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Red tape boosts TN man-animal conflict

The Pioneer, New Delhi, 3rd September, 2014 A major initiative by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (previously known as Project Tiger) to eliminate man-animal conflict and save hundreds of human lives as well as wildlife is coming to a naught in Tamil Nadu due to apathy and callousness of a section of junior level officials in the departments of forest and revenue. More than 400 families (all belonging to backward and most backward communities) in Muthumala Tiger Reserve in the Nilgiris who are willing to relocate to another location where they can engage in safe farming operations are left to toil in the forest interiors because of the indifferent attitude of these officials, according to environmentalists and ecologists. “The NTCA scheme envisages that each family willing to relocate to a place far away from the Tiger Reserve should be paid Rs10 lakh with which they will be able to begin a new life. We have identified the families, the location to which they have to be shifted and even the agricultural land which has to be allocated to them. But nothing is moving because of red tape and intransigence of lower level officials,” said S Jayachandran, convener, Tamil Nadu Green Movement, a wildlife conservation agency. According to Jayachandran and a couple of residents in the MTR with whom The Pioneer communicated, crops worth millions of rupees are destroyed by elephants and other wild animals every year. “Many people have been trampled by wild elephants and many have been mauled by tigers. We do not have medical facilities and the children are devoid of education because of absence of schools,” said Amla Natarajan, an activist of the Wildlife Conservation Society. Though all the residents from the MTR are willing to be relocated there is total peace in the region. But the officials, especially, the junior level staff play spoilsport. “The people in MTR had been pleading with the government since the 1970s to relocate them to another place. Nothing happened and they were forced to approach the Madras High Court in 1998. The court asked the authorities in 2007 to provide those willing to relocate twice the quantity of land which they were holding in the MTR,” said Natarajan. With the tiger population in the MTR showing an increase in the last decade life has become difficult for the inhabitants in the reserve. “The government, at the highest level has identified 750 acres for distribution among these families. But reasons not known to anybody other than the seasoned lower and middle level officials , nothing has happened,” said Jayachandran. As a result of this indifference hundreds of dwellers in the MTR continue to be the victims of wild life attacks as a result of man-animal conflict,” said Jayachandran.Persistent efforts by ecologists and wild life activists has led to the relocation of an entire village Thengumarahada Panchayath from the MTR to a location at Gudalore, far away from the forest. The village which has 350 families will hereafter be served by a hospital, school and other basic facilities which were hitherto alien to them.