Conflict deaths deepen rehabilitation divide among Nagarahole denizens

Conservationists point out that relocation of 300 families in Balle in Mysuru district and parts of Nagarahole in Kodagu district will open up forest land and space for animals.

Conservationists point out that relocation of 300 families in Balle in Mysuru district and parts of Nagarahole in Kodagu district will open up forest land and space for animals.   | Photo Credit: M.A. SRIRAM

Man-animal conflict, which has claimed two lives within a week around Nagarahole, has brought to the fore the prevailing divide among locals over the relocation and rehabilitation schemes of the government.

While some are prepared to relocate, others are not so eager. The government has a land-based rehabilitation programme for the original forest-dwelling communities such as Jenu Kurubas and Kadu Karubas in and around Nagarahole.

But apart from them, there are Scheduled Tribe community members, many of whose forefathers came from the Central Karnataka region and resettled here during the British Raj, more than 100 years ago.

“The forest land was leased out for an annual sum and this was called the ‘Ek Saali’ lease system. The tenants are even today known as Ek Saali lease-holders. They paid a lease amount ranging from ₹2 an acre in the 1900s to around ₹250 a year per acre in recent years,” said Kantharaj, former director of Nagarahole park.

Originally, 405 acres of forest land were distributed to 56 families under the Ek Saali lease contract system. But over the decades, forest land was encroached upon and converted to agricultural land. There are nearly 2,500 families subsisting on it and that is the root of the problem, Mr. Kantharaj said.

From the Forest Department’s perspective, only around 1,800 families are eligible for the rehabilitation programme in Nagarahole according to its “cut-off date”.

The project entailed allotment of 3 acres of land plus a house and cash component. Anyone over 18 years of age in the family will qualify for the cash component. But many of the Ek Saali tenants are unwilling to accept the package as the land component has been reduced to half an acre.

Land issues

Devishe Gowda of Hullumutlu village in the D.B. Kuppe range is keen on relocation, provided there is a land package. “I have sought the consent and signature of more than 240 families who are willing to relocate, but there are others who are opposed to it,” he said.

Taking a broad view of the situation, he said: “The conflict will only increase as the human population grows. We have elephants raiding our crops at night and tigers stalking us by day. Life cannot continue like this.”

This is a view echoed by Swami and Govinda, brothers of Chinnappa, who was killed in a tiger attack in Hullumutlu on Monday. But they, too, laid emphasis on the land package and rejected the cash-only component.

“We are farmers and know no other avocation. [We] are prepared to relocate only if we are allotted land for agricultural activities,” they said, demanding at least 5 acres a family. But unlike the forest-dwelling tribes, they are prepared to relocate to anywhere in H.D. Kote.

Conservationists have pointed out that relocation, if it is voluntary, of 300 families in Balle in Mysuru district and parts of Nagarahole in Kodagu district will open up forest land and space for animals, easing the situation to a large extent and reducing the man-animal conflict significantly.

Mr. Kantharaj said relocation and rehabilitation should be carried out en masse and within a time frame. Otherwise, there will be new migrants and the issue will never be resolved, he said.

Word of caution

But forest rights activist Sreekanth of Hunsur struck a note of caution and said conflict deaths were unfortunate but rare. Hence, people should be more cautious and watchful.

“One should bear in mind that there are nearly 25 hamlets along the 8-km stretch of the Kabini river bordering Kerala, and it acts as security to the forests. Relocating the villages will leave the forests open to encroachment, leaving wildlife susceptible to poaching,” he said.

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Printable version | Jun 6, 2020 4:57:09 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/conflict-deaths-deepen-rehabilitation-divide-among-nagarahole-denizens/article26164641.ece

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