Environment minister Jayanthi Natarajan may be pitted against tribal affairs minister Kishore Chandra Deo over her ministry’s decision to divert Rs. 1,000 crore from funds for maintaining forest cover for relocation of people from tiger reserves.
Natarajan approved the proposal of the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) to provide money from the Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) to relocate people living inside tiger reserves and other protected areas.
The NTCA has sought Rs. 1,000 crore from CAMPA for the relocation which had slowed down because of paucity of funds. The ministry had got R660 crore in the 11th five year plan (2007-12) for project tiger including money for relocation.
Around 1,78,000 families live inside protected areas including tiger reserves and are considered a threat to wildlife because of increasing man-animal conflict. The ministry’s latest data shows that 652 people were killed and around 17,000 injured in attacks by wild animals between 2002 and 2012. In retaliation, around 100 ferocious animals were also killed during the period.
The tribal right activists have, however, raised a pitch against the ministry’s move saying the money meant for relocation was being used to forcefully throw out people from forests without recording their rights, a must condition under the Forest Rights Act.
“Such relocation cannot take place until there are detailed guidelines for co-existence in protected areas,” said a senior tribal affairs ministry official, raising a pitch against the environment ministry’s latest move.
Government officials said Deo would be raising the issue with Natarajan on the ground that voluntary relocation of people from tiger reserves cannot take place until their rights defined under the Forest Rights Act are settled.
Moreover, the minister is also of the view that forest departments were forcing people out in violation of the mandatory provisions and terming them as voluntary relocation.