Raipur: Relocated from native villages to pave way for Chhattisgarh`s Achanakmar Tiger Reserve, tribals say the move has neither solved their livelihood issue nor helped in tiger conservation.
Achanakmar Wildlife Sanctuary, located around 200 kms from the state capital Raipur in Bilaspur region, was given the status of a tiger reserve in 2009 following which six villages were removed out of the core zone.
However, as per official information, the tiger population dipped drastically there. While 27 wild cats were recorded before 2009, now there is no exact count of the felines even as 5-6 have been spotted in tracking cameras.
"We have cultivable fields but we don`t have farming tools, we have school but teacher hardly comes, we have fans and bulbs but no electricity. We have lost full access to the forest which was our mother and source of livelihood," Vipath of Bankal village, which was relocated, told a news agency.
Tribals and tigers have co-existed for centuries in this country and the tribal people have deep bonding with forests and wildlife. Relocation at whatever cost always leads to pain in mind and heart, Vipath, the head of Van Samiti (forest committee) in his village, said.
In Achanakmar Tiger Reserve (ATR), out of 25 villages in core area - Jalda, Kuba, Bokrakachhar, Bahud, Bakal and Sambhar Dhasan - were relocated including 249 families - 238 of scheduled tribes and 11 of OBCs.
The villages are inhabited by Baiga tribe (categorised as primitive tribal group), who have lived here for centuries and consider themselves as protectors of forests.
Katik, an elderly tribal of Baiga community in Kuba village, says, "Government feels that we have been brought close to the mainstream but the fact is that we are still far away from benefits of government schemes."
The villagers have been strictly prohibited against collecting forest produce, the prime source of livelihood. Apart from collecting minor forest produce to sell, they were also taking firewood for fuel from the forests earlier.
"Now we have to buy firewood from the market. We have not only lost the only source of income but are also spending more money on buying these things from market," Katik rued.