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Habitat rights for Mankidia tribe in the offing

District administration official explaining the habitat rights to the semi-nomatic primitive tribals from the Mayurbhanj district.  

Mankidias, a semi-nomadic primitive tribal group (PTG), nestled in dense forests of Odisha’s Mayurbhanj district, may finally have a recognised habitat right.

The Mayurbhanj district administration has initiated a process to enable the tribe to file claim for habitat right in the Similapal Sanctuary area. If everything goes smoothly, Mankidias will become the first of 13 primitive tribes to get habitat rights under the Forest Rights Act.

“A process has already been initiated by the district administration to recognise habitat rights of Mankidias under the FRA. We are documenting life and livelihood of Mankidias and their access to forest for food and other daily needs,” Mayurbhanj District Collector Rajesh Pravakar Patil told The Hindu on Sunday.

“We have conducted detail deliberations with the community leaders of Mankidias residing in 14 villages in the district. Efforts are being made to get their claims approved through Gram Sabhas at the panchayat level,” informed Mr. Patil.

He added: “Our process of recognising habitat right will be definitely better than that of others. Documentation of life of Mankidias is being done in a very systematic manner. If everything goes smoothly, the small primitive tribal group will have habitat rights in their hand within next one to one and half month.”

The administration’s efforts are being hailed as refreshing. “It is often seen that the government departments play obstructionists’ role in recognising rights of forest dwellers under the FRA. After Independence the Mankidias have not been mainstreamed. Therefore the administration has come forward to help them file their claims,” said Y. Giri Rao, Director of Vasundhara, a Bhubaneswar-based advocacy group which has been involved in improving the FRA implementation in Odisha for years.

According to Mr. Rao, the claim of habitat rights will be passed by the Gram Sabhas villages inhabited the Mankidia tribals. Subsequently, the Sub-Divisional Level Committee will go through the habitat right claims and forward them to the DLCs.

The Mankidia habitats have distinct features such as rich forest, mountains and valleys. Most people live in isolated habitations. Despite various development initiatives taken by the government and the non-government organisations, the socio-economic condition of Mankidias has not improved much.

“The recognition of habitat rights in its true spirit is the key to development of these particularly vulnerable tribal groups. If the State is serious about the wellbeing of the development of PVTG, they must take this habitat rights recognition process seriously and may follow the model set by the Mayurbhanj district administration,” said Subrat Kumar Nayak, Bhubaneswar-based developmental expert.

The community members source their food from forests and are excellent hunters. Of late, they are struggling to make two ends meet due to restrictive forest regulations. The habitat right is expected to help alleviate their concerns to a great extent.

In 2010, the community had produced first matriculate when Baya Mankidia successfully cleared matriculation examination.

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Printable version | Oct 16, 2021 11:49:19 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/habitat-rights-for-mankidia-tribe-in-the-offing/article8487485.ece

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