Inhabitants of the Sariska Tiger Reserve (STR) in Rajasthan are to be moved once again. The STR authorities have decided to relocate 20 villages inside the sanctuary to sites outside it because, they contend, the villagers are taking a heavy toll of the reserve forest, which is made up chiefly of slowly regenerating species. Says STR field director Sunayan Sharma, "Our attempts to combine protecting tigers with the traditional lifestyle of the villagers have been unsuccessful." He is particularly upset that the villagers are encroaching into the reserve forests after depleting the special village forests provided to them.
Tarun Bharat Sangh (TBS), a local non-governmental organisation that has waged a long struggle against evacuation of villagers from the reserve, has launched a campaign protesting the proposed eviction. Says TBS director Rajendra Singh, "We are totally opposed to the eviction because the government's resettlement schemes in the past have brought only misery to the relocated people."
In a series of memoranda to the local administration and the state government, TBS has questioned the adequacy of the village forest scheme to meet the villagers' needs. Singh's main point, however, is that the relocation move would ultimately be used by the powerful mining lobby to press for a smaller area for the sanctuary because it was devoid of human habitation. Given the clout of the mining lobby over the political parties in the state, he expects support for the latest move to relocate the Sariska villagers to gain more strength.
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