Programme proposals in the 12th Plan
In the previous section, a general introduction was given to the aspirations and goals laid out for forestry in the 12th Plan document. Now we look at the specific provisions and how far they match the aspirations expressed in the preamble of the Plan document itself (the test of ‘internal consistency’).
Before laying out specific schemes and providing realistic funding for them, the 12th Plan proposal strives to reduce the total number of schemes under the slogan of “rationalisation” as per the advice of the B.K.Chaturvedi Report of September 2011 (Para 7.58). As Mihir Shah has explained from his time in the Commission (Shah, 2014), this was seen by the Planning Commission as an important achievement. In the case of Forest and Wildlife (F&WL) in the 12th Plan, two schemes namely, Intensification of Forest Management (IFM) and the National Afforestation Programme (NAP), have been merged into one scheme with the two sub-themes (Plan document, Figure 7.4, p.216); two Wildlife schemes, namely Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitats and Project Elephant, have been merged into the scheme Wildlife Management, again with two sub-themes. Project Tiger, however, continues as an independent scheme. A new scheme has been proposed for Rangeland and Pasture Development (para 7.71), and satellite-based forest resource assessment by Forest Survey of India, National Remote Sensing agency and Indian Institute of Remote Sensing under a centralised spatial GIS database is proposed as a new initiative (apart from strengthening the NFIS), leading to an “improved, real-time, web-based monitoring system” that would in time be extended to other schemes (para 7.72). Finally, the document mentions the Green India Mission (GIM), one of the eight missions under the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC), approved by the Prime Minister’s Council with a proposed cost of Rs.46,000 crore over 10 years (covering the 12th and 13th Plan periods), which aims to garner benefits of carbon sequestration along with ecosystem services and livelihoods and provisioning improvement (Govt. of India, 2010). It is stated that for the 12th Plan, “provisions have been kept for the GIM for increasing forest and tree cover on 2.5 mha area (non forest through agro/ social/ farm forestry), improving quality of forest cover on another 2.5 mha area, improving ecosystem services, and increasing forest based livelihood income and enhanced annual CO2 sequestration” (para 7.73). This totals to 5 mha, which is of course half the 10 mha target for the 10-year period of the GIM.
Financial proposals in the 12th Plan
An “indicative” plan outlay of Rs.17,899 cr is made (para 7.74), which works out to Rs.3940 cr per year, a substantial jump (almost a doubling) from the Rs.9231 cr sanctioned outlay of the 11th Plan. Strangely, the 12th plan document does not proceed immediately after this to break down the overall amount in terms of individual schemes, or even between environment and forest & wildlife wings (perhaps this is buried in some annexes). However, from the website of the MoEF, the broad breakdown of the proposed 17,874 cr is as follows: Environment 3802, NRCD 4273 (subtotal for Environment wing 8075 cr); F&WL 4818, NAEB 4780 (subtotal F&WL 9598 cr); Animal Welfare 200 cr. Taking the case of F&WL separately, this is clearly a jump from the 11th Plan “Approved Outlay” of 6094 cr (F&WL 2944 plus NAEB 3150 cr); again, actual releases and expenditure may not measure up to this increased target.
With this basic background, we can proceed to assess the quality of the plan proposals, from the two angles of approach suggested earlier: ‘internal consistency’, and ‘external relevance’.
Internal consistency of the Forest & Wildlife proposals in the 12th Plan
Focusing on the F&WL components in
Box 7.3 of the 12th
Plan document, it is seen that the first new ‘big-ticket’ item here is the
Green India Mission (GIM), which hopes to green 5 mha in each of the next two
Plan periods. The item “Engagement of Village Green Guards” is actually a
(minor) part of the GIM strategy (and moreover already an inseparable part of
most ongoing programmes and projects), and it appears a bit out of place at the
level of objectives of Box
The GIM estimate of funds required for the whole programme was around Rs.44,000 cr over 10 years (Government of India, 2010, Annex 1, p.23), albeit on a more generous level of inputs than hitherto provided in central schemes (e.g., care of forest regeneration plots or plantations for around 10 years instead of just 3 years, as is the general practice at present). Of this, the on-ground treatment components, involving greening of 10 mha (5 mha new forest, 5 mha density improvement of existing degraded and other forest) was estimated at Rs.31,100 cr over 10 years. The remaining amounts were for fuelwood-saving implements like improved stoves (600 cr), and support activities like research, monitoring (including GIS), strengthening local institution and livelihoods, capacity building, etc. (12,000 cr).
The overall estimate of 44,000 cr over 10 years implies some 4400 cr a year only for the GIM programme (with of course some lag in the initial year as the programme starts up in the field). The proposed outlay of 4780 cr for “NAEB” in the 12th Plan, or around 956 cr a year, is supposed to cater to both the continuing scheme of the National Afforestation Programme (NAP), as well as the new GIM. Since the 11th Plan outlay for NAEB (NAP) was itself 3150 cr (or 630 cr a year), this obviously leaves a relatively minor portion for the new GIM (it would compute to some maximum 326 cr a year; Para 7.92 of the 12th Plan document puts the current central assistance for afforestation programmes at only around Rs.350 cr per year, ibid., p.225.). There is thus an obvious lack of thinking through of the realistic level of commitment to a flagship “mission” like GIM, and a half-hearted if not token provision for such an over-arching and ambitious scheme, which is one of the internal inconsistencies noticeable in the plan proposals.
The puzzle of how the GIM is to be financed when it is handicapped by such a meagre outlay right at the Plan stage, is indicated in para 7.92, where it is stated that “(w)hile budgetary support needs to be enhanced”, the Green India Mission (which, as indicated above, is estimated to cost some 44,000 cr over 10 years) will need to “establish convergence with other flagship programmes like MGNREGA, Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) and National Action Plan (NAP)” (para 7.92, p.225). However, para 7.110 (p.228) also states that an outlay of Rs.12,500 cr is likely to be available for the GIM during the 12th Plan period, presumably by contributions from these other sources.
