Through a range of ‘Suggested Areas of Focus’, the fellowships attempted to raise and – eventually – answer some critical questions: what are forests for? To whom do they belong – people, wildlife, governments? Who has the right to live in and look after them? Who degrades them? What is the future of forests in India? These areas of focus were:

  • Conflict between government forest policies, industry and community
  • Interplay of market forces and local forest economies
  • Forest management models that give resource rights to communities
  • Minor Forest Produce: potential versus policy
  • Community strategies for survival and control over resources
  • Interface between forest management practices and science in IndiaImpact of forest degradation on women

 
The Selection Procedure
An external jury was appointed and a dossier of the applications was presented to each member of the jury for his comments. The jury members were:

Keshav Desiraju: Joint Secretary, A&AT, Union ministry of personnel. A 1978 batch IAS officer, Mr Desiraju was with the Union ministry of environment and forests from 1991-95.

Dr P S Ramakrishnan: Head, School of Environmental Studies, JNU. An expert on northeastern ecological practices, Dr Ramakrishnan also specializes in the subjects of traditional practices in the Himalayan region, biodiversity management and sacred groves.

Savyasaachi: Reader, Department of Sociology, Jamia Milia Islamia. Noted sociologist Savyasaachi has worked on the issue of forest habitats and tribal communities in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Orissa.

Dr Shambhunath Singh: Political Editor, Hindustan. A doyen of the Hindi press in New Delhi, Dr Singh has been with Hindustan for more than six years.

Susheel K Sehgal: Senior Programme Officer, Natural Resource Management, Winrock India. Mr Sehgal has about 10 years of experience in the area of community forestry, and has coordinated the national network on JFM.

Umesh Anand: former Resident Editor, The Times of India. Seasoned journalist and author of Wonder Drug, a book on rights of communities over resources.
 
The jury selected 10 promising candidates for awarding the fellowship grant. Individually, the fellowship exposed each candidate to a vital area of concern. It brought them face-to-face with the entire gamut of issues related to humans and forests, and helped them understand the complexities of the subject. Many of them realised the enormity of the issue for the first time, and have felt encouraged to keep writing on it.

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Balakoteshwara Rao
Metro Bureau Chief, The Times of India
Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh
 
P Balakoteshwara Rao's career has spanned publications in Hyderabad as well as New Delhi. Having begun as a reporter with Newstime, the Hyderabad-based English daily, Rao worked as a sub-editor with The Indian Express, Hyderabad; sports correspondent for The Pioneer, New Delhi; feature desk in-charge for Andhra Pradesh Times, Hyderabad; and as Deccan Chronicle's state desk in-charge (Hyderabad) and political correspondent (New Delhi).
For the fellowship, Balakoteshwara Rao's project proposal focused on four topics of research. Firstly, he wanted to visit the Rajiv Gandhi Tiger Reserve and the impact of the growing population of settlers on the once tribal hamlet of Vatvarlapally. Secondly, he suggested a study of the industry-community conflict of interests over the issue of bauxite mining in the Eastern Ghats. Rao also proposed to study and write on the state government's JFM programme. Not all forest villages in the state are part of Van Sanrakshana Samiti (VSS) - which means conflicts are bound to arise when JFM begins to bear fruit. Finally, he wanted to highlight the state's use of science and technology (GIS-based forest data for regeneration and moisture conservation, GPS devices for tiger census, cloning of plants for afforestation etc) in its forest management practices.
The jury suggested that Rao focus his study on JFM in Andhra Pradesh, the state being one of the first to adopt the system. The JFM programme covers 1.6 million hectares of degraded forest land in the state. However, after 14 years of its existence, there have been no radical changes in the functioning of JFM. Rao was asked to report on the issue of conflicts over benefit-sharing through his story idea of some villages not being a part of the VSS scheme. The jury felt that he could also measure the efficacy of the government's 2000 circular, which legalised VSS groups under JFM, by examining whether the powers had indeed devolved to these groups. The jury also felt that Rao's study could offer an excellent contrast to the state government's initiative of monitoring VSSs using ecological and economic criteria. The jury's final suggestion was that Rao examine whether the state government was using JFM as a catalyst for sustaining livelihoods of the poor - a case in point could be the Swami Ramananda Tirtha Institute of Socio-Economic Research and National Integration and the National Institute of Rural Development's efforts to prepare action plans for the development of 121 districts. Rao was asked to focus on the Adilabad, Vishakhapatnam and Srikakulam areas in the Eastern Ghats.
Balakoteshwara Rao's stories published under the fellowships programme in The Times of India (Hyderabad) included an expose on the rampant smuggling of timber in Adilabad. Allegedly involved in the smuggling is the VSS of Kesavapatnam, dominated by Multanis. Rao followed this up with a focused look at one of the reasons for this sorry state of affairs: the forest department's severe shortage of staff. According to his research, there are only two forest officers for the eight forest ranges in the entire Adilabad district. Other issues that his stories highlighted include the involvement of lawyers in inciting villagers to encroach in the Kawai Wildlife Sanctuary; the strange 'nexus' in the region between the forest department and naxalites of the People's War Group; the cattle menace in the Rajiv Gandhi Tiger Reserve; the immense bio-diversity of this reserve; and the brewing discontent among tribals of Araku (Vishakhapatnam) against the state's move to develop tourism in the region.
Rao also published a full-page update on the second phase of the World Bank-supported forest management project in Andhra Pradesh. Billed as the Community Forest Management (CFM) project, this phase is slated to succeed the JFM. But the lessons learnt from JFM (in which 6,002 VSSs were formed to protect 16.6 lakh hectares of degraded forest land) have not yet been scrutinised carefully, and neither has a policy been decided on for a smooth transition to CFM. The series of articles on the issue also covers the VSSs' unwillingness to partner the forest department in this phase, and the problem of rehabilitating encroachers and settlers. One of the articles looks at a case study - that of the Simhadri VSS group in Sri Krishnapuram (Vishakhapatnam) - which is an illustration of an ill-conceived project. The VSS had grown casuarina trees in this region. But due to scarcity of water, these trees are dying. The forest department, however, does not allow the VSS to cut the trees, whose trunks can be sold. While the casuarinas rot, the poor villagers are denied a potential source of revenue.
 
