Tamil Nadu

Jawadhu tribals continue to tread dangerous path


20 woodcutters from T.N. were gunned down in Andhra Pradesh In 2015

Tribal men of Jawadhu Hills continue to leave their homes to cut red sanders in Andhra Pradesh. Despite knowing the dangers involved, the men, particularly youngsters, tread the risky road. While police say they choose to go for the huge money it pays, activists are of the view that this is the outcome of a deep-rooted problem, and are calling upon the State government to address the core issue. Friday’s early morning arrest of 84 Tamil Nadu men in AP has added to the huge population of Jawadhu tribals engaged in the felling of red sander trees. As many as 42 of the arrested persons were from Vellore district, and an equal number from Tiruvannamalai district. In fact, the group also included a 21-year-old studying M.Com and a 23-year-old post graduate.

Neither the alleged encounter on April 7, 2015, in which 20 T.N. woodcutters were gunned down in the Seshachalam forest, nor the scores of arrests, have stopped the tribal men engaging in the illegal activity. A senior police official in Tiruvannamalai says that despite being aware of the dangers involved, the tribals continue to go as it fetches them huge money. “The agents offer them plenty of cash for a week’s job. This is a big network. There are several involved in between the agents and the buyers. The tribals are coolies” he says.

The Police department, in a bid to prevent them, has been creating awareness in villages, and conducting frequent raids.

‘Deep-rooted problem’

“Our informants are geared up, and we collect intelligence. We have also taken up rehabilitation measures along with the revenue department,” he says.

But despite creating awareness, the flow of men has not stopped. R. Ponni, Superintendent of Police, Tiruvannamalai, says, “The district Collector and I have decided to go and meet these 42 men from Jawadhu Hills. We will ask them directly how their quality of life can be improved, what they wanted and what problems they faced.”

As C.R. Bijoy of Campaign for Survival and Dignity, a national coalition of forest-dweller organisations, observes, “Unfortunately, despite previous incidents, tribals continue to go to fell trees in AP forests. This is a deep-rooted problem that does not lie in AP or with the AP government or AP forest department. We should look at what causes these people to move to AP forests to take the risks.”

“It is ridiculous to say that people are enticed by money.The problem lies with the Tamil Nadu government. Until, the tribals are provided with better living and better opportunities, this will continue. For people in hill areas, forest resources and land are primary means of livelihood.”

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Printable version | Jan 30, 2020 12:24:37 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/jawadhu-tribals-continue-to-tread-dangerous-path/article22912933.ece

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