Here, a sober assessment will show the uncertainty of leveraging any huge amount. Some 1000 cr a year may be available for all the states put together from CAMPA as per current Supreme Court guidelines, and another 1000 cr per year (on average) was coming from the Thirteenth Finance Commission. The remaining has to come from NREGA, but the mechanism of leveraging these funds is cumbersome, based as it is on demand for wage labour in the villages rather than on the programme of work drawn up by the line department (under the regular Working Plans, for instance). CAMPA funds would be already earmarked for obligatory compensatory afforestation (CA), project-specific amelioration measures like catchment treatment, etc. State budgets would of course contribute a substantial amount, but usually they are hardly enough to meet the establishment expenses and other committed expenditures (what is termed ‘non-plan’ under our system), and very little may be available for new investment schemes like NAP or GIM. Funds from externally-aided projects (which also form part of the voted budgets) would also be available, but to a small extent, as they would have to follow the priorities laid out in the respective project documents. While it is rare to see estimates of aggregate budget support, Forest Sector Report 2010 gives an estimate of 11,384 cr for F&WL under the 10th Plan (2002-07), as against corresponding Central allocation of only 2703 cr (ICFRE, 2012, para 4.1). It would be a real challenge to combine all these different sources of finance, with the type of ground-level, site-specific, bottom-up, participatory planning process envisaged in the GIM documents.
Realistically speaking, this sort of convergence (leverage) of funds from different ministries and programmes will not be forthcoming unless GIM is included as a separate and prominent scheme in the plan document. Strangely, GIM is not named as one of the components of the 12th Plan schemes in Fig. 7.4 of the plan document (p.216). When even MoEF does not have the GIM as a separate scheme, obviously there is only a slim chance of it getting even a passing mention in the plans and budgets of other ministries and agencies. All these inconsistencies suggest a lack of real clarity and commitment to the ideas espoused in the opening sections of the sector chapter. It is almost as if the Green India Mission (and perhaps some of the other Climate Change missions) has become a formality, which can neither be abandoned nor endorsed despite the pro forma approval of the PM’s council and its (somewhat tentative) incorporation in the 12th Plan document.
We now come to the question of minimising the total number of schemes, which “the Planning Commission has always pushed hard for” under the name of “rationalization” (Shah, 2014). In the case of the F&WL proposals, it has resulted in the merging of the NAP and the Intensification of Forest Management (IFM) schemes, omitting the mention of GIM as discussed above (Fig. 7.4, p.216 of the Plan document). Another so-called “achievement” in this direction has been the coalescence of all the schemes of the wildlife (WL) wing into one head, “Wildlife Management”. One of the casualties has been the separate head for Project Elephant, which in effect has more or less killed the separate focus for elephants, which had been taken up by the ministry with great enthusiasm in the previous years (a special report titled “Gajah” on elephant conservation had been commissioned, and it had reportedly been named or proposed as the National Mammal), and even the preamble of the 12th Plan chapter talks of stronger focus, etc. (para 7.53, see above). Interestingly, Project Tiger has been maintained as a separate head, obviously because it has more backers and stakeholders for it, and is obviously one of those schemes which the Planning Commission was forced to leave out of the “rationalization” exercise with “the ministries keen to retain their pet projects” (Shah, 2014). One more high-priority item, range and grassland improvement, seems to be an afterthought, as it is not even a subject that the forest department can take responsibility for outside the notified forests (except to a limited extent under the GIM or NAP, if at all).
Overall, what we find is that the strong statements of priorities in the opening paragraphs are only weakly reflected in the actual action plan, so there is an underlying impression of lack of connection. Probably the main reason for this mismatch is the insistence on reducing the number of schemes to the bare minimum. This means that the Plan document has forgone the opportunity of spelling out component-wise strategies and commitments in detail, falling back finally on a simplified list of the existing schemes (with “sub-themes” giving recognition to the underlying interests), rather than forging bold new initiatives. This last point could have been addressed only by taking individually each of the stated Goals and Strategy points and elaborating them as action plans.
For instance, the GIM document itself spells out in great detail a new set of objectives and initiatives, even a new implementing architecture and mechanism: landscape-level problem identification, taking communities and other stakeholders as partners, integrating Joint Forest Management with Panchayati Raj Institutions, using Special Purpose institutions for cutting procedural red tape, involving private sector to tackle degraded institutional and industrial land, etc., which could all have been given a place in the document.
Further, the Plan document could have been a locus for assessing the experience even in existing programmes, like NAP and Joint Forest Management, for instance, and spelling out their lessons for any future action plans. The document has, however, taken these schemes as almost axiomatic and understood, and thus forgone an opportunity to capture and display the richness of experience of the states, of communities, and implementing agencies in the field. Similar comments can be made about the wildlife strategy, whether it concerns species-specific or habitat-oriented actions. The document has not elaborated on some of the new initiatives suggested in the preamble, such as livelihoods, NTFPs, fodder and pasture, and others, which displays a lack of internal consistency and thoroughness, and a paucity of any major value addition to the usual formulations of the concerned ministry.
As it is, it will now be left to the implementing agencies to cater to all the specific objectives on which the document has expounded without giving them operational shape. In practice, of course, the states (and the MoEF) will tend to follow the same practices they have been doing in the past, and many of the new concerns and nuances will tend to get overlooked or ignored.
The next section will look at the external relevance of the proposed programmes and outlays with the priorities of the sector itself.