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Tribals fight for space with lions

Relocation of villages from the command areas of national parks and sanctuaries received the first jolt with police opening fire at Kuno sanctuary in Sheopur district of MP to disperse about 1,000 villagers, report HT Correspondents. Uneven treatment.

india Updated: Aug 22, 2008 01:13 IST

Relocation of villages from the command areas of national parks and sanctuaries received the first jolt on Wednesday evening, when police had to open fire at Kuno sanctuary in Sheopur district of Madhya Pradesh to disperse about 1,000 villagers.

The agitators, belonging to the Shahariya tribe of 24 villages, tried to forcibly enter the reserve sanctuary. They alleged that the state government was dithering over the payment of compensation, which had already been sanctioned by the Centre.

The villagers were shifted out of the sanctuary command area to create a second home for the Asiatic lion. The Ministry of Environment had sanctioned Rs 4.71 crore for their rehabilitation.

District collector Shohbit Jain said: “The villagers had some issues over the compensation package and the quality of land they have got. We are trying to resolve the issues with them.”

The ministry sanctioned the compensation package in December 2007 to the Madhya Pradesh government. In January this year, the money was transferred to for distribution among the villagers. “The delay has been caused by the verification of claims,” Jain said.

All over the country, more than 10,000 villages will be relocated during the next five years to make way for national parks and wildlife sanctuaries under the Forest Rights Act. The process began on January 1, 2008.

Since Gir wildlife sanctuary in Gujarat is the only home for Asiatic lions, the Environment Ministry planned to relocate some lions to Kuno, a similar habitat. The idea is to protect the species from extinction.

But, since the Gujarat government opposed the move, saying Gir was safe for the lions, the ministry tracked down three healthy lions in Delhi, Hyderabad and Mumbai zoos for relocation.

After Ranthambore and Sariska, Kuno was the third major habitat to receive money for relocating villages.