Published stories
 

 
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Geetartha Pathak
Assistant Editor, Asam Bani
Guwahati, Assam
 
Geetartha Pathak, a post-graduate from Guwahati University, joined Asam Bani, a weekly from the Assam Tribune Group, in 1986. He has also worked as a correspondent for the Kolkata-based daily, Aajkal, Geetartha has four collections of short stories and two essay compilations to his credit; four more books written by him are currently under print. He is a member of the Press Council of India and also holds the posts of Secretary, Indian Journalists Union and Working President, All Assam Newspaper Employees' Federation.

Geetartha's fellowships proposal dwelt on the plight of the adivasis living in the forests of Kokrajhar, Bongaigaon and Dhubri. Rendered homeless by ethnic riots, these communities have been denied rehabilitation by the government, which calls them 'encroachers' on forest land. Geetartha also proposed to study and write on the rapidly degenerating status of the Manas and Kaziranga National Parks, human-elephant conflicts in Assam, the partially implemented JFM policy in the state, and the impact of the Supreme Court ban on forest activities.

Of these, the Jury zeroed in on the Supreme Court ban as a potential research topic for Geetartha. The members suggested that he examine the number of people affected by the ban, the nature of hardships faced (with respect to restrictions imposed on harvest of timber, MFP etc) and economic implications. It was important to know the economic loss individually, community-wise and for the state as a whole. Geetartha was also asked to look at the efforts of the state government to remedy the situation. Is the state government being proactive and presenting the Court with evidence in support of revoking this order? Is state policy moving towards using forest produce to earn revenue by earmarking how much of the benefits go to the poor and researching on the possibility of using other forest material to generate employment? The Jury also suggested that Geetartha begin his study with an examination of the araghars (wood cutting centres) in Assam: these araghars have been shut down following the ban. Districts that had the largest numbers of these araghars have inevitably been the most affected by the Supreme Court ban.

Geetartha's reports under the fellowships appeared in both English and Assamese newspapers, including Asam Bani, The Assam Tribune, The Dainik Agradoot, and The Sentinel. Writing on the situation six years after the Supreme Court ban on forest activities, he says that the supply of illegally felled timber has increased after the ban. Most wood-based industries in the state are on the verge of collapse as a result of the ban. However, the number of similar industries in the country's other regions has increased - fuelling the belief that this is another case of discrimination against the north-east. Geetartha wrote another report on the status of JFM in the state. Assam JFM Rules, 1998 give only 25 per cent of the net profit from timber harvesting to JFM committees. Being under the 28 divisional Forest Development Agencies that are headed by bureaucrats, the JFM committees in the state are not expected to cover much ground on the issue of devolution and community participation. In an editorial on timber felling, Geetartha put forth the argument that the government's policies were responsible for encouraging wanton deforestation in the state. His contention went against the reports and feedback which the state forest minister received from his officials - saying the use of firewood was the reason behind deforestation.
 
