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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)

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Back to the Soil With Organic Farming

Here's the story of various people who have returned back to their soil, organically

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Many professionals have returned back to their soil. PIxabay

By Sukant Deepak

A banker from Canada, a resort director, a top executive in a leading IT company and a senior corporate communications professional with a major hospital chain. Defying all stereotypes and preconceived notions of farmhands, an increasing number of highly qualified professionals from both genders are quitting their lucrative professions and getting back to the soil in Punjab full-time,making responsible farming their way of life.

Using social media including WhatsApp to spread the word, participating in pop-up organic farmers’ markets across the region and organising day-long farm tours, these new-age farmers, compost kit makers and teachers are ascertaining that those wanting pesticide-free food grains don’t have to look too hard.

Rahul Sharma’s wife would always laugh when on a typical IT sprint meeting call, he would be discussing his project at Flipkart, and a few hours later, talking about manure collection with a farmer.

This organic farmer who now grows cereal grains, pulses, oil seeds, turmeric and garlic at his five acre farm in Kapurthala full time, insists that the ongoing lockdown has made people aware about the importance of growing their own food, and that too pesticide-free. “But yes, if the government is serious about providing nutritional security, then it must ascertain economic benefits to farmers so they can go in for sustainable agriculture,” he stresses.

For someone who started doing organic farming in 2016, the thrill that comes with growing safe food for others is unparalled.”The fact that there is a patch of land which is now free of poison, where life thrives, and that I am contributing towards healthy soil.”

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Rahul Sharma now grows cereal grains, pulses, oil seeds, turmeric and garlic at his five acre farm in Kapurthala full time. Pixabay

Not regretting his switch from a corporate IT job, which never allowed him to pursue his passions like photography, Sharma has now decided to streamline production and ordering process. “I have now a set rotation of crops which provide nutrition to the soil, as well as work well in the consumer market. I am also working on an online platform to make it easier for my consumers to order grains and be in touch with me,” he adds. He also lectures and interacts with school and college students at his farm about the importance of sustainable agriculture/lifestyle.

Shivraj Bhullar, who has a four-acre farm in Manimajra and grows a variety of seasonal vegetables, leafy greens and fruits left his cushy banker job in Canada to start organic farming on his piece of land in 2014 post volunteering at different farms across India to learn the ropes. “The organic farming convention that was held in the region in 2015 brought a lot of people together. Since then, the movement has been growing with greater awareness amongst consumers in this part of the country,” he says. For someone who has always been interested in Yoga and nutrition, one of the major factors that keeps him excited is the community around the organic farming movement in Punjab. “Farmers go out of their way to help each other out. It’s been a humbling and continuous learning experience for me,” he adds.

Planning to take his farm to the next level by installing a drip irrigation system and rain water harvesting for water conservation, Bhullar is all set to buy more animals so as to decrease his dependence on outside sources for manure.

Coordinator of the Chandigarh Farmers’ Market, Seema Jolly, who owns a five-acre farm in village Karoran in Punjab and grows vegetables,fruit, grains, oilseeds and pulses wants her farm to be a school for organic/natural farming, yoga and Ayurveda in the near future. One of the directors of the Baikunth Resorts Pvt Ltd, Jolly started organic farming in 2011 and there has been no looking back since then. “There is a certain joy in knowing that what you supply is not harming the consumer in any way,” she says. Instrumental in organising trips for school children to different farmers across Punjab and Himachal Pradesh, Jolly also helps small organic farmers with logistics and selling their produce. “The organic farmers market initiative, in July 2015 was a landmark in bringing relief to the marketing problems of organic farmers and encouraging more farmers to turn organic. Frankly, what is needed is small markets like these in all districts. It may take time, but people are bound to tilt towards organic if there is easy availability.”

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There are many people who own farms including Former National level hockey player Mohanjit Dhaliwal who has two farms. Pixabay

Former National level hockey player Mohanjit Dhaliwal who has two farms — one if Ropar and another in Fathegrah Sahib, the latter being part of permaculture food forest in ‘Sanjhi Mitti Food Forest Community’, has been involved in organic farmer for more than 10 years now. Talking about the roadblocks when it comes to shifting to organic, he feels, that the government’s policy of 100 per cent wheat paddy procurement has to change. “Farmers, who used to be entrepreneurs and solutions finders are now behaving like robots.Nothing is going to change unless policy makers get out of whole process.”

Besides holding regular workshops on permaculture which is attended by people from around the country, Dhaliwal, who is working on a forest therapy centre, adds, ” Our Eco library at the farm where anyone can read or borrow books on related subjects is quite a hit with both children and adults.”

