The state government has directed the forest department to refund the amount deducted from the relocation package of relocated villagers from tiger reserves. The amount was deducted by the forest department citing the reason of establishment of the civic amenities at the new site. The relocated villagers protested against this move of the forest officials which eventually turned in their favour. The department will now have to refund a total sum of Rs 27 crores.
While speaking to TOI, principal chief conservator of forests (PCCF) for wildlife Nitin Kakodkar said, “We will have to refund Rs27 crore to the villagers in Melghat, Navegaon-Nagzira, Tipeshwar and even Pench. Henceforth, the amount which was earlier deducted for providing civic amenities to villagers at new sites will not be cut from their Rs10 lakh package under Option I.”
The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) guidelines were issued to subtract the amount required for affixing assets and civic amenities at new sites from the package of Rs. 10 lakhs per family. A GR was then issued by the state based on these guidelines on November 3, 2012. The GR now stands modified on this particular clause. However, the other conditions will remain the same.
The new GR issued on March 6, 2019 will administer the relocation of villages in Melghat, Tadoba-Andhari, Pench and other tiger.
According to the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, and Supreme Court rulings, no construction and development activities can be carried out in these protected areas (PAs). Thus, those who live in these areas will have to be relocated. It is also for the betterment of the standard of living.
Around 300 relocated villagers from nine villages in Melghat Tiger Reserve (MTR) and Navegaon-Nagzira Tiger Reserve (NNTR) each, protested against the GR. The protest in Melghat turned violent and hurt 50 policemen and forest personnel. Forest property was also damaged and 1,000 hectare of reserve forest and meadows were set ablaze.
This got the government to sit up, take note and decide on loosening the condition. “If the modified GR is considered, Rs17.38 crore will have to be paid to 1,847 beneficiaries from nine villages in Melghat,” said APCCF & field director, MS Reddy.
The money will be dispensed to the relocated villagers whose lands have been mutated in the name of forest department as per the saat-bara (7/12) extracts, according to the GR. The money will be paid from Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management & Planning (CAMPA). The land of all villages, except Chunkhedi’s has been transferred to the forest department.
“In Navegaon-Nagzira, where squatters stormed the park last month demanding refund, 375 families from five villagers will get Rs5.40 crore,” said divisional forest officer (DFO), Uttam Sawant.
State Wildlife Board member Kishor Rithe has welcomed the move and is happy with the government decision of not deducting the amount from the package. “This will encourage villagers to move out of tiger reserves and expedite relocation process,” Rithe said.
Information source: timesofindia
Title image source: dna