Funds didn’t come; villagers wouldn’t vacate forest land without seeing the money; compensation arrives late; villagers change their mind about moving; India tiger corridor in limbo.
Delay in release of funds by authorities has jeopardized efforts to relocate villagers from central Indian reserve forests, delaying work on the Ranthambore-Kailadevi-Mukundra tiger corridor.
“It is a paradox of sorts in the Ranthambore Tiger Reserve. Even as dozens of villages await relocation from the reserve, funds sent for the purpose by NTCA were sent back this year. The funds reached the state forest department only by December leaving very little time for it to convince villagers to move out.
“Under the scenario, the proposed tiger corridor of Ranthambore-Kailadevi-Mukundra needs a re-think. Ironically, while Mukundra is the first notified tiger reserve of the country without a tiger, Kailadevi Wildlife Sanctuary, a major part of Ranthambore Tiger Reserve (RTR) but separated by the Banas River, has so far had only stray movement of tigers (T-2 & T-20). On the other hand, RTR is facing the problem of plenty. But little can be done till the villages are totally re-located and adequate prey base is introduced in Kailadevi.
“The last relocation happened in March 2014. Bhid is totally re-located, Kathauli and Kalibhat are 90% re-located. The funds from NTCA (National Tiger Conservation Authority) came only in January 2015 leaving us with very little time to convince and relocate villagers. Moreover, since the last financial year these funds are no longer re-validated,” said Sudarshan Sharma, DFO Ranthambore. Initially, 65 villages were identified for priority relocation in the two corners, the Banas and the Sawai Man Singh Sanctuary sides but so far only eight villages have been shifted and even the first stage is not complete, he added.
“Since most of the families are pastoral, April to June is a crucial time for the forest authorities. “After monsoon, these families get involved in agricultural activities which last till the winter crop is harvested. But Mordungari village near a dam is a case in point. Here, 154 out of 157 families moved despite its fertile soil, ample water and enough grazing space for livestock. The relocation of Mordungari is an ideal example for others to follow,” added Sharma.
“For years now, officials have been wondering how to make the 4-km stretch between Ranthambore National Park (RNP) and Kailadevi Wildlife Sanctuary spread over 676.65 sq km a safe animal corridor so that tigers from the park can populate the sanctuary.
“The four km from Ghanteshwar, Garh Kho in Karauli gets maximum tiger movement. Four villages Dangrapathar (22 families), Sankara (70-80 families), Vishnathpura (60-70 families) and Bhimpura (2-3) are ready with their bags packed. But the delay is in releasing the money by the forest officials. There are 44 villages in Kailadevi but after the survey in 2009 only one of them moved leaving behind three families with 16 people,” said Shatrunjay Singh who works on conservation in the area.
“But the delay in sending funds by NTCA is expected to make relocation very difficult. Today, the ravine wilderness that connects RTR and Kailadevi is being flattened for agriculture by locals. Families have repopulated the ravines to manage their crop. “Besides, the compensation package today is the same as it was in 2008 and the villagers expect it to be revised. They are waiting for the land acquisition bill to be passed which will allow them to get a better price for their land,” said Sharma.”