The successful resettlement of tribal communities from a village in the Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve offers important lessons for other States.
A SIMPLE stone marker facing a sprawling grassland in the Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR) in Maharashtra reads: “This meadow has come up after voluntary relocation of Ramdegi (Navegaon) village in the year 2012-13. All 240 families in Ramdegi village willingly opted to relocate.” It was a watershed moment in forest conservation in India. Five years on, Ramdegi’s relocation has become a model for other States to emulate.
The tiger reserve at Tadoba was declared a wildlife sanctuary in 1955. It was the third such “protected area” created in the country. In 1993, it was turned into a “critical tiger habitat”, but it took two more decades to convince the six Raj Gond communities living within the TATR’S 625-kilometre core area to agree to relocate.
Attempts to relocate communities from protected areas have been ongoing for decades now, but without much success until five years ago, after which there has been a marked change. The main reason for this has been the drastic overhaul of the relocation process since 2008 with the creation of the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA).
Until 2008, the monetary compensation for relocation was Rs.1 lakh for a forest-dwelling family and land for land at an agreed upon alternative site, usually located in the buffer area of the tiger reserve. The amount included the cost of a house as well as each family’s share of expenses to create common civic infrastructure. No monies were given for the lands forgone, and each home, even in the case of joint families, was considered one beneficiary unit.
In 2008, following the creation of the NTCA, the Forest Department under the Union Ministry of Environment and Forest was flush with funds. This led to a tenfold increase in monetary compensation for those willing to relocate without seeking land at the new site. The second option was five acres of land (two hec-
A VIEW of the secondary school and the anganwadi at Navegaon.