Relocation of tribespeople in limbo

Govt. agencies yet to find suitable land despite Centre disbursing compensation

The alleged apathy of the government agencies in finding suitable land for relocation has cast a shadow over the lives of tribal families inside the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary.

The Union Ministry of Environment, Forests, and Climate Change (MoEFCC) had credited ₹2.8 crore to the joint account of the beneficiaries, Tribal Development Officer, Sulthan Bathery, and Assistant Wildlife Warden of the sanctuary in January 2019 to relocate 28 tribal families belonging to Kattunayakka and Paniya tribespeople in Chettyalathur settlement under the voluntary village relocation project of the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA).

According to the guidelines of the scheme, a male above 18 years, irrespective of his marital status, unmarried female above 18 years, physically and mentally challenged persons irrespective of their age and sex, minor orphan, and widow or woman divorcee will be treated as separate families.

The eligible families were provided a compensation of ₹10 lakh each, irrespective of the nature or extent of the land they possessed. But the relocation is yet to be materialised owing to the alleged apathy of the officials, Biju Kakkathodu, secretary, Paniya Maha Sabha, said.

Earlier, nearly 12 families of Mullakuruma tribal families were relocated from the settlement under the scheme and each family was provided the compensation directly, Mr. Biju said. But some officials considered the Paniya and Kattunayakka tribespeople inefficient in purchasing land and that they might be exploited by middlemen.

The officials were acting as godfathers of the tribal communities, he said. Though the tribal beneficiaries had identified land outside the settlement, the officials were adopting a negative stance, he said. The Department of Tribal Welfare has constituted a purchasing committee to identify and purchase land for the tribespeople. A district-level monitoring committee has been set up for the purpose and the district collector is the chairman, and the warden of the sanctuary is the secretary. However, the committees had not been convened for the past many months, he said.

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