Tiger versus human conflict has brought two central government ministries in a confrontation mode.
The tribal affairs ministry has rejected the environment ministry's decision to declare 800 to 1,200 square km of wildlife areas in 41 tiger reserves as inviolate (free from any interference) for the big cat without settling the rights of locals.
The environment ministry had provided for this inviolate space as a mandatory condition to regulate tourism in tiger reserves. The rules were notified despite a dissent note of the two members of the rules drafting committee on the ground that it did not violate the “spirit” of the Forest Rights Act.
Tribal Affairs minister V Kishore Chandra Deo thinks differently.
“The inviolate space for wildlife should be determined on a case-to-case basis
taking into account local factors envisaged in the Forest Rights Act, instead of having a universal criterion of 800-1,200 sq kms,” Deo said in a letter to environment minister Jayanthi Natarajan.
Deo's fear is that through declaration of a universal inviolate area, the National
Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) aims to bring buffer areas within the ambit of inviolate areas, thereby resulting curtailment of rights of local communities.
The minister has asked Natarajan to revise the guidelines to state that relocation of villages will only take place in criticial wildlife habitats and on voluntary basis after settlement of rights.
He also wants the relocation package of R10 lakh per family without any rehabilitation process for villagers inside core areas to be scrapped because poor forest dwellers can be coerced to accept this “dangerous” option.
In his view, the package should include both money and adequate relocation.