Institute for Social and Economic Change

Established in 1972 by Professor V K R V Rao, ISEC is an All-India Institute for Interdisciplinary Research and Training in the Social Sciences

Collective Action and Property Rights: Some Critical Issues in the Context of Karnataka – isec

Collective Action and Property Rights: Some Critical Issues in the Context of Karnataka


In the context of natural resource management (NRM), collective action includes conforming to the rules of both the use and avoiding the use of a common property (CP). It is argued that property rights do not mean or imply full ownership, or sole authority, to use and dispose of a resource; and that different individuals, families, groups and even the state tend to have overlapping use and decision-making rights regarding natural resources (NR). To facilitate this, the rights have to be secure and for a sufficiently long enough duration to allow one to reap the rewards of any investment. They should also be backed by an effective, socially-sanctioned enforcement institution.

In the past two decades, degradation of natural resources has affected the functions of such institutions and also their sustainability. This has added to the already existing challenges in regulating the use of NR (in its various forms). It is argued that the existing inequalities are deepened due to the by forces like globalization, trade liberalization and privatization. Developing countries like India, which were already ‘crippled’ in their social and economic advancement due to internal problems of social exclusion of communities on the grounds of caste and ethnicity, illiteracy, ill health and economic poverty, are now confronted with new challenges of equitable distribution of NR among their diverse populations in rural, tribal and urban areas. There is a need to devise policies and programmes against a situation where socio-cultural hierarchies and economic stratification have traditionally denied ownership and access to NR for a number of communities and individuals on the grounds of their caste, class, gender and other considerations.

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