Skip to main content

Gujarat government's eviction notice to saltpan workers to "adversely affect" World Bank's biodiversity project

Wild ass in the Little Rann of Kutch
By Our Representative
The Agariya Heet Rakshak Manch (AHRM), which works among poor saltpan workers in the Little Rann of Kutch (LRK), has represented to the World Bank against recent eviction notices served on them by the Gujarat government officialdom. Sent to the Biodiversity Conservation and Rural Livelihood Improvement Project (BCRLIP) head of the World Bank, Anupam Joshi, who sits in the bank’s New Delhi office, the AHRM letter says, the “drastic step of eviction warning without community consultation will lead to serious impact on the well being and livelihood of large population from 150 villages on the periphery of the LRK”.
The agariyas are an important beneficiary of the World Bank-funded India biodiversity project, currently being implemented in the LRK. The main task of the project is to fulfill a “growing realization that the only way to address security of biodiversity is through large spatial scale of landscapes around protected areas (PAs) and addressing biodiversity conservation through the principles of landscape ecology that considers people and their activities as the cornerstone of landscape conservation”, a World Bank document says.
Suggesting that eviction cannot help resolve biodiversity issues, the World Bank, while preparing the project report, had insisted, “It has been realized that in countries like India where a large number of people continue to depend on forest resources for their subsistence and livelihoods, one of the keys to successful conservation lies in involving local communities in natural resource management. Among the many requirements of sustained involvement are development of economic, institutional and policy incentives in the form of sustainable livelihoods, tenurial security and capacity development.”
Asking the World Bank to keep this main project direction in mind, the letter, signed by AHRM director Harinesh Pandya has sought the bank’s “urgent attention” to the “eviction notices given to agariyas in LRK.” Calling it a “sudden development in context of agariyas’ livelihood in LRK”, Pandya reminds Joshi that “agariyas belong to denotified and nomadic tribes and salt farming is their traditional source of livelihood”. They “migrate to LRK for making salt during September and return in April, once salt is harvested.”
The letter says, “During migration period, they reside in small make-shift shelter. The areas where communities make salt is around 2.3 per cent of the LRK. Around 8,000 to 10,000 families are into salt farming in the LRK. Salt farming in the LRK is carried out fully by traditional method and with human labour. Crystal salt made by community is organic and has been identity to these denotified and nomadic tribes.”
Suggesting that they are in no way a threat to the wild ass, a rare species currently found only in the LRK, the letter claims, “Agariyas and wildlife show great co-existence here in the LRK. It is one of most successful example of community conservation of wild life, with no conflict. In the last 30 years, there are no cases of human-wildlife conflict in the LRK. Eventually wild ass population has increased from mere 700 to 5000.”
“We also need to take note that salt farming in the LRK has history of 600 years. However, government did not survey this piece of land. There no documentary records and thus land was given single survey no zero. The government has not been clear about its jurisdiction, and recently the whole area was put under the Kutch district collectorate”, the letter says.
Pointing out that the community has made representation to the state tribal department for recognizing their customary community user rights (CCUR) under the forest rights Act in the Wild Ass Sanctuary and this representation is pending for consideration, the letter says, the recent eviction notices to agariays in the LRK seeks “documentary evidences” of their customary right to produce salt, “or else they have to face imprisonment.”
The notices have been served during the “salt harvesting time for the communities” and “eviction notices at this point of time will lead huge economic loss to the agariyas, and will lead to conflict”, the letter says, warning the World Bank, this will only “harm the BCLRIP Programme. Instead there should be dialogue with the communities at workplace, to share the details of programmes like that of BCLRIP.”
Offering help, Pandya has said, AHRM will “be more than happy to facilitate/associate such process of conducting dialogue with community giving them correct information about BCLRIP which will not only help in removing fear in the minds of community but will lead increase in mutual trust between community and the forest department. On behalf of communities we are bringing this to the notice of the World Bank, for your prompt action and request you to intervene appropriately to avoid any further conflicts.”

Comments

TRENDING

Nirma varsity demand for higher fees 'illegal', violates Article 14: Letter to Gujarat HC

Counterview Desk
Students of Gujarat’s top private institute, Nirma University, situated in the outskirts of Ahmedabad, in a letter to the Chief Justice the state High Court, have complained that the authorities are demanding “full fees” from students, without taking into account the “disproportionate impact” the lockdown has on the livelihood of students and families.

Buddhist shrines massively destroyed by Brahmanical rulers in "pre-Islamic" era: Historian DN Jha's survey

By Our Representative
Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book, "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Vulnerable to Covid-19, sharp rise in murder of Indian journalists during pandemic

By Nava Thakuria*
Vulnerability of working journalists in India is no way an alien issue as the populous country loses a number of working journalists to assailants as also medical emergencies. Even though there was only one casualty in the Indian media fraternity during the first half of 2020, who was targeted for journalistic work, India has begun witnessing an alarming number of media casualties during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Govt 'assures' Gujarat HC no action against MBBS students defying corona sahayak order

By Our Representative
The Gujarat government has assured the High Court that no action would be taken against Part-I and Part-II MBBS students of the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC)-controlled NHL Medical College and LG Hospital and Medical College. The assurance follows the direction by Justice SH Vora to the State government not to prosecute or initiate action against the students who were defying the college authorities’ order to work as corona sahayaks (helpers).

Renounced US citizenship to serve workers, tribals, Sudha Bharadwaj 'odiously' in jail

By Atul, Sandeep Pandey*
Professor Sudha Bharadwaj has been in jail since August 2018. She was taken into police custody on August 26, 2018 on suspicion of being involved in Maoist terror activities after Republic TV claimed that she had allegedly written a letter to Maoists and was conspiring to create public disorder and unrest in India.

Cruel legacy of Green Revolution? Covid-19 underscores 'risky, fragile' food system

By Moin Qazi*  The Covid-19 crisis has highlighted the risks of an unhealthy diet and the extreme fragility of food systems. The economic reconstruction that will follow the pandemic is the perfect opportunity to provide better nutrition and health to all. The pandemic should spur us to redefine how we feed ourselves, and agricultural research can play a vital role in making our food systems more sustainable and resilient.

Plant organic, eat fresh: Emlen Bage's journey from migrant labour to agri-entrepreneur

By Chandrashekar and Kriti*
Who is a farmer? Type this question in the google search and check out the images? You can see men thronging the screen. This is the popular perception around the globe. Well one can understand how difficult it would be for a woman to defy this perception.

High youth unemployment: India 'fails' to take advantage of demographic dividend

By Varun Kumar
As coronavirus pandemic continues amplifying challenges among youth with regard to employment opportunities, government policies have further resulted in economic slowdown, leading to mass unemployment and loss jobs. According to the International Labour Organisation report “Covid-19 and the World of Work” (May 27, 2020), around 94 percent of the world’s workers are living in countries with some sort of workplace closure measures in place.

Dichotomy? US Hindutva groups oppose racism, mum on Modi's 'anti-minority' stance

By Our Representative
The Hindus for Human Rights (HHR), a US-based advocacy group, has noticed a major dichotomy between the stance taken by RSS’ US arm, Hindu Swayamsewak Sangh (HSS), expressing “shock” at the “painful killing of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and so many others”, all of which suggest “the tragic tale of racial injustice” in US, and HSS’ “hatred” for India’s religious minorities and Dalits.