Other States

Deadline set for rehab of Assam national park dwellers

Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal. File   | Photo Credit: PTI

Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal has asked the State’s Forest and Revenue departments to permanently rehabilitate the indigenous forest dwellers of the Dibru-Saikhowa National Park within January 31.

Rehabilitation of some 10,000 people of Laika and Dodhia villages has been hanging fire since 1999, when the Dibru-Saikhowa Wildlife Sanctuary was upgraded to a national park. The park, home to a few wild horses, had been in focus since May 27 when a blowout at an Oil India Limited gas well in the vicinity posed an ecological threat.

On Wednesday, Mr. Sonowal met leaders of the Takam Mising Porin Kebang (TMPK) and some representatives of the villagers who have been demanding proper rehabilitation since December 21. The affected people belong to the Mising community.

At least one member of some 1,480 families — the government figure is 1,455 — has been camping outside the office of the Deputy Commissioner of Tinsukia district, about 12 km from the park.

“We have been tasked with finding a logical and permanent solution to the problem of rehabilitation of the families residing in Laika and Dodhia for necessary action by January 31,” said Environment and Forest Minister Parimal Suklabaidya, who heads the 10-member committee that Mr. Sonowal constituted for the purpose.

Squatters not moving

“We hope the government keeps its promise on rehabilitation. But till the final solution is arrived at, the villagers camping in Tinsukia [district headquarters] have decided not to move from where they are,” local leader of the TMPK Ajay Doley told The Hindu.

One of the reasons was the death of a camper, a 50-year-old woman named Rebati Pegu, on Tuesday night. Three other women are in a serious condition with the local authorities not taking any initiative to provide medical care, the protesters said.

“A bone of contention has been the government’s move to shift the Dodhia residents to Lakhimpur district across the Brahmaputra while keeping the 572 families of Laika somewhere else in Tinsukia district,” Mr. Doley said.

According to the TMPK, the forest dwellers of the 425-sq. km. Dibru-Saikhowa National Park have been denied access to government schemes since 1986 though a notification that year allowed them to continue staying until their shifting to a suitable place.

The organisation said the villagers’ problems started when 765 sq. km. around their habitations was declared a biosphere reserve in 1997, limiting the access of the forest to the community. The hardship compounded in 1999 when the national park came into existence.

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Printable version | Mar 8, 2021 3:12:55 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/deadline-set-for-rehab-of-assam-national-park-dwellers/article33455521.ece

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