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With luxury encroaching in forest areas, tribals fear for their existence

From an annual 2,000 tourists in 1980s to 1,50,000 at present, the resort business in the buffer zone of the forests has thrived the most

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Tribal culture Image: Wikimedia Commons
  • Tribals living in the buffer zone say that they are being “urged” to move by choosing one of the “government relocation packages” i.e “land against land” or “Rs 10 lakh per adult”
  • Villages populating the 1,134 sq km of Kanha’s buffer zone, after the families of Gond and Baiga, were either ‘voluntarily’ or ‘illegally’ evicted from forests on the name of ‘conservation
  • Over 1,400 families from nine villages of the Baiga and Gond tribes were moved from the core forest area between 2010 to 2015

Dheerwati, a member of the Baiga tribe, stands over some half acre of her dry patch of land, and points towards a luxurious resort — one of her many nightmares.

“Those resort people have their eyes fixed on our field. Officials lure us to move. We don’t have Patta (documents) for our land, we can’t do anything,” Dheerwati told this visiting IANS correspondent, in her village Khatiya of Mandla district in Madhya Pradesh.

Her village, situated in the buffer zone of Kanha National Park, is amongst the first human settlements outside the core zone of the reserve forest.

Dheerwati, her husband Sonu and six children live in a house that has self-baked Kavelu roof (tiles used across the tribal belt), an electric connection and a newly constructed toilet.

“We require some of the forest produce like bamboo to make a living. They don’t allow us in the forests. We can’t do anything to support ourselves,” says Sonu.

Another tribal said that they are even beaten when caught inside the forest.

From an annual 2,000 tourists in 1980s to 1,50,000 at present, the resort business in the buffer zone of the forests has thrived the most, but at a cost to every tribal in some way. Many tribespersons could be seen begging for their pictures to be taken by the tourists.

Influential people, including some reputed wildlife conservationists, own a resort around Kahna and other national parks across India.

Tribals living in the buffer zone say that they are being “urged” to move by choosing one of the “government relocation packages” i.e “land against land” or “Rs 10 lakh per adult”. Officials however deny this.

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“No village from the buffer zone is to be shifted. However, if they leave voluntarily, they will avail benefit of the packages,” J.S. Chauhan, Field Director of Kanha National Park, told IANS. He added that villages from the core zone only are being shifted.

Villages populating the 1,134 sq km of Kanha’s buffer zone, after the families of Gond and Baiga, were either ‘voluntarily’ or ‘illegally’ evicted from forests on the name of ‘conservation’.

Adivasi culture Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
Adivasi culture Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

As the tribes have inhabited the forests for generations it’s their legal right to live there with some limitations, as also assured to them in the Forest Rights Act (FRA). However, norms are seldom followed during eviction.

“Most of the families were moved without legal framework. FRA gives tribals an option to continue living in the core zone or move voluntarily. But no one was told that they had a choice and many were forced to sign the papers,” Sophie Grig, from Survival International, told IANS.

“An official told us to sign a letter of consent quickly. He said that we would get money or that we would go to another village. They were determined to destroy our village,” a tribal from a relocated village, called Jholar, said in a letter to Madhya Pradesh Human Rights Commission.

Another tribal, Lakhand Merabi, declared, “Irrespective of what happens to us, we will stay here.”

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But he had to leave. Over 1,400 families from nine villages of the Baiga and Gond tribes were moved from the core forest area between 2010 to 2015.

A village named Kariwah was moved this year. “One more is in the pipeline,” said a forest official. About seven villages still exist in the core zone of Kanha while over 36 had been moved slowly since 1969.

The number of people relocated remains unknown.

While many tribal families didn’t like leaving, some families preferred relocation and also benefited through education for their children.

“Some Gond families were happy to relocate but most were not,” Sophie said.

Ramkali Durbe and Sukhbati Durbe, who are now guides at Kanha, reflect the positive side of relocation and efforts by the forest department.

“I know these forests like my home, and love to show people around,” Ramkali, whose village in Mukki zone of Kanha was shifted few years back, told IANS.

