Petition against Jarawa tourism in the Andamans

Despite the 2002 Supreme Court ruling, there is no stopping the hordes of tourists who want to travel through the road, a part of the Jarawa Reserve

Updated - November 28, 2021 09:08 pm IST

Published - July 17, 2014 05:53 pm IST - NEW DELHI:

A stretch of the Andaman Trunk Road, cutting through the Jarawa tribal reserve. File photo: R. Ravindran

A stretch of the Andaman Trunk Road, cutting through the Jarawa tribal reserve. File photo: R. Ravindran

Snaking queues of vehicles on the Andaman Grand Trunk Road has prompted a furious petition by Survival International which has managed to get over 7000 signatures so far against Jarawa tourism.

In 2002, the Supreme Court had ordered that the road should be closed, yet as Survival International, a global movement which works for tribal rights, points out there is no stopping the hordes of tourists who want to travel through the road, a part of the Jarawa Reserve, to spot the fast dwindling tribe. A recent statement by the Bharatiya Janata Party MP from the Andaman Islands, Bishnu Pada Ray has added to fears that the road could be widened for tourism.

Sophie Grig, Senior Campaigner at Survival International said, "Over 7,000 people have already joined Survival's petition and pledged not to visit the Andaman Islands over their outrage at the >degrading 'human safaris' to the Jarawa tribe. Yet, MP Bishnu Pada Ray has now announced a major investment in the road through the tribe's reserve which has been condemned by the United Nations and many others concerned with the welfare of the Jarawa. Why is the Indian government investing in this road when the alternative sea route would provide a faster, cheaper and more comfortable means of transport? It's time to let the Jarawa live in peace in their forest without the daily intrusion of hundreds of vehicles through their land."

Survival International also condemned plans for a major building project on an illegal road notorious for its “human safaris”. "The alternative sea route would enable people to travel north or south in the islands without invading the Jarawa's reserve. But the plans for its implementation are moving forward at a snails pace and are being stalled at every stage. It appears there is no political will to push it through. Every day of delay means hundreds more tourists travelling through the Jarawa's forest, ogling at them like animals in a safari park. Instead of protecting the rights of his most vulnerable constituents, the local MP is pushing crowd-pleasing policies such as widening the road and mainstreaming, which would be disastrous for the Jarawa," Ms. Grig said.

Mr. Ray reportedly announced the widening of the Andaman Trunk Road and the construction of two new road bridges. The proposal to have an alternative sea route which was cheaper and faster seems to be all but shelved for want of boats.

While the United Nations and the Supreme Court have called for closing the road, tourists still travel through it to gape at the Jarawa who have become a safari attraction of sorts. Mr. Ray during his election campaign had promised the road widening and also to bring the Jarawa into the mainstream and remove the buffer zone around their reserve.

The Great Andamanese, the Jarawa’s neighbours, were decimated following forced settlement and only 53 survive, according to Survival. There has been great concern in India and abroad about the tribes in the Andaman Islands and some years ago the Jarawa fell prey to disease and many were in hospital.

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