Mrunal Manmay Dash

Baripada: Over a hundred families from Khejuri village under Jashipur block of Mayurbhanj district were relocated to Saleibeda village under Thakurmunda block under the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) rehabilitation programme.

As per the initiative, a temporary shelter has been constructed for the villagers at Saleibeda with provisions for supply of cooked food thrice-a-day for 90 days. The oustees will also be provided safe drinking water from bore wells and electricity from solar panels.

It’s worth mentioning here that the Wildlife (Protection) Act and guidelines of the National Tiger Conservation Authority state that the core area of a tiger reserve should be kept free from human habitations.

In view of the norms, families from various villages located in the core area and its adjoining areas have been shifted periodically. The villagers of Jenabil in the reserve forest were also shifted under the programme in 2010.

The NTCA had issued an order to the locals of Khejuri to vacate their houses and settle somewhere near the fringe of the reserve. However sources said that there are still 50 families left in Khejuri village who are yet to migrate to Saleibeda.

They allege that it’s a ploy of the government to kick them out of the reserve for the interest of some local dalals.

"We are permanent inhabitants of Khejuri and we will never leave our ancestral property to move outside because like a fish out of water, we will die if forced out of this forest," said Sama Sidhu, a protestor.

Ranger of Similipal National Park, Himanshu Kumar Satua however narrated all the perks of relocating from the Similipal Tiger Reserve.

“Every eligible family will get Rs 10 Lakh, 10 decimals of land and a Biju Pucca Ghar as compensation for leaving the forest. Each handicapped child will be considered as a separate family and be provided with a complete rehabilitation package.”

“Yes, there are some families who don’t want to move out. It could be politics or any other reason behind it, but I am sure, we will eventually succeed in translocating them,” added Satua.