Farmers and cattle owners apply for grazing permits and Forest Department gives permits after checking necessary documents.
(A grazing permit is given to poor persons who depend on cattle rearing under the TN Forest Rights Act.)
In Theni district, the permit is applied for a particular variety of native cattle called ‘malaimadu.’ Grazing permit in reserve forest assumes importance in the lives of many cattle rearers.
Cattle owners allege delay in grant of permits this year. “Over the years, the number of permits has been reduced and the process has become tough,” said T. Kannan, Theni district secretary, Tamil Nadu Farmers’ Association.
“No permit has been given in the Cumbum Gudalur ranges of the Meghamalai Wildlife Sanctuary in the last 12 years. The department has been attributing it to plantation projects. Saplings have to be protected and grazing has to be restricted but the trees could have grown up in the 12 years,” he said.
Gautham, District Forest Officer, Theni Division, said that grazing in these areas would spoil the very objective of plantation projects. “Apart from saplings getting grazed by cattle, afforestation and ecosystem would be hit. Tree sapling planting programmes, NABARD and Special area development schemes are undertaken every year. We collect data of these plantations and it will be published soon. Permits will be issued excluding these plantations thereafter.”
According to A. Suresh Kumar, district secretary, Colonel John Pennycuick Traditional Cattle Rearers Association, the number of ‘malaimadu’ has come down.
“In 1984, there were 1.5 lakh cattle but now there are hardly 15,000. The purpose of rearing ‘malaimadu’ is not for milk as they produce hardly 250 ml of milk a day but the manure is used in organic farming. These cattle do not consume artificial fodder but eat grass only. Shrinking grazing grounds will result in extinction of the breed and affect agriculture.”
“The department gave 3250 permits in 2016. It came down by 250 every year. Last year, 2750 permits were given. We do not know how many permits will be given this year. Eight years ago, a meeting was held under RDO and permits were given for grazing in the foothills of Chinnamanur range; it is stopped this year,” he said.
Wildlife Warden of Meghamalai Wildlife Sanctuary, Sachin Bhosle, said that permits were being misused. So the process is streamlined. “A permit is meant for a single cattle but people sneak in hundreds of cattle. Instead of poor individual farmers, permits are got by those who own 200 or 300 cattle. So, fodder for wild herbivores inside the forest becomes scarce. Indian Gaurs have been dying of starvation due to lack of food and water inside the forest. Lack of rain and encroachment has shrunk their living space. The stress on forest is more so that the number of permits is being reduced gradually. Further, a change has been brought about in the application process including an insurance that has been made mandatory,” he said.