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Saturday 22 April 2000


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India still chasing Western model of development

By Kiran Mathur

MEHSANA: Fresh with a doctorate from Toronto (Canada), Ashok Kumar Saxena, IFS, who rejoined the state forest department in 1998 as conservator, is looking after Banaskantha, Sabarkantha, Mehsana and Patan districts. Having received awards and scholarships besides publications and a wide exposure abroad, he feels India is still chasing the development model discarded by Westerners.

Saxena, who is also secretary of Gujarat chapter of the All-India Association of Indian Forest Service Officers, in an interview, talked at length the problem of ecology vis-a-vis development, Indian and Western approaches, profits of social forestry and specific problems afflicting north Gujarat. Excerpts:

Q: How do yo perceive the problem of preservation of ecology vis-a-vis development?

A: Our parametre of development is per capita income which is based on fiscal performance. The real development is possible by incorporating natural resources and ecology in projects.

Q: What difference do you find in the Indian and Western approaches?

A: Westerners have understood the meaning of sustainable development. We have survived on the principle of conserving natural resources and are aping the Western model of development.

Q: What basic change in the Indian approach do you suggest?

A: We should give up chasing the Western model and solve problems obtaining here. India has a large population which is both asset and liability. Rural population would continue to dominate our demographic profile for next hundred years. If technology is not applied for benefits of the rural people, they won't allow sustainable development.

Q: Which particular areas would you like the policy makers to address themselves to?

A: I would like them to focus on energy and land. Nearly 74 per cent Indians depend on non-commercial forms of energy-fuel wood and animal waste. There is urgent need to increase flow of energy and use of technology for rural people. Another problem is management of waste land lying encroached upon or uncared for. We must gear up the machinery for people's participation in productive use of untapped resources.

Q: How do you evaluate social forestry in Gujarat?

A: International institutions have appreciated social forestry in Gujarat. North Gujarat has played an important role. However, the need for technological upgradation for increasing biomass productivity should be seriously thought of. Adequate mechanism has to be evolved the absence of which leads to poor crops. Emphasis on non-wood forest products (NWFP) is need of the hour.

Q: How is forest management in Gujarat in comparison to other states?

A: The forest department in Gujarat is very small. Though the state is doing better than many other states, the utility of forest personnel has not been harnessed fully in absence of link between forests and other sectors. The interface among different sectors must be taken care of by placing forest personnel in sectors like energy, environment, tourism, tribal development, agriculture and livestock.

Q: How do you react to allegations of corruption in forest department?

A: The department reflects the society at large. Though a minor player as compared to other departments, there are large number of corruption cases. Yet most people withstand the onslaught of pressures and temptations. I think casteism plays a big role in breeding corruption.

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