The Scheduled Tribes and Other Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Rights) Act, 2006, marked a momentous change in the institutional contour of forest management in India. The change suggested better tenure security along with a strong community resource regime. However, policy implementation was marked by weak enforcement of community forest resource rights. Intrigued by variable performance of the Act, this study explains the process of rights negotiation, and analyzes the determinants of institutional and resource sustainability in the post-rights scenario.
The study, based on successful cases from Maharashtra, uses a comprehensive set of institutional and resource indicators, developed to suit the cultural and ecological context. The strongest factors that emerged from the two case studies were of community association with the resource, resource centrality and visionary leadership. However, these factors manifested differently in the two villages. The success was also mediated by a range of intermediate variables in both villages. The findings offer a counter-narrative to the claim that granting forest rights will lead to forest fragmentation and loss of forest cover. Both the villages had rich forest and robust institutions normatively fuelled by idea of self-governance, inclusion, and equity. Such normative foundations of equity and sustainability steered these institutions to successful collective outcomes.