Methodological Issues in the Management Practices of the Commons: A Case of Jharkhand in Eastern India

"The concept of ‘commons’ is as old as the natural resources, but its quantitative measurement is of recent origin. In the middle of the twentieth century, the commons as a physical phenomenon started to be used repeatedly by scientists from other disciplines to close the interdisciplinary gap. As we have moved into the 21st century, more methodological choices have been made in support of the study of commons and its management practices. This is mainly due to growing range of commons and particularly the emergence of ‘new commons’ and ‘digital commons’ that benefit our communities. The paper analyses methodological issues concerning selection of indicators and construction of composite indices within the framework of measuring ‘commons’. It reviews the existing literature in the area and highlights the key areas of concern from the view point of methodology of aggregation. It discusses the implications and assumptions underlying different techniques currently being used in Jharkhand, a state in eastern India. Jewitt (1996) considers local agricultural and forest management practices in two tribal villages in the Jharkhand region and throws some light on the ‘potential of participatory and populist approaches’ as alternatives to more traditional ‘top down’ forms of development. Sinha (2004) proves that centralized forest management system paid little interest to community welfare through qualitative and quantitative research, structured interviews and case studies methods. Both these case studies question the relevance of existing models of commons degradation to the Jharkhand region, arguing that it is possible to re-establish community based forest management in areas where local people have strong subsistence related and socio cultural links with forest plus an interest in protecting them. However, the important questions which have been examined here are: 1.Why commons emerges, persists and declines at particular points in time and in particular places?, 2. Will better commons management guarantees the incremental entitlement for each actor?, 3. What are the determinants of capacity to manage commons?, and 4. How does institution influence the pattern of social interaction in a given commons regime at different phases? A set of study indicators is designed to measure the objective questions. 30 percent of the villages studied retained traditional practice of regulated grazing of village pasture land causing serious fodder scarcity. As a result, commons has had an increasingly distinctive effect on environment. The study reveals that outcomes were unsustainable where there had been no attention to institution development and local participation. This study is designed to serve as an introductory for future scholarly works."
commons, management