Forest or farmland: Nagarahole’s dilemma
Man-animal conflict sharpens debate
Man-animal conflicts which have claimed two lives within a week around the Nagarahole National Park and Tiger Reserve has brought to the fore the prevailing divide among the local people over relocation and rehabilitation schemes of the government.
While some are prepared to relocate, others who are not so eager. The government has a land-based rehabilitation programme for the original forest-dwelling communities like Jenu Kurubas and Kadu Karubas in and around Nagarahole.
But apart from them, there are Schedule Tribe communities many of whose forefathers came from Central Karnataka and were resettled here during colonial times more than 100 years ago.
“The forest land was leased out for an annual sum and this was called Ek Saali Lease system and the tenants are even today known as Ek Saali Lease holders,” said the former Nagarahole Park Director Kantharaj.
Originally, 405 acres of forest land was distributed to 56 families under the Ek Saali Lease contract system. But over decades forest land has been encroached and converted to agricultural land and there are nearly 2,500 families subsisting on it now which is the root of the current problem, he added.
From the Forest Department’s perspective only around 1,800 families were eligible for the rehabilitation programme in Nagarahole as per their “cut-off date.”
The project initially entailed allotment of three acres of land in addition to a house and a cash component. AnyEone over 18 years of age in the relocated family would qualify for the cash component as well. But many of the “Ek Saali” tenants are unwilling to accept the package as the land component has been reduced to half an acre.
Devishe Gowda of Hullumutlu village in the DB Kuppe range is keen on relocation provided there was land package. “I have sought the consent and signature of more than 240 families who are willing to relocate but there are others who are opposed to it,” he said.