The forest department has recently started a forest protection committee (FPCs) in some of the villages (including Bajawand and Ulnar) under the government-sponsored JFM programme. This has apparently led to some tension and distrust between the forest department’s nominee for jungle sarpanch and other residents. For example, earlier if someone wanted timber to build a house, the jungle sarpanch had the powers to assign trees on his own, but now meetings have to be called for everything because of the breakdown in trust. Villagers are charged a fee of Rs 2000–3000 depending on what they cut, but the handling of this money is not always transparent. Despite all these problems, it still seems to be a fairly effective system. For instance, in 1999, Ulnar fined Tarapur Rs 5000 and a goat for stealing 30 logs of sal from Ulnar’s portion of the forest.
In Junawani, villagers claimed that while the other villages continued to use the Junawani forest, they have now stopped contributing towards it. The villagers justify this by saying that “We don’t say anything since people have become educated and tell us that it is not our jungle but belongs to the government.” The turning point came in 1983-84, when villagers from Devda tried to steal timber at night, and beat up the Junawani villagers who tried to stop them. The dispute is still in the courts. Junawani then stopped asking any of the other villages for contributions, and forest protection by the villagers became lax.
Around 1995–6, the forest department staff held a meeting at Junawani and villagers were told about the FD’s plans to create a 50 ha plantation which would be handed over to the village after five years. This plantation took over some of the encroachments on lands under the jurisdiction of the revenue department of the state government. This land was being used to grow pulses and oilseeds to supplement paddy. Since a trench was dug around it, further encroachment has been stopped. A watchman was appointed to look after the plantation and paid from the VFC (village forest committee) funds. However, instead of planting mahua, tamarind, cashew (Anacardium occidentale) and so on, as was promised to the villagers, the FD has planted mahua, bamboo sp., eucalyptus sp. and acacia (Acacia melanoxylon). Once the FD money began to come in, villagers stopped contributing towards the payment of the watchman. According to them, their sense of ownership dipped even further, and they felt that if the FD was giving money, it would ultimately cut the forests.