Published stories

 
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K V Sudhakaran
Chief Reporter, Deshabhimani
Kottayam, Kerala
 
K V Sudhakaran has been actively involved in writing on issues related to environment and development for 16 years. A post-graduate in English and Mass Communications, Sudhakaran has won two Kerala state awards for developmental journalism and two press awards for reporting. Sudhakaran is also associated with the Jaiji Peter Foundation, a fraternity of environmental journalists, as its vice president.

Sudhakaran's work plan for the fellowships proposed to focus on the state of the forest communities in the districts of Wynad (scene of the Muthunga uprising), Palakkad and Idukki. It encompassed the historical background and lifestyles of these communities and the nature of their dependence on forests. Sudhakaran also proposed to study the changing situation of native forest dependent communities after encroachments by migrants began in Wynad and Palakkad in the 1950s.This has resulted in conflicts in the region between adivasis, non-adivasis and the government Development projects and initiatives and their impact on the adivasis was also a topic under consideration in the work proposal. In addition to this, Sudhakaran suggested a close examination of the existing state of laws and regulations with respect to tribal land rights and a look at the future prospects of adivasis in Kerala.

The Jury asked Sudhakaran to target one specific issue: examine where Kerala's forest management policy and practices are headed - what, in essence, is their future. Sudhakaran was advised to conduct his study within the framework of the Muthunga crisis. His brief was to critically analyse, through hard-hitting statistics, the existing policies, programmes and practices against the opinion of experts to see how much can be reversed. The Jury was also keen that Sudhakaran study examples of tribal efforts to build a sustainable future - with or without government help.
 
Published stories

 
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N Satyajeet
News Editor, Manipur Mail
Imphal, Manipur
 
A postgraduate in History from the University of Delhi, N Satyajeet has been associated with Manipur's oldest English daily, the Manipur Mail, for more than five years. He is a regular contributor to the New Delhi based Jain Television, and has participated in many All India Radio programmes on development. Satyajeet was also a participant at the CoP 8 of UNFCCC held in New Delhi. In his project proposal for the fellowships, Satyajeet had put forth as his area of work the survival strategies of people living in Manipur's inaccessible forests. He wished also to study and report on government projects in these remote regions, status of women and children, and the traditional as well as state administered laws in force. People in these communities - several of which still use the barter system of trade – are some of the poorest in the nation. The army is the sole representative of the Indian government in most of these regions.

The Jury which studied his proposal felt that while there was considerable merit in it, his focus was too disparate. Therefore, it suggested that he confine his study to survival strategies in the Manipur forests (particularly during the monsoons), focusing on methods of survival, community benefit, sharing processes, traditional practices, and the success rate of Community Forest Management (CFM) in the state. It was important, the Jury remarked, to present a realistic picture of CFM.

To pursue his research, N Satyajeet travelled extensively in the remote (and backward) Tamenglong and Ukhrul districts of Manipur. The monsoon season and the prevailing tension in the region (owing to activities by militant organisations) played spoilsport, but Satyajeet's coverage of the hard life of tribals in Tamenglong's Tamei subdivision drew attention even from the Manipur Legislative Assembly. Manipur Mail published three editorials, with due credits to CSE and its fellowships programme, besides a feature article on Tamei by Satyajeet. While the editorials focused primarily on the extremely difficult living conditions of communities in these regions in general, the Tamei story was done as a detailed case study.
 
Published stories

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Puran Bisht
Freelancer, Pahar
Nainital, Uttaranchal
 
Puran Bisht, who is currently working on his doctoral thesis (on colonial land use and management), has been associated with a variety of print publications in Uttaranchal for the last six years. He is an honorary sub-editor with Pahar, edits Himantar (a quarterly bulletin) and has been a co-editor for Nainital Samachar. He has also worked as the Pithoragarh correspondent for Aj and Univarta. As a freelancer, Puran has been regularly contributing to Jansatta, Rashtriya Sahara, Amar Ujala, Dainik Jagaran and Outlook (Hindi). His talks have been broadcast on Akashwani Almora.
 
