Delay in the completion of rehabilitation process of forest dwellers by Forest and Revenue authorities in Mudumalai Tiger Reserve may have resulted in the death of a 27-year-old man last week.

On Saturday last, around 6.30 p.m., Radhakrishna Velayudham was returning to his house in Nambikunnu village inside the MTR. In the dark, an elephant appeared suddenly and attempts by the youth to run away proved futile and he was trampled to death. If only a relocation and rehabilitation plan was in place, he and his community may have been living in safer environs.

Naturalists say that at present 30 settlements are there in the MTR. The Mountadan and Wayanadan Chetty were the two non-tribal forest dwelling communities who were struggling for their relocation outside the reserve for nearly four decades.

In 2010, a total of 449 families submitted application with the Forest Department for relocation. Of the total, only 19 families were selected by the department who received a one-time cash compensation of Rs 10 lakh each and they moved out of the forest. One application was rejected.

Naturalists pointed out that due to some reasons, 429 applications of forest dwellers submitted to the Forest Department in 2010 were rejected. Following this, they submitted fresh applications in 2012 and the field verification process for the applicants were completed in March this year. Beyond this the work has not progressed.

Mountadan and Wayanadan Chettys were the lone group of forest dwellers who demanded their relocation from a tiger reserve in the country, they said.

When contacted, the Forest Department sources said the village settlements were spread over three regions. The Revenue Department authorities completed verification in two regions. In the third region, the work remained incomplete. A senior Forest official said lack of adequate manpower in the Revenue Department led to the delay in the completion of verification procdded.

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