Erect huts on land surveyed for title deed

Twenty-eight families belonging to the Paliyar tribe (Scheduled Tribe) at Serakkadu, 10 km from Bodinaickanur in Theni district, have intensified the fight for their rights by erecting hutments and claiming land titles on lands surveyed for them.

The 28 families, which have been protesting for more than two years for title deeds, finally decided on Sunday (November 7) to erect huts and settled down on the foothills. The officials of the Forest Department, Bodi Range, have threatened to remove the huts but the adivasis have asserted that the hutments were erected on revenue land which was supposed to be distributed to them under the Scheduled Tribes and other Traditional Forest Dwellers Recognition of Forest Rights Act (FRA) 2006. The Paliyars, originally a nomadic hunter-gatherer tribe found here, settled down a few decades ago. The adivasi families in Serakkadu work as “serfs” in the large mango plantations mostly for a meagre sum of Rs 100 and a maximum of Rs 1,000 and in most cases the payment is made in kind rather than cash and it includes 10 or 15 kg of ration rice.

R. Karuppayi (40), who has worked for long in the plantations, said on Tuesday, “In most cases we have to work as families but still we will be paid wages equivalent to that of an individual.” A few members still go into the forests to make use of the common property resources available for tribals, like honey, twigs and fruits. Whenever they demand more payment or come out with any grievance, the adivasis are threatened that they would be evicted. R. Paliyaraj said that the threat of eviction was an every day reality in their lives and there were times that almost all families were evicted more than once. The Paliyars here do not come under the ambit of citizenship as they have no proof. None among them has cast a vote till now and, after a long struggle, a few families have been given ration cards in the last 6 months. There is no one in the tribe who has crossed primary education.

All they claim is a piece of land, concrete houses, drinking water and a balwadi for the children. G. Dhanraj, tribal rights activist, who was instrumental in organising the Paliyars, said that even though there were numerous laws to ensure the rights of adivasis, the State was not interested in implementing them.

No place to bury the dead

The most disturbing thing about the Paliyars here is the fact that they have no place to bury the dead. For long they have been burying the dead in a place called “Kozhi Koodu” which is four km away from where they dwell. In the middle of a small mound there is a large cave and it is where they bury the dead.