Skip to main content

As tribals are being forcibly evicted, Panna Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh becomes heaven for diamond contractors

Tribals involved in diamond mining
By Ashok Shrimali*
In a move to browbeat tribal villagers of Panna Tiger Reserve Forest, and evict them from in their land, the Madhya Pradesh government has taken the unprecedented step of disconnecting electricity of one of the key villages, Umravan. While the pretext is said to conservation, available facts suggest that diamond mining in the reserve forest area is the main reason.
A small village of about 200, a majority of whose residents is dependent on mining as the main source of livelihood., they earn about Rs 100 to 200 per day. A few of the villagers are involved in collecting dry woods from the forest in order to earn livelihood. Says local social worker Yousuf Beg: "For the last three years “there is a ban on doing farming on their land in name of conservation.”
A highly neglected village, the state officialdom does not even care to provide jobs to the villagers under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme. Worse, the village is devoid of any developmental work for the last three years. There is no ration shop in the village – if they want to buy ration from the public distribution system, they must go six kilometres away.
The district officialdom, in fact, is interested in evicting the villagers by hook or by crook for expanding the mining ambitions of the contracts, operating for the state-controlled National Diamond Mining Corporation (NDMC). As for those who live by picking up dry wood from the forest area, they are often harassed by heavily fining anywhere between Rs 1,500 and Rs 5,000.
The situation is such that, a large number of workers, who are involved in mining, suffer from the deadly silicosis disease, but there is no one to treat them. They begin working at the age of 14 or 15, but live for another 20 years before they become victims of the disease. 
Beg says, “Being known for diamond mining, the officialdom believes, mining could continue in the reserve forest, but the villagers cannot live inside. This is one reason why it is doing anything in its capacity to evict the villagers. So much so, that recently, it set free a group of elephants to create havoc in the village. It wants to take advantage of the Supreme Court ruling to continue diamond mining in the reserve forest.”
While the tribals have been told they will have to leave the village, they were also conveyed that they would be given Rs 10 lakh as compensation. “Instead, they were given Rs 7.6 lakh. Even this amount was deposited in their accounts, which are alleged to be theirs, but they do not even have a passbooks of these accounts”, Beg says.
Eviction also took place after a very strange public hearing of the tribal villagers. The hearing was called on June 26 early in the morning at 5.30 am, so that most of the villagers did not attend it. According to Beg, “The hearing was done under the old 1984 land acquisition law, even though the 2013 law is already in force. No social impact assessment was carried out of the village.”
During the public hearing, the villagers were sought answers to just two questions – whether they were interested in land for the land they had lost, or compensation. “By a majority of four, it was decided to provide compensation, and the meeting, headed by the district collected, was wound up, without any discussion”, said Beg.
---
*Spot report by senior activist with Mines Minerals and People, Delhi

Comments

TRENDING

Hindus to be 'sent' to Kashmir? Despite Israeli settlements, peace eludes the region

By Anand K Sahay*
Curfew, news and communications blackout, transportation shut-down... News reports from Kashmir are worrying. So are the views relayed through the media, especially television. Old-fashioned repression seems to be consorting comfortably with expressions of concern “for our Kashmiri brethren”. We are looking at Orwell’s 1984 in the making.

Savarkar 'opposed' Bhagat Singh's, Netaji's dream of India, supported British war efforts

By Shamsul Islam*
In a shocking development, the student wing of the RSS put the busts of martyrs Bhagat Singh and Subhash Chandra Bose with Savarkar's on one pedestal at the University of Delhi late in the night on August 20, 2019. Bhagat Singh sacrificed his life for a socialist-democratic-secular republic and Netaji raised Azad Hind Fauj (INA) consisting of people of all religions and regions for armed liberation of India.

UN experts object to GoI move to 'reinforce' trend of prosecution, eviction of tribals

Counterview Desk
In a report sent to the Government of India, three United Nations (UN) special rapporteurs, expressing "concerns" over the failure to ensure "adequate" implementation of the India Forest Rights Act (FRA), have regretted that the Government of India has not cared to reply their previous communications on this.

As submergence stares Narmada valley, Patkar says: With powerful in throne, we're helpless

Counterview Desk
Well-known anti-dam organization, Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), plans to begin its “Resist Illegal Submergence in Narmada Valley” satyagraha on August 21 at Jantar Mantar, Delhi, amidst news that the situation in the valley is “critical”, with two persons having already died in flood-related incidents in the upstream of the Sardar Sarovar dam.

RTI Act holy cow for Govt of India? Official insists, don't ask why, when, what, where

By Pankti Jog*
The Government of India appears to have begun treating the Right to Information (RTI) Act as a holy cow. Its officials seem to believe that the Act is a sacred law, under which people shouldn't be questioning its functioning. One recalls what Prime Minister Narendra Modi said while addressing an RTI convention in 2015: “Why should government wait for people to ask information, we will have all information out in the domain, we have nothing to hide."

River interlinking to transfer tribals' drinking, irrigation water to Maharashtra industries

Counterview Desk
Top advocacy group, South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People (SANDRP), recently submitted its comments on the Damanganga–Vaitarna-Godavari Intrastate Link project to the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC), a project sought to be packaged by the Maharashtra chief minister as diversion of water from allegedly water surplus Konkan region to the drought-affected Marathwada region.

Strategy for united struggle against Hindutva 'fascism': Ideological silence is 'no option'

By Dr Bhabani Shankar Nayak*
Electoral alliance and opportunism of national and regional political parties, neoliberal economic marginalisation and soft secular Hindutva line pandering to Hindu majoritarianism laid the foundation of Hindutva fascism in post-colonial India.

Can't go to court with RTI information, rule Ahmedabad authorities: Kankaria accident

By Pankti Jog*
In a shocking reply to an application filed by me, the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) authorities have said that the information provided under the Right to Information (RT) Act should be used in court or in a judicial process. The Act is known to be a major tool that enables citizens to seek certified copies of documents, records from any public authority of state and Central government within 30 days, as per provisions of the Act.

RSS 'demonizing' Muslim demographics: Hindus' growth rate decline 2.5% lower

By Mohan Guruswamy*
The RSS is riding its old hobbyhorse again. Addressing the Yuva Dampati Sammelan attended by reportedly 2000 young couples organized by the RSS’ Kutumb Prabhodan in Agra on August 21, the RSS Sarsanghchalak, Mohan Bhagwat, apparently concerned about the “declining Hindu population” exhorted young Hindu couples to have more children.

Kashmirisation of India? Ayodhya communal harmony meet: Activists stopped, detained

Counterview Desk
In a joint statement, three civil rights organizations, Rihai Manch, National Alliance of People's Movements and Lok Rajniti Manch, and Socialist Party (India), have taken strong exception to the Uttar Pradesh government taking "preventive" steps against those seeking to hold a meeting on communal harmony at Ayodhya.