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Relocation is Not Our Fate, Simlipal Tiger Reserve: Part-3

BY: Madhulika Sahoo | Category: Issues | Submitted: 2011-08-29 21:05:10
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Article Summary: "This is the last part of the article, the profundity of the displacement was clearly visible amongst the tribals of Simlipal. The sense of belonging always long them to go back to their place of origin. I am hoping the readers will get to feel the tribals scars of displacement through this article..."


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Ambadiha resettlement colony, Udala Block, Baleswar
The story is not old it happened even after the state having structured Forest Right Act (2006). The Kolho and the Khadia families were displaced and resettled in Ambadiha colony it's been a year now since they all been displaced. The recent visit was recalling all those memories how the 61 families from Jenabil village were dumped under the tin roof in hot summer in March 2010 where already 23 families from Bathuri community, jenabil and 8 families from kharia community, Kabataghai displaced in 1998 from the same Simlipal core area and settled here.

Our presence in the colony brings smile on villagers face and was warmly welcomed by the villagers. As we walk around the resettlement colony we observed development to some extend the villagers have now shifted to their newly constructed houses, Government have constructed pond for the villagers, every houses has a kitchen garden in the front with nutritive vegetables raised. The impact of urban life was clearly visible on the present life style of Khadia and Kolho tribes in Ambadiaha colony. when I asked the villagers whether the present lifestyle is better than the older one in Jenabil many says they prefer to stay in Ambadiha as they get better facilities here than in Jenabil. "Amaku ayethi bhala laguchi ame athika life re adjust hoie galuni" (we like this place, we have adjust ourselves to this life) said the male members out of joy. There is a saying grass is always green the other side, which was clearly reflecting where women folk still misses their forest and age old traditional practices. The women has less scope for social networking here in Ambadiha they miss there forest atmosphere and old friends they left back in Jenabil "Mote sethi besi bhala lage kete sanga sathi kete maja karuthil" (I like my old village, I used to have large circle of friends we used to have so much fun and so many activities to do together) said a women in sad tone.

Resettlement colony Kapanda Banabasa, Jashipur Block, Simlipal
After the declaration of Simlipal forest as National park/Sanctuary for tigers in the year 1995, about 45 Khadia families got displaced from Yamuna Gada and Kabata Ghaie village of Gudgudia G.P. In order to resettle the displaced tribal families a colony was constructed by the Government in the periphery of Similipal forest. The public disclosure with regard to procedure for compensation and assistance by the government was not made properly. The people were displaced without sufficient prior notice to the displaced families. The displaced families were given constructed houses, primary school for children education and maintenance package of Rs 6000/- for 13 months. But the facilities provided by the Government to the tribal families were not as per the promise made to them. Apparently the government officials had promised that they would provide land against land, electricity facilities, pond, drinking water facilities, health facilities and Rs10, 000/- to each family for resettlement and rehabilitation but nothing was given to them and the families were left to suffer and become marginalized.

Life after displacement:
The Khadia tribes who are forest dwellers, traditional hunters and gatherers, still long for the livelihood they used to have in their old place like Jhuna, Honey, Palua, gum and cultivation in the forest areas. So after spending three long years in the new resettlement colony at Kopondo Banabasa the families could not desist to going back to their old village as they barely could collect anything from the new resettlement colony for the survival. So the displaced families went back to Jamunagarh and Kabata Ghaie in search of old form of livelihood. Many also went to Barigaa village to start a new life. Latter in the year 2004 the forest department officials forcefully brought the families back to Kopondo Banabasa hamlet as they were illegally processing the land and trying to cut the trees out of ignorance. Somehow the Gudgudia Sarpanch Sri Jageswar Nayak extended his helping hand to the tribal families who claimed for Barigaa place but all in vain. The forest department officials did not allow it to happen. After inviting the youths who are 18 years and above for a meeting to Jashipur town they arrested 13 youths under tree cutting case. Many families lost huge amount of money fighting against the cases. It took 3 years for them to be released from the jail. Latter the government did the FRA claim making process in the year 2009 for the Kopondo Banabasa people which weren't done as per the act.