Chandigarh-based Jyoti Arora, who supplies odour-free composters in Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Chandigarh to houses, hotels, institutions, municipalities, and engages with Swachh Bharat teams of different municipalities, says, “I also do a lot of lecture demonstrations to sensitise people and encourage people to go green. In fact, my farming is a by product of the compost generated from my domestic waste in which the produce comes solely out of the compost.”

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Everything changed for Diksha Suri, a former corporate communications head with a major hospital chain when she spent time at Auroville in 2004. “Being there and learning from experts started a journey of a more conscious approach towards the living greens and browns. I attended formal workshops and started experimenting an organic way of living,” says Suri, who, along with a friend set up Chandigarh’s first Nature Club in 2012.

From organising organic farm visits, forest walks and fossil sites for children and their parents, Suri says that she has been able to make hundreds of children conscious about what they eat. “A lot of them are now at ease with composting, growing vegetables, identifying birds, and more than anything, being in sync with nature. We now regularly hold talks and workshops on organic farming, composting, waste management, across schools, colleges and corporate offices in the region.”

Chandigarh-based Rishi Miranshah, who has made the nine-part docu-series ‘The Story of Food – A No Fresh Carbon Footprint’ which is available to watch online on Films for Action website and YouTube says, “Considering what chemicals have been doing to our food and the need to switch to organic, it was important for me to make this documentary which is an investigation, tracing the trail of devastations bringing us to the point where we are today. Food being the thread that connects us to life; and the way we obtain our food being that connects us to a way of life, the movie begins by examining our agri-culture, our very relationship with the land.” (IANS)

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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)

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Congress To Use Tribal Card to Regain Power in the Country

Congress to use tribal card to improve countrywide position

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Congress Chhattisgarh
Congress will be using the tribal card to regain dominance and their plan of action will begin from Chhattisgarh. Wikimedia Commons

BY SANDEEP PAURANIK

In order to regain dominance in the country, the Congress is mulling using the tribal card. This plan of action is to be first implemented in Chhattisgarh.

Riding on the success of the Assembly and urban body elections, the Congress feels that it can increase it base through tribals as they constitute 8 per cent of the total population.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the first three Assembly elections in the state, after its formation in 2000, recorded huge victories and came to power. But after the Assembly elections held last year, the scenario changed. After registering a victory in the Assembly elections and then in the urban body polls, the Congress showed that it still dominates the tribal areas.

Rahul Gandhi Congress
Former President of Congress Rahul Gandhi gave an important message while innaugrating the National Tribal Dance Festival in Raipur. Wikimedia Commons

The Congress gave the responsibility of the tribal areas to the tribal leader of Madhya Pradesh Umang Singhar which eventually helped the party. Now, the party is planning to spread out nationwide through Chhattisgarh.

Former party president Rahul Gandhi, while inaugurating the National Tribal Dance Festival in Raipur, gave a message to the tribals who are here to participate in the festival that the Chhattisgarh government is working for all the sections and this is the reason why there has been a downward trend in naxal attacks and the state economy has also improved.

The Congress is planning to publicise the improvements in Chhattisgarh throughout the country because the tribal population in the state is 32 per cent.

BJP media panellist Sandeep Sharma, however, claims that the party’s base has not shrunk. He said till Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh were not divided, the Congress was strong in the area but in the elections held after three years of the bifurcation, the BJP won the Assembly elections and was in power for 15 years. Though we faced defeat in the 2018 elections, the only reason was that people wanted a change but they were not angry with the BJP, he claimed.

The BJP won in the Lok Sabha elections and the margin in the urban body elections was also not much. So, it would be inappropriate to say that the BJP’s base has shrunk, he said adding that in one year the Congress’ base has declined by 9 per cent whereas in Assembly elections it got 12 per cent more votes and in urban body elections the margin was 3 per cent.

Congress
The Congress is planning to publicise the improvements in Chhattisgarh throughout the country. Wikimedia Commons

Analysing the political landscape of the state, political analyst Rudra Awasthi said, “When it was Madhya Pradesh then the Congress had stronghold in Chhattisgarh. Several big leaders were also from the state but after the formation of Chhattisgarh since Ajit Jogi was accused of being a fake tribal the Congress lost its stronghold over the tribals. Though it continued to dominate in some of the areas which helped it in regaining the power.

“As of now, the Congress has started including the tribals with the backward class. First Bhupesh Baghel was the state chief of the party and he was replaced by Mohan Markam as he became the Chief Minister. During the Assembly elections, the Congress talked about the identity of the tribals which helped the party. After winning the elections, the decisions of the Congress government were in favour of the tribals which helped the party in the urban body elections,” said Awasthi.

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The Congress is mulling over spreading its message to the tribals across the country through the three-day festival going on here. For this several senior leaders of the party will attend the festival and share the government’s schemes while giving the message that the Congress government in the state has brought a positive and a significant change in the lives of the tribals. (IANS)