Tribal families reluctant to relocate despite natural calamity threat

Any forcible relocation would not be a practical solution, say officials

August 03, 2022 07:09 pm | Updated 07:09 pm IST - Kozhikode

A group of tribespeople, along with their guard dog, from Muthappanpuzha hamlet in Kozhikode returning home after a day’s work on Tuesday.

A group of tribespeople, along with their guard dog, from Muthappanpuzha hamlet in Kozhikode returning home after a day’s work on Tuesday. | Photo Credit: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT  

Resistance on the part of some tribal families, in the interior areas of Kozhikode, to relocate to safer locations in the wake of the continuing threat of landslips and flash floods, has put the local administrators and rescue volunteers in a tight spot. Even after repeated warning, the majority are disinclined to accept the temporary relief offers.

“There are many tribal hamlets in Nadapuram, Koduvally, and Thiruvambadi where the tribespeople seemingly risk their lives. When the authorities adopt all possible measures to mitigate the crisis, they try to face the challenge that often creates a conflicting situation,” said T. Rafeeque, a local rescue volunteer. He feels that there should be better initiatives to convince the tribespeople about the situation and safety hazards.

Local rescue volunteers point out that there are about 40 tribal families at Muthappanpuzha alone where flash floods can cause a huge damage. “Three years ago, many families were in a situation to run for their lives following a dangerous flash flood and mudslide. The water level in Marippuzha river had also gone up to a risky level,” they said.

At a colony in Vendekkampoyil under Kodenchery panchayat, about 28 tribal families are yet to cooperate with any of the major rehabilitation plans proposed by the local administrators. Though they have been given multiple options for resettlement, the families are yet to consider it.

“We came up with the project after noticing their struggle during the rain-related calamities in 2018. Though they were given many suitable options, they were not interested,” said Alax Thomas, president, Kodenchery panchayat. He said the experience was almost the same for the heads of other local bodies as well.

Officials with the Department for Welfare of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes said any forcible relocation plan would not be a practical solution for the tribespeople who were very attached to their own land. “What we strive to do is to improve their safety feeling and facilities at the existing spots with all possible options apart from creating awareness about the natural risks,” they added.

Though studies were conducted multiple times about the issues being faced by the tribal communities in colonies like Pathippara, Chembukadavu, Chipplithode, Mele Ponnamkayam, Muthappanpuzha, Kuruvakkandi, Nooranthodu, and Odappoyil, a proper relocation plan was absent. In Kozhikode, the Paniyas were the majority who wanted relocation support. The Kattunayakan community was also there in settlements like Chipplithode and Muthappanpuzha.

A former Tribal Extension Officer said the low number of tribal casualties in natural calamities was the only reason that prevented the authorities from venturing into any forcible relocation attempt. He also observed that the majority of tribespeople were found successfully managing the adverse situations by themselves on many occasions unlike their well-settled counterparts.

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