Puran's work proposal had focused primarily on the state of Van Panchayats in Uttaranchal - in the light of the World Bank-sponsored Combined Forest Management project and the government's new Van Panchayat Regulations. Puran also wanted to study the Vanraji tribe, which was evicted from its forest habitats; sacred groves and the impact they have on local livelihoods; and the issue of alternate livelihoods that the government is offering to indigenous peoples whose rights to forest products have been curtailed.

The Jury appreciated his story ideas, but suggested that he restrict his focus to the issue of Van Panchayats - specifically, the status of hundreds of these bodies created over the years in Nainital and Almora districts of Kumaon. Puran could investigate whether these Panchayats were still operational and how they had evolved since their creation. More significantly, he was asked to examine how the coopting of these Panchayats into JFM had influenced them. What would happen to these Panchayats when the JFM funding ends – will they collapse, or does a coherent state forest policy exist to ensure their smooth functioning?

Puran published his first report – on the government's notification to create Van Panchayats for every revenue village in the state – in Sahara Samay. The notification has the potential to generate strife among villages in the light of the existing state of land regulations in Uttaranchal. Organisations fighting for freeing the Van Panchayats from government control claim that the move is another case of shackling. these Panchayats. Puran's second article is a special report on a unique women's movement to plant oak forests in Almora district's Dwarahaat and Bhikiasain development blocks. Jansatta and Nainital Samachar carried Puran's next article on JFM in Uttaranchal: the World Bank-aided JFM programme is drawing to a close in the state, and the article covers the programme's implementation and results in detail.

Puran also published an article on the half-a-dozen sacred groves of Gangolihat in Pithoragarh; creation and maintenance of these groves remains one of the important traditional forest management practices in Uttaranchal. Puran's final article under the fellowship focused on four Van Panchayats in Almora, where the villagers have devised local norms through mutual consultation to regulate the distribution of forest produce.
 
Published stories

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Rajeev Katara
Freelancer, Hindustan
New Delhi
 
Veteran journalist Rajeev Kumar Katara has been active in Hindi journalism since 1985. An MPhil in Hindi from the University of Delhi, Rajeev began his career at Hindustan Samachar. He has worked as a Senior Script Writer for television (Aaj Tak), and as Feature Editor for two leading dailies ­Dainik Jagaran and Amar Ujala. Rajeev's candidature for the fellowships was recommended by Shambhunath Singh, Political Editor of Hindustan.

In his project proposal, Rajeev had suggested a study on the Baiga tribals of Mandla in Madhya Pradesh. The focus of the study was proposed as the 'conflict between government policies and the community', with respect to the nature of forest management that exists in the region.

The Jury, however, suggested that Rajeev study the Joint Forest Management initiatives in the districts of Balaghat, Betul and Harda in Madhya Pradesh. It was felt that the issues related to forests had acquired significance in the context of the impending elections. The state has begun disbursing the money earned from bamboo and timber harvests under JFM - this has opened up a veritable Pandora's Box of troubles and strife in the region. Rajeev was asked to investigate this aspect, and report on issues such as conflicts or agreements over benefit-sharing, economic impact of JFM, extent of ecological regeneration in the region and the social changes that the region has witnessed.

Rajeev travelled in Betul, and. also managed to visit Harda. But due to time constraints and incessant rains, he could not go to Balaghat. His reports on JFM appeared in August in Hindustan. They focus on the ways in which JFM has transformed the lives of forest-dwelling communities in the region, and the politics of forestry in Madhya Pradesh. His first article dwells on the how the issue of giving revenue village status to the region's forest villages has suddenly acquired pre-eminence with the approaching elections. While politicians play their games of one-upmanship, the real problems of the forest dwellers and their villages have remained non-issues. Rajeev has also written a feature article and a story on the positive impacts of JFM and Van Samitis on the lives of tribals and forest dwellers. In another story, he has explored the politics behind the disbursal of money earned from bamboo and timber harvests under JFM - as suggested by the fellowships Jury.

