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This article examines the role of the state in the Joint Forest Management (JFM) programme in the northern province of Haryana in India. In the past two decades, significant developments pertaining to institutional reforms in promoting community-state partnerships in protecting and managing forests have been undertaken in the province. By reviewing the experiences in management of water-harvesting structures and lease of forest area to local communities, the article demonstrates that the adoption of ‘joint management’ rhetoric does not guarantee successful partnerships at the field level. The implementation of the programme calls for a radical redefinition of the role of the state in order to establish credible commitments to the local communities in terms of both policy and practice.

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