A phoenix of a tribe

A no­madic com­mu­nity in Odisha in­sisted on its right to live and farm even af­ter for­est of­fi­cials burnt its houses ANU­PAM CHAKRAVARTTY |

Down to Earth - - GOOD NEWS -

WHEN FOR­EST of­fi­cials burnt down their makeshift houses near Derula vil­lage in 2012, peo­ple of Odisha’s no­madic Pauri Bhuyan com­mu­nity could have meekly moved back to their orig­i­nal place of stay, called Kiri, on a hill­top 15 km in­side the Bonai for­est range that sur­rounds the vil­lage. But they did not. They de­cided to re­build and fight for their rights. This Au­gust 15, the state govern­ment ac­cepted their right to con­tinue farm­ing at the same piece of land. How­ever, the govern­ment still says that they can­not live near Derula since it is a re­served for­est land.

The com­mu­nity of around 60 peo­ple prac­tices shift­ing cul­ti­va­tion and changes its place of stay ev­ery five-six years. For ages, it has been liv­ing in­side the for­est and is al­lowed to use for­est re­sources un­der the For­est Rights Act (fra) of 2006.

When they were liv­ing on the hill­top, they had no ac­cess to ba­sic govern­ment pro­grammes, in­clud­ing the pub­lic dis­tri­bu­tion sys­tem and health­care. In 2010, a preg­nant wo­man died due to lack of med­i­cal help. There was an­other death due to malaria the same year. Hav­ing no op­tion, the res­i­dents moved to the edge of the for­est, a kilo­me­tre from Derula, a rev­enue vil­lage, af­ter tak­ing per­mis­sion from the Derula pan­chayat in De­cem­ber 2011. Derula pan­chayat has the author­ity to use the sur­round­ing land un­der fra. Though Derula res­i­dents were not too happy with their new neigh­bours, they al­lowed them to camp, even of­fer­ing help to

The Pauri Bhuyan com­mu­nity has de­vel­oped a unique irrigation sys­tem that con­nects a water reser­voir to tiny patches of land via mul­ti­ple con­duits ANU­PAM CHAKRAVARTTY / CSE

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