Concern over plan to rehabilitate tribal families displaced from Nagarahole.
Posted on Oct 05, 2017
Activists fear project may remain only on paper as there is no clarity on availability of land.
Three years after the Muzaffar Asadi committee — set up by the High Court to study the Nagarahole tribal resettlement issue — submitted its report, the government has taken baby steps towards its implementation. A special committee, set up by the Deputy Commissioner of Mysuru, has completed a survey to ascertain the present status of 3,418 families displaced from Nagarahole.
Stakeholders, however, have argued that this development raises more questions than answers and it could end up as no more than an election-year promise.
The findings of the special committee were in broad corroboration of the list in the Asadi report. But instead of 3,418 families mentioned in the Asadi report, the district administration has pruned the numbers to 3,145 families as information related to 273 families could not be corroborated and verified.
“On confirming that none of the 3,145 families had been covered by previous packages, it was recommended to the government that they be suitably rehabilitated,” said Deputy Commissioner D. Randeep. Of the families identified, 1,801 are in H.D. Kote taluk of Mysuru district, 1,032 families in Hunsur taluk of Mysuru district, and 312 families in Virajpet taluk of Kodagu district.
The Asadi report, submitted to the government in 2014, had made a slew of recommendations under 34 major heads to economically empower the adivasis uprooted from the Nagarahole National Park, besides suggesting long-term measures for their social well-being and protecting their cultural identity.
While NGOs working for tribal rehabilitation have generally welcomed the district administration’s recommendations, there are concerns that the rehabilitation scheme would be an open-ended one that could take decades to implement. Sreekanth of Development through Education (DEED), a Hunsur-based NGO, said rehabilitating 3,145 families would require at least 6,500 to 9,000 acres of land.
Tribal activist M.B. Prabhu sounded more cautious and said the issue was clouded in confusion. “The district administration has only recommended that displaced tribal families be rehabilitated. But suitable land is yet to be identified for the purpose, all of which will take years,” he said. Organisations such as DEED are more vociferous and want the government to denotify 6,500 to 9,000 acres of reserve forest, if need be, to compensate the tribal families displaced from the national park.
Local officials, however, are tight-lipped about land acquisition and availability of the land at this stage or the amount required for acquisition. Mr. Prabhu said given the paucity of land on the fringes of the forests, it was unlikely that 9,000 acres of land could be acquired and hence feared that the recommendation for rehabilitation may remain only on paper.
Similar package sought for those evicted from Bandipur
Close on the heels of the government’s decision to extend the Forest Department’s rehabilitation package to 3,145 tribal families evicted from the Nagarahole National Park, NGOs are bracing up for an extended struggle to seek a similar package for those evicted from Bandipur almost 45 years ago.
“Nearly 3,000 tribal people were uprooted and thrown out of Bandipur between 1970 and 1973 and they too should be given the rehabilitation package,” said Sreekanth of Development through Education, an NGO. He said though the Muzzafar Asadi committee report pertains to Nagarahole tribal families, the same package was valid for those who were evicted from forests across Karnataka while notifying national parks and wildlife sanctuaries or to pave the way for infrastructure projects.
“There are at least 20,000 such families across Karnataka who have to be suitably rehabilitated in lieu of the loss of their traditional homes,” Mr. Sreekanth said.
Senior Forest Department officials, however, said those displaced from Bandipur following its declaration as a national park and because of the construction of the Kabini reservoir earlier had been rehabilitated as per the prevailing norms in those days and hence they were not eligible for rehabilitation package under the present schemes again.
A representative of a leading organisation working with tribal people in H.D. Kote said NGOs could pursue the case as a development agenda to generally improve the lot of the tribal communities. “But if they want to launch a struggle to right a historical wrong, then it would be futile as legally and technically it has been settled by the NHRC whose intervention led to rehabilitation of the displaced tribal families at Basavagirihaadi A and B Blocks in H.D. Kote,” he said.
R. Krishna Kumar.Sept 1st, 2017.