Villagers protest relocation
residents of a village in Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve in Maharashtra's Chandrapur district recently shut down one of the reserve's gates to protest relocation measures. Around this time, the state government announced that the reserve would remain closed for tourists because of staff crunch. Officials ruled out any link between the protest and the closure but non-profit organizations working in the area said the announcement was made because of the protests.
In March 2007, the reserve's officials had asked residents of Kolsa, a Gond tribal village, to move to a relocation site outside the reserve. A few families complied; others stayed on. Officials then moved all facilities, including the ration shop, to the relocation site. Since then the village has been demanding that its ration shop be restored. "The post office and anganwadi centre were taken away. They are giving 1.5 hectares of unirrigated land and a small, badly constructed house to each family at the relocation site. The land there is not suitable for paddy," said Kantabai Kudmethe, a panchayat member of Kolsa.
The district administration had promised Kolsa in October this year that steps would be taken and their demands heeded, said Sarang Dhabekar of Gurudev Sewa Mandal, a local non-profit. But there was no action even after 20 days. Villagers had no choice but to close the eastern gate and not allow tourists to enter the reserve, he said. The agitation was withdrawn with yet another assurance. This time, forest and revenue officials assured villagers of "immediate" action. But nothing happened and the villagers closed the gate again on November 20.
During the protests on November 17, the state government announced that the reserve would remain closed for tourists "because three posts of range forest officer were vacant", said Shesharao Patil, chief conservator of forests, Maharashtra. Four days later, Patil told Down To Earth that two range officers had joined work and the closure order would be revoked soon. And villagers said they would ensure that they are heard.
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