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When police are on the beat, Chenchus are on the run

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IN SEARCH OF A SAFE HAVEN: Chenchu tribals being driven out of forests have a hard time making ends meet. PHOTO: NAGARA GOPAL
IN SEARCH OF A SAFE HAVEN: Chenchu tribals being driven out of forests have a hard time making ends meet. PHOTO: NAGARA GOPAL

N. Rahul

NALLAMALA: As the police turn the heat on them while combing the deep forest here for naxalites, the primitive tribal group of Chenchus is on the lookout for safer habitations.

Thirty families of villages deep inside the forest have already taken shelter at Ganjivaripalli in Erragondapalem mandal of Prakasam district in the last four months. A similar request to relocate a Chenchu habitation has been pending with the authorities in Kurnool district.

The tribals who have shifted to Ganjivaripalli live in abject poverty, collecting forest produce such as gum and tubers. They were earlier living in Allattam, Burgundala and Alipalem villages that could be reached only by walking 30 to 35 km over hills and valleys.

Mandal Revenue Officer has identified one hundred acres for housing and 1,000 acres for agriculture to be handed over to them.

The story at Sadarampentagudem in Kothapalli mandal of Kurnool district, however, is different. It is over two years since 26 families of the village have petitioned the authorities to rehabilitate them elsewhere but their request has not been met so far.

A Chenchu forest guard Bhoomani Eedanna says they are willing to forgo the five acres that each family has cultivated in a notified area to move to a safe haven. They just do not want to incur the wrath of the police anymore, he says.

There are 120 villages within the Srisailam tiger sanctuary that are vulnerable to police raids. The population live without electricity, drinking water, houses and health care.

Tuberculosis is a common disease out here, according to K.N. Banerjee, Field Director, Project Tiger Reserve.

Though there are some Government schools on the fringes of the forest, the children have not studied beyond primary stage.


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