For­est or farm­land: Na­gara­hole’s dilemma

Man-an­i­mal con­flict sharp­ens de­bate

The Hindu - - SOUTH - R. Krishna Ku­mar

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.

Lease sys­tem

“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.

Land com­pen­sa­tion

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.

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