the kuruba tribals of nagarhole national park, karnataka, wake up to the silence of a concrete colony these days, attuning themselves to a new livelihood and way of life far from the familiar forests. it is a tentative beginning.
shanti j k of the jenu kuruba tribe used to live in the bhogapura hadi inside the tiger reserve. but she preferred a more comfortable life in the relocated colony, free of the fear of being attacked by animals. she shifted to shettihalli lokpattna colony recently. "my great grandfathers must have come to live in the forests, i don't know since when. encounters with wild elephants, leopards were a regular thing. but crops and wild animals can't live together. there is no security for crops inside the forest." many women in the colony agree they now hope for a better life, and better education for their children.
besides the new shettihalli lokpattna colony, a healthy compensation package of rs 10 lakh (up from the earlier rs 1 lakh) has seen many taking the offer, with tribals slowly but steadily agreeing to shift to the colony.
for the forest department, it is quite a feat to have convinced some tribal families of the benefits of relocation. it dismisses charges by tribal rights groups that the forest rights act has been violated and therefore, the relocation is illegal, and argues that families have moved out willingly. but what lies ahead for conservation and for the tribals in a new setting is not clear yet.
the tribals relocation process began in 1999 when 50 families in nagarhole were relocated. the forest department acknowledges that then, it was not an all-voluntary relocation. "i will not shy away from saying we did force some of them to relocate. neither was the package so attractive. now, the families themselves realise it's not worth living in the forest anymore," says karnataka principal conservator of forests b k singh.
sunset at nagarhole national park, karnataka.
(reporting by jayashree nandi)