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Mizoram's Dampa tiger reserve to evict 227 tribal families
The expansion of the area of Dampa Tiger Reserve in Mizoram's Mamit district is going to evict 227 tribal families of Andermanik village. For the last one year, the villagers have been denied permission to cultivate Jhums (Shifting cultivation).
THE EXTENSION of Dampa Tiger Reserve in Mamit district in western belt of Mizoram is going to displace as many as 227 tribal families – all belonging to Chakma community from Andermanik village. All these are poor people without livelihood, except for Jhum cultivation upon which the forest officials have imposed restrictions. For the past one year, there has been no cultivation due to fear of the long hand of the law.

 
Incidentally, these villagers or their ancestors had been evicted once from the Dampa Tiger Reserve area in 1989 and resettled by the state government outside the DTR area in the present Andermanik village. However, all in the name of tiger protection, the forest department is all set to evict them once again.

 
As per the “Revised Guidelines for the Ongoing Centrally Sponsored Scheme of Project Tiger” (February 2008) of the Ministry of Environment & Forests, Government of India, the Andermanik villagers have been offered two options: Option I – Take the entire package amount (Rs. 10 lakhs per family) and the Forest Department will not be involved in any rehabilitation / relocation process . Option II – The Forest Department will carry out relocation / rehabilitation of village from the tiger reserve.

 
The money being offered is lucrative – Rs 10 lakhs per family, that is a total of Rs 22,70,00,000 (Twenty Two Crores Seventy Lakhs) for the entire village. But thanks to the absolute lack of transparency and secretive attitudes of the officials, the villagers have been divided into supporters of Option I and Option II.

 
If the villagers opt for Option I, they take Rs 10 lakh per family but need to find their own homes – somewhere, somehow (so says the Guideline as per the interpretation of the officials). The officials also interpreted to them that their Village Council would be dissolved (Andermanik is a full-fledged Village Council/Court). The villagers are strongly opposed to the dissolution of their Village Council.

 
In case of option II, the following package is proposed, at the rate of Rs. 10 lakhs per family:
Agriculture land procurement (2 hectare) and development – 35% of the total package; Settlement of rights – 30%, Homestead land and house construction – 20%, Incentive – 5%, and Community facilities – 10% The District Commissioner of Mamit has allegedly told the village leaders in no uncertain terms that each family would be getting not more than Rs 2 lakhs if they opt for Option II. The rest (i.e. Rs 8 lakh from each family) would be used by the state government to provide land title, develop their lands, and create infrastructure in the new village site. The villagers feel they are being cheated.

 
The villagers have been completely kept in the dark about the land acquisition and relocation/rehabilitation. This displacement process absolutely lacks transparency; so much so that the villagers do not know about the fate of government servants such as teachers! The teachers fear that they may lose their jobs after relocation.
 
The local MLA and Deputy Speaker, John Rotluangliana has promised the Andermanik villagers a new life in a “model village”. But few are ready to buy his assurance. How can they forget so soon that in 1989 eviction they had received only Rs 5000 or so out of the promised Rs 1 lakh per family? No one knows where the money had gone. The politicians had promised everything. But even today the Andermanik village has no road connectivity and no health care centre. The villagers have to track hostile terrains to have access to PDS food grain or medicine from the nearest shop at Rajiv Nagar which is 18 km away!

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