Published stories

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Ratan K Pani
Staff Correspondent, The New Indian Express
Rourkela, Orissa
 
Ratan K Pani's career in journalism had begun in 1993 with the Sun Times, which in those days was the only English daily published from Orissa. Pani joined The New Indian Express as a stringer in 1995, and graduated to the post of Staff Correspondent in 1997. Based at Rourkela, he today covers the entire western Orissa and parts of West Singhbhum district in Jharkhand. Pani is a founder member of the west Orissa-based NGO Manav Adhikar Seva Samitee (MASS), which works on issues of health education, environment and women's empowerment. He is also a recipient of a BBC World Service Trust fellowship on leprosy.

Ratan Pani's original work proposal had been divided into four distinct segments or issues. He wanted to study and report on (a) the spread of the MCC in Sundergarh district and the MCC's relations with tribals (b) Orissa's non-timber forest produce (NTFP) policy and the chaos it has engendered (c) the Forest Development Agency-community forestry conflicts and (d) the relation between forest degradation and water scarcity.

The Jury advised him to restrict his focus to two issues: the NTFP policy with respect to the official distinction made between NTFP and minor forest produce (MFP), and CFM initiatives and their contribution to economy. He was asked to report on the state of the MFP market in Orissa, the traditional CFM practices, the impact of CFM on forest regeneration and the resultant social changes. The districts of Sundergarh and Sambalpur were to be his locations for study.

Ratan Pani's first report, published in The New Indian Express, traces the rise of CFM in Sundergarh's Suruguda village and the problems that the initiative is facing currently. Pani followed this up with a story on the plight of forest villagers whose lives depend on bamboo and its trade. In Sambardhara village, an official ban on harvesting of bamboo and the local paper mills switching over to alternative raw materials has hit the villagers hard.

Pani's next report was on Gandhamardan, one of India's richest reserves of medicinal plants in the country, and its systematic denudation; activities of herb smugglers and unchecked misuse by locals are devastating the region. Another article exposed the lacunae in the Orissa government's NTFP policy - gram panchayats, which have been authorised to regulate, purchase and trade in NTFP, are mostly non-functional. Pani also did a story on the lop-sided sal leaf policy of the government, which has lined the pockets of middlemen at the expense of the sal leaf collectors and traders.
 
Published stories

 
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Riyaz Ahmed Wani
Chief Sub-Editor, Greater Kashmir
Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir
 
In his seven years as a journalist in the Valley, Riyaz Ahmad Wani has worked as a correspondent for tabloids (Submission and Kashmir Images), reported for radio (AIR) and produced programmes and written scripts for television (Doordarshan), Besides being the Chief Sub-Editor and editorialist of Greater Kashmir, Riyaz now edits Sensor, the daily's Sunday magazine, as well. Riyaz holds post­graduate qualifications in journalism, mass communications and television production.

Riyaz Wani's project proposal for the fellowships looked at a singular - and broad.. area of focus: conflict between government forest policies, industry and community. Riyaz further subdivided this topic into some key concerns. These included the impact of militancy on forests; timber smugglers ­militant nexus; forest management in J&K; evaluation of the state's forest policy; reasons for the state's dismal record in community forestry; and alternative models of forest management.

The Jury suggested that instead of such a wide spectrum of issues, Riyaz should focus on two: militant-politician-timber smuggler nexus in the state and the way ahead (how can the forest policy of the state be reshaped and customised to meet the specific requirements of J&K). In the first issue, Riyaz was asked to investigate the economics involved in the deadly nexus.. the extent of the state's losses, its impact on the livelihoods. of forest-dependent communities, etc. As for the second issue, the Jury suggested that Riyaz should speak to economists, sociologists, grassroots workers and environmentalists to examine the' direction' in which forest management practices and policy in the state was headed. Riyaz was asked to limit his study to Baramullah, Srinagar and Kupwara.

Riyaz's first report, carried by Greater Kashmir, was an investigation into the rampant smuggling and timber felling activities in the Tossamaidan forests of Budgam. The report's revelations, termed as "shocking" by the state minister for forests and fisheries Ghulam Mohiuddin Sofi, propelled the government into action: senior forest officials were instructed to study the situation and submit a report. Riyaz's second report focused on the state's draft forest policy, with inputs from a wide spectrum of people including government officials, environmentalists etc. Community afforestation initiatives were also highlighted. The third report by Riyaz was carried by Sensor, and it refocused attention on the issue of timber-smuggling. It examined the nature and evolution of smuggling activities over the years, the involvement of militants as well as the security forces in it, and the reasons that fed this continued rampage of J&K's forests.
 
