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Mahouts may boycott Dasara; deadline set for fulfilling tribal people's demands

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UNLIKELY THIS TIME? A file photo of caparisoned elephants that take part in the Dasara festivities in Mysore.
UNLIKELY THIS TIME? A file photo of caparisoned elephants that take part in the Dasara festivities in Mysore.

Special Correspondent

Authorities in piquant situation as `Gajapayana' ceremony is nearing

  • Resettlement package for Nagapura not implemented in a transparent manner
  • Only three acres of land given to each family under the resettlement scheme
  • 170 posts of teacher are vacant in schools meant for tribal children

    MYSORE: Tribal people of Nagarahole and mahouts are thinking of boycotting the Dasara festivities which will remain incomplete without the participation of caparisoned elephants that carry the golden howdah.

    The tribal people and the elephants have been a part of the festivities for long. The mahouts are from the forest dwelling community whose services are being used year after year at the festivities.

    Reason for displeasure

    However, the tribal people living near the Nagarahole National Park have a reason to complain as the resettlement package proposed at Nagapura has not been implemented in a transparent manner.

    While the illuminated Mysore Palace comes alive in resplendent glory, the life of the tribal people is engulfed in darkness. Hence, it is said, the move to boycott Dasara this year.

    The tribal people are supported, among others, by Nagarahole Girijanara Punarvasati Kendra and Bharateeya Girijana Shikshana Samsthe. These organisations are seeking improvement in the living conditions of the tribal people.

    Mahouts have threatened to boycott the proceedings in the past but have been placated each time with assurances.

    Of different nature

    But this year the threat has assumed a different dimension as it is the larger tribal community to which the mahouts belong that is thinking of boycotting the festivities. And given the close ties among the tribal people, even the mahouts employed by the Forest Department may find it difficult to go against such a decision.

    Demands

    The demands placed by the tribal community do not revolve around issues pertaining to increase in the ration, free pass to their family members to view the Dasara procession, etc.

    For, they are demanding a long-term rehabilitation package and an all-round development of their living conditions that have remained unchanged for centuries.

    `Gajapayana'

    These demands were put forward at a press conference here on Sunday. M.B. Prabhu of the Bharateeya Girijana Shikshana Samsthe said the mahouts would not allow the customary "Gajapayana" scheduled to be held on August 18.

    ("Gajapayana" is the ceremonial event that signals the countdown to Dasara with the elephants from the jungle camps in Nagarahole going to the palace.)

    They have set August 15 as the deadline for the Government to consider their demands. Mr. Prabhu claimed that the mahouts were given irregular wages.

    Their services had not been regularised, he said.

    Mr. Prabhu said 170 posts of teacher were vacant in schools meant for tribal children.

    They lacked quality health care and the Government had cheated them by allocating only three acres of land to each family under the Nagapura Resettlement Scheme whereas it had promised five acres of land per family, he said.

    It was pointed out that the plight of the mahouts was pitiable.

    There were 35 mahouts. Their kavadis (helpers) at the Kalahalla Elephant Camp did not even get two meals a day.

    The authorities are in a piquant situation as the day for "Gajapayana" is nearing.

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