Monday, July 27, 2015

Forcible of displacement of tribals in Madhya Pradesh from tiger reserve: Activists protest move

Tribals let by Yousuf Beg submitting the letter in collector's office
By Ashok Shrimali
The Panna National Park, one of the top tiger reserves in India, is the eye of storm among tribal rights activists of Madhya Pradesh. Situated just 25 kilometres from the world famous Khajuraho temples, tribals living in the national park and the tiger reserve have been accused of “wrongfully made to give consent to accept monetary compensation and hand over their lands” in the conservation of the forest area.
This has come to light in a letter Yousuf Beg, a trustee of the local Prithvi Trust, has written to Shiv Narayan Singh Chouhan, district collector, Panna, copies of which have been forwarded to senior forest and environment department officials of Madhya Pradesh.
Particularly citing the instance of the tribal community of Umravan village, the letter says, the tribal families “are being coerced by your office and the forest department” into giving consent “for the purpose of Panna National Park and Tiger Reserve.” Meanwhile, activists of the Enviornics Trust, Mines Mineral and People, Dhaatri - Resource Centre for Women and Children have decided to take up the issue.
Asking the Madhya Pradesh officialdom to immediately stop acquiring lands of the tribal villagers and payment of compensation, the letter says, “Village has a wholly scheduled tribe population whose basic constitutional rights and right to life are being violated through continuous harassment and prevention of accessing forest and their own lands for their livelihood by the forest department and by your office.”
Asking the district collector to first take the consent of the Gram Sabha of Umravan village for accepting compensation, the activist says, the villagers should not have been given “improper and partial information and promises”. He adds, “No written commitment has been provided to the village on the relocation and reinstatement of their livelihoods.” 
Tribals outside the district collector's office
Especially strongly objecting to the manner in which the district collector held a public hearing/meeting in Umravan village on June 26, 2015, the letter says, this was done without “any intimation and with no presence of any other concerned public.”
Calling such a process “undemocratic and violation of the rights of illiterate tribal people whose concerns and objections are being brushed aside through intimidation and false promises”, the letter says, “Notices served by you in February 2015 is legally violative of the rights of tribal communities as you have stated that the land acquisition process in reference to the 1894 Land Acquisition Act instead of the Act 2013.”

“There is no social impact assessment or other procedures under the LARR Act that have been applied to the village to ensure protection of their rights and livelihoods”, the letter says.
It adds, “Free informed consent from Gram Sabha has not obtained and there is no proper information or written communication regarding land acquisition process, rehabilitation plan, compensation package, reinstatement of livelihoods, facilities and development amenities of the affected communities or any other information.”
“Villagers who are objecting to relocation have not been given proper chance of being heard or their grievances addressed – there has been an atmosphere of intimidation and threats created for the past two years by governance machinery and villagers have not been allowed or rather harassed on the issues of access to forests and forest resources”, the letter says.
Pointing out that the tribals are being “prevented physically from collecting forest produce, grazing, firewood and other medical herbs”, the letter says, they have “not been allowed to cultivate on their lands, have not been compensated for wildlife attacks on their cattle and other basic amenities are being denied to them in order to make their survival impossible.”

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