However, the issue of ‘social security’ – a new concept for those relocated — continues to haunt.

“Most of those relocated prefer living in the vicinity of their relatives for the sense of security,” Chauhan said.

Such cases are however not limited to Kanha alone. Khadia and Munda tribe in Odisha’s Simlipal National Park and Baiga of Achanakmar Wildlife Sanctuary in Chhattisgarh are meeting the same fate in the name of tiger conservation.

However there are exceptions, Grig says, as the Solinga Tribes of BR Hills Tiger Reserve, in Karnataka, and Tharu tribes of Dudhwa Tiger Reserve, Uttar Pradesh, never shifted – and with little help they stand guard between poachers and the forest. (IANS)

  • Shubhi Mangla

    The concerns of these tribal communities are justified. Moreover, making resorts or any such luxury buildings will also damage our flora and fauna.

  • Vrushali Mahajan

    There should be steps taken to conserve these forests along with the lives of these tribes as thye find it very difficult to manage with the urban lifestyle.

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  • Shubhi Mangla

    The concerns of these tribal communities are justified. Moreover, making resorts or any such luxury buildings will also damage our flora and fauna.

  • Vrushali Mahajan

    There should be steps taken to conserve these forests along with the lives of these tribes as thye find it very difficult to manage with the urban lifestyle.

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Madhya Pradesh: Next Favourite Shooting Spot for Filmmakers

Bollywood and TV show makers believe that Madhya Pradesh would be the next favourite shooting spot

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Madhya Pradesh Bollywood
As Bollywood and TV show makers are taking keen interest in narrating stories with a backdrop of Madhya Pradesh, the state is expected to emerge as a major film shoot destination in 2020. Pixabay

As Bollywood and TV show makers are taking keen interest in narrating stories with a backdrop of Madhya Pradesh, the state is expected to emerge as a major film shoot destination in 2020.

More than 200 projects including international projects like “The Bear” by Paramount Pictures and “A Suitable Boy” by BBC Production, and Indian feature films, TV shows, commercials and reality shows have been shot in Madhya Pradesh till now.

Some of the recent releases “Panga”, “Stree”, “Sui Dhagaa”, “Kalank”, “Manikarnika”, “Luka Chuppi”, “Padman” and “Toilet: Ek Prem Katha” were shot in Madhya Pradesh.

More films will be shot in 2020 including “Sherni”, “Durgawati”, “Bhuj: The Pride of India” and “Ponniyin Selvan”. The telly viewers will get to see the state’s beauty in TV serials “Dadi Amma Dadi Amma Maan Jao” and “Ek Duje ke Vaaste 2”.

Madhya Pradesh
Madhya Pradesh is a perfect combination of natural settings, ancient heritage, huge water bodies, helpful administration and others to a film maker’s delight. Wikimedia Commons

“Madhya Pradesh is a perfect combination of natural settings, ancient heritage, huge water bodies, helpful administration and others to a film maker’s delight which makes it a preferred destination for several years,” said Faiz Ahmed Kidwai (IAS), Secretary-Tourism, Govt of Madhya Pradesh and Managing Director, Madhya Pradesh Tourism Board.

“It is something really prestigious for the state that the film fraternity is visiting our state over and over again. This is a really good opportunity for the state to increase tourism. Bollywood producers and directors find this state more desirable as compared to other places not only because of its scenic beauty but also people here are very hospitable,” he added.

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Madhya Pradesh offers an assortment of attractions to everyone who loves to travel. It is the state with the forest area cover of 77,700 sq.kms filled with sal trees and bamboos. It has numerous wildlife hot spots with 11 national parks and 24 wildlife sanctuaries such as Satpura National Park, Chambal Ghariyal Sanctuary and has re-gained the tag of being “Tiger State of the Country” by having maximum tiger count (526) in the state.

The UNESCO world heritage sites of Khajuraho, Bhimbetka and Sanchi are the iconic sites in Madhya Pradesh. (IANS)