This is the introduction to a EPW post here
Forest guards are one of the least studied professional groups due to the subject’s cross-sectional location between the fields of ecology and social sciences. Any related scholarship is often a sub-section of research on forest conservation and forest governance, where reference to forest guards is made only as one of the mediums to achieve governance and conservation objectives. This leaves many unanswered questions in respect to their working conditions, occupational risks, integration with local-level politics and economy, real-time interpretation and enforcement of laws and ethnographic understanding of this profession.
In this paper, I sought to put forth a preliminary understanding of these elements with an objective to theorise the fundamental concerns of duty as a forest guard. Some of the conceptual points in this paper are built on an exercise to patrol a forest range in Melghat Tiger Reserve alongside frontline forest staff.