Published stories

 
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Salam Rajesh
Freelancer, Imphal Free Press
Imphal, Manipur
 
The second mediaperson from Manipur to be awarded the fellowships, Salam Rajesh is an independent researcher-writer, film-maker and photographer. He has been writing since 1993 in publications such as The North-East Sun, Imphal Free Press and India Today. Rajesh has produced and directed documentaries on Manipur's crafts and culture, and has been -actively involved as consultant, photographer and researcher-writer with various state organisations such as the Department of Environment and Forests and the Manipur State Museum. Rajesh is also a member of the Manipur State Wildlife Advisory Board.

The Tangkhul villagers of Khambi village in Manipur's Ukhrul region were the focus of Salam Rajesh's study proposal, which was approved by the Jury. Rajesh wanted to examine the community initiatives and management strategies devised by the villagers to protect forests with the aim of regenerating their water resources. The desperate villagers, who at one point of time were considering migration as their only survival option, have turned the tide in their favour through sheer ingenuity and determination.

Commenting on Salam Rajesh's work plan, the Jury said that while on the one hand the proposal had the potential to throw the spotlight on a specific village, on the other it could be a representative case study for highlighting the ground realities of CFM practices. Rajesh was advised to frame his stories keeping in mind some significant elements and issues: methods of protection, agreements about benefit-sharing over timber, bamboo or MFP, economic impacts of CFM, resultant ecological changes and the nature of social transformations.

Rajesh published his reports as a five-part series in the Imphal Free Press newspaper. The articles dwelt at length on Khambi's "lessons in sustainability" - how the villagers realised that they had to take matters in their own hands to save their village from being obliterated, how they established the rules of managing their forests and how they enforced these rules. The articles also examined the coming of JFM into Khambi and the impacts thereof.
 
Published stories

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Vasavi Kiro
Freelancer, Prabhat Khabar
Ranchi, Jharkhand
 
Vasavi's career as a journalist has already covered most of the major Hindi newspapers that have a presence in the states of eastern India: Navbharat Times, Prabhat Khabar, Aj, Ranchi Express, Dinman Times, Lokmat Samachar and Jansatta, among others. In 1999, she was awarded the Chameli Devi Jain Prize for Journalism, and In 2001 her research on women and Panchayati Raj won her the Sarojini Naidu Award. Vasavi. has also won the 1998.99 McArthur Foundation Population Innovation Fellowship for Women's Empowerment and the 2001 National Foundation for India Fellowship. She has capped her career with several publications that highlight the plight of women in Jharkhand.

Vasavi's project proposal had looked at a wide range of issues - from the historical view and condition of forests in Jharkhand and the status of forest-dependent tribal In the state to the condition of Mundari-khuntkatti forests and the impact of industrialisation on tribals. In  fact Vasavi had wanted also to work specifically to expose the state's plans of wiping away prime forests to make way for highways and industries.

The Jury opined in her case that instead of working on such a diverse range of issues, she could focus on one of them. The issue that merited deep study, said the Jury, was the state's traditional Mundari khuntkatti forests and the governments efforts to gain control over them. The plight of these forests could be examined from the perspective of the kind of economic, social and ecological upheavals resulting from the government's efforts to take them over; the nature of conflicts between the communities that lived In these forests and the government; and the relevance of JFM In this scenario, where the communities are already protecting and maintaining their forests. Vasavi was requested to restrict her study to Singhbhum, Jamshedpur, Dumka and Ranchi, regions where the Mundari khuntkatti system still prevails.

Beginning July 13,2003, Vasavi published a series of stories on Mundari khuntkatti  in Ranchi's Hindi daily, Prabhat Khabar. By her own admission, this was perhaps the first systematic effort made In the state to bring to light the condition of these forests and the communities that lived in them. The stories, therefore, generated great interest Her first report highlighted the governments move to take over these traditional forests through the aegis of the Bihar Private Protected Forest Act (PPFA) and the communities' efforts to fight this move. A subsequent series of three articles examined the state of the Mundari khuntkatti  forests, the state government's complete apathy towards them, and the forest communities' desperate efforts to retain control over them. Vasavi also wrote a feature on the significance of these forests for Jharkhand and its tribal population. Her other articles included a report on the slowly degenerating Mundari khuntkatti system in Korambe village (Hazaribagh) and another on the Ho tribals' efforts to safeguard their traditional forest-dependent lifestyle.
 
Published stories

 

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