Life before displacement:
When the villagers asked about the old habitation, they got emotional and showed their attachment to the jungle. "Ame kete sundar jaga re rahuthilu jharana thila, bagha thila, bhalu thila, kete jinisa nauthilu palua, mahu, kana chatu kete prakar jinisa anuthilu" (We used to live in beautiful environment with wild life animals, abundant natural forest resources available to us). Many also showed their spiritual connection they have with the forest. "Ame agaru puja kariki jungle jauthilu kintu ayethi na jungle achi na puja hauchi" say villagers in FGD. It seems the government gave false promises to the villagers to relocate them from the original village "Amaku sarkar sabu subidha daba boli kahila, chasa jami diya jiba, school diya jiba, daktara khana diya jiba kintu kichi hela ama gaa ku dela nahi jaha achi Kopondo gaa re achi" said the villagers (The government promised us to give cultivable land, school, public health centre to our hamlet but whatever they have provided is in the Kopondo village we don't get along well with Kopondo village people so there is less scope for us to use the public utilities."

Impact of displacement:
Displacement has surely disrupted tribal's population life style and cultural setting. With due course at Kapanda Banabasa and Ambadiha resettlement colony the villagers have started getting distorted from their age old traditional practices, culture, language and many other attributes. The matter of concern here is the people are not aware of the provision available by the government to avail their rights on their ancestral land and forest. The preamble of Forest Right Act (2006) has certainly has provision for the Schedule tribe forest dwellers and the other traditional forest dwellers. But due to lack of awareness and proper execution of the FRA process people are getting affected by the displacement thus losing their land, common property resources, friends, relatives and everything they are attached with.

However it has become necessary to address the long standing insecurity to tenurial and access rights of forest dwelling Schedule Tribes and other traditional forest dwellers including those who were forced to relocate their dwelling due to state development interventions.

Kabataghai village, Simlipal
Kabataghai is one of the core area villages in the list to be relocated. It came into picture that some families have already been relocated where rest 35 Household are still residing in the village. About 30 families in the year 1994 and 8 families in 2003 were relocated to Kapanda Banbasa and Ambadiha colony. The village is dominated of Kolho and Santhal tribal's.

Relocation:
When we enquire about relocation, many say's they are least interested but if forced to leave then they are helpless to abscond the village. Apparently some government officials had already made their appearance to the village and had warned the villagers to identify a new place to be relocated. Out of desperateness the villagers started hunting for new place where they manage to identify a place called Arjun villa which is about 60-70km from Kabataghai. "Field director asiki kahila ayeta Tiger rahiba jaga loko rahiba jaga nuhen. Amaku kuhagala jaga dekha chiradina parjanta rahiba lagi" (field director frequently visit our place and talk about relocation, he say this place is for tiger you all have to leave) says the villagers. Now we have no other option other than relocating ourselves because we already had been warned by the Government that if we continue staying here then basic facilities won't be provided to us says the villagers in tearful tone.

Conclusion:
The scars of relocation leave a very deep mark in the mind of tribals, the attachment tribals have with their home land, belongings and forest make them live like fish with out water. However the depressing socio-economic condition of all most all villages inside Simlipal witnesses that the families are living below the poverty line, with no education facilities, health facilities etc. whilst major chunk of the population depend on the forest resources rest are into seasonal migration. With this if the government mandates to relocate these families then they will be all the more prone to exploitation and further decrease in the economy. It is noteworthy to mention here that the best way to manage forest is to involve the forest dwellers and using the forest resources in a proactive way of synergizing their efforts to build and nurture ecosystem in humanity and prosperity. However in case of eco-tourism the local people can play major role as a key stakeholder in enhancement of the economy by setting up traditional NTFP market for the tourist such as honey, medicinal herbs, other forest resources and traditional local handicrafts product at their door steps. With such participatory Eco-tourism strategy would not only cut operational costs for an eco-tourism unit, but would at the same time reduce the traditional dependence of the local communities on the adjoining forests by providing alternative source of livelihood. Thus relocating those tribal communities won't lead the government to triumph. However efforts have to be taken for provision of forest right and allowing them to live life with dignity.

About Author / Additional Info:
I am a researcher based in Odisha, graduate from University of East London. My area of
interest includes displacement, tribal rights, refugee, forced migration, forest right etc.

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