This chapter sets the tone for the rest of the monograph. Principally, it provides the setting for the research, the southwestern region of West Bengal and southern Bihar, now a new province, Jharkhand. 1 The first part of the chapter locates both the States in their sociopolitical setup. The next section situates the forestry infrastructure in the contemporary polity and bureaucratic structure of Jharkhand and West Bengal. The chapter also analyzes the nature of participation in the Arabari Socio-Economic Project (ASEP), arguably, the progenitor of JFM. It is suggested that Bengal’s acclaimed success in participatory forestry, although noteworthy, is state-driven. The goals of the Forest Department have remained in variance with those of the rural community from which it seeks participation, and the bureaucracy does not challenge the divisions that lie at the heart of the variegated and heterogeneous societies. All these factors were evident within the ASEP and continue in the JFM setup. The final section compares the institutional arrangement (FPC, FD panchayat, and NGOs) in both States. It describes the responsibilities that have been ‘prescribed’ to FPCs in the Joint Forest Management system and the roles that have been taken by other ecological institutions.