Several tribals living in the buffer zone of the Pench tiger reserve are migrating to nearby states following two years of crop failure and continuing drought spell.
There are 107 villages in the zone.
Talking to HT, many villagers revealed that their economic condition had weakened due weather vagaries and they had no option but to work as labourers in other states to feed their families. They revealed that they were migrating to Maharashtra with the help of contractors.
Devdas Parte, a Gond tribal from Ambadi village, just a few hundred metres from the core’s stone boundary, said that most people in their village and other surrounding villages were facing crisis as their crop failed due to lack of rain. “Contractors from Maharashtra come and we go with them. There we get some money. We work there for some months and then come back. Then we go again”, said
Another tribal, Tularam Kumar, whose son Ankush has gone to Nagpur to work as a labourer. “We are unable to grow crops that can feed us. There are wells in our fields, but authorities don’t provide us electricity as they fear it might lead to electrocution of the tigers who sometimes come out of the core”, he said.
The villagers revealed that they have no other option but to work as cheap labour in Maharashtra as the state government here hadn’t done anything for them. “Whether it is the state government or the forest officials, nobody bothers about us. Wild animals here get more attention, but nobody cares about us-whether we die or live,” said Satanand Najarlal Kakode, a villager.
Jagan Lal, another Gond tribal said, “At least these contractors from Maharashtra are coming here to provide us some work. Otherwise I don’t know what will have happened to us?”
Contractor Khalil Seik from Maharashtra’s Chandrapur district, said, “We hire these tribals as they work hard and are honest unlike the labourers in our state. They need work and we provide them work. I have been coming here for last two years.”
Sanjay Kumar Shukla, chief conservator of forests (CCF) Seoni district said the forest department had a limitation when it came to development in the buffer zone. “Our prime mandate is to look after the wildlife and forestry. We can involve locals in our initiatives, but beyond that we can’t do much. For development, there are other agencies and departments of the government”, he said.