Government asked to file affidavit on rehabilitation of villagers living in Rajaji

dehradun Updated: Aug 18, 2017 20:02 IST
Nihi Sharma
Nihi Sharma
Hindustan Times
Uttarakhand,Rajaji Tiger Reserve,NGT

Continuous risk lurks on villagers living in the reserve where wild animals such as leopards and elephants roam around.(HT PHOTO)

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Friday directed Uttarakhand government to submit an affidavit on the status of rehabilitation of villagers residing inside Rajaji Tiger Reserve. The next hearing on the issue is scheduled on August 31.

Madan Singh Bisht, 45, a resident of Yamkeshwar block in Pauri district, had filed a petition in April 2016 seeking rehabilitation of more than 500 villagers living in Gohri range, a core area of the tiger reserve.

“The government is neither rehabilitating them (the villagers), nor providing basic facilities of road, water and electricity. They are living in absolute neglect,” Bisht told Hindustan Times. He also submitted pictures showing children passing through dense forest to reach their houses from school. “Continuous risk lurks on villagers living in the reserve, where wild animals such as leopards and elephants roam around,” he said.

Gaurav Kumar Bansal, counsel for the petitioner, said, “What’s saddening is the PCCF (principal chief conservator of forests) and director Rajaji submitted letters with contrasting statements. While PCCF said that the villagers are residing in dense forest and it’s appropriate to relocate them, director Rajaji said it’s a matter to be dealt with the government.”

According to the park management, the rehabilitation of forest dwellers has been done. But some Gujjars (10% of the total Gujjar population) are still living in the reserve. The reserve management claims that the villagers presently living in the reserve area are not forest dwellers and therefore it does not owe any claim to them.

“The villagers aren’t forest dwellers. They are in the revenue land which falls inside the reserve. The government are the authority to take a decision on this. Otherwise, National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) is already offering a hefty sum or land to the dwellers,” Sanatan Sonkar, director Rajaji told HT.

First Published: Aug 18, 2017 20:02 IST