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Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Osmania university students to join anti-Kawal tiger reserve fight

Raghu Paithari, TNN | May 1, 2012, 01.34AM IST ADILABAD: With several tribal groups raising a hue and cry against the decision to declare Kawal wildlife sanctuary as a tiger reserve, Telangana students, who have been in the forefront of the separate statehood movement, have now decided to take up cudgels against the move. Osmania University students' JAC along with the district unit of the Telangana Vidyarthi Vedika will conduct padayatras in the interior mandals to educate tribals, though the forest department has allayed the apprehensions of displacement of tribals. Students have started touring villages and conducting door-to-door campaign against the tiger reserve. Villagers of Udampur and Allampalli in Utnoor mandal passed unanimous resolutions against the tiger reserve, emboldened by the student stir. The Kawal tiger reserve will have a core area of 839 square km and buffer zone of 1,123 sq km. OU JAC chairman Jagan told TOI that gram sabhas or panchayats should be consulted as per the Panchayats Extension to Scheduled Areas ( PESA) Act, 1996, before acquiring land in the scheduled areas for any development project. "But the forest officials did not bother to consult a single village panchayat," he said. He found fault with the government and forest officials for going ahead with the tiger reserve plan without taking the opinion of the majority adivasis, who would be displaced because of the project. "Tribals would lose their legitimate right on the forest once they are evacuated from the forest limits," he observed. Vidyarthi Vedika district president Sayanna pooh-poohed the Rs 10 lakh compensation offered by the government for the evacuees. "The money dole would not change the lives of adivasis. Their life revolves around the forest and its produce," he explained. Tribals belonging to 42 habitations in Jannaram, Kadem, Khanapur, Indravelli and Utnoor mandals which will have to be evacuated for the proposed tiger reserve would lose their livelihood. "We are students of this region and would fight until the government withdraws its proposal," Sayanna warned. The dalit groups are also trying to mobilise the people of 42 habitations in the forest area and its surroundings against the decision. Hitesh Malhotra, principal chief conservator of forests, at a recent press conference in Hyderabad said that there was no proposal to evacuate or shift any village or habitation from the area. "There is no question of any forcible evacuation. People will be shifted only if the gram sabhas of those habitations pass a resolution expressing their willingness to move out," he had said. A senior forest official of Jannaram disputed the theory that the Kawal tiger reserve has only two tigers and not 7-8 wild cats. "Once the conditions and habitat in the tiger reserve are improved, the tigers will come back because they would feel safe in their habitat. Also, the corridor linking Kawal with Maharashtra forest will be secure," he added.

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