Forest dwellers and tribals living in critical tiger habitats or the core areas of tiger reserves may soon have to move out after losing their right to continue living there.
A letter from the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has asked for references from the field director of all the 50 tiger reserve, looking ahead to abolish right of the tribals and forest dwellers as ensured by the Wildlife Protection Act.
In the absence of guidelines for notification of Critical wildlife Habitats, no right shall be conferred in Critical Tiger Habitats which is duly notified under Section 38 V(4)(i) of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 under the Act cited under subject, says the NTCA letter dated March 28.
The step is aimed at better conservation of the tigers in India home to over 2,500 or about 70 per cent of the world tiger.
In 2016, at least 50 tigers and 127 leopards are said to have been poached highest in the last 10 years.
Based on scientific studies, the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 says that the core or critical tiger habitat areas of national parks and sanctuaries shall be kept as inviolate for tiger conservation However, this section also lays down that this should be done with out affecting the right" of the Scheduled Tribes or such other forest dwellers.
The Forest Rights Act (FRA), which defines the rights of the tribals, gives them options to either continue living in the core zone or move out voluntarily.
Under the voluntary shifting option, the forest dwellers are offered two package Rs. 10 lakh per adult of a family, or grant of equal land mostly situated in the forest revenue villages situated outside the reserve or national parks.
Experts, however, say the new NTCA proposal would give offer them only one choice accept one of the two packages and move out. So, the right of choice to contiune living would not be there.
Under FRA, tribals or the forest dwellers, whose families had been residing in the core region for at least 75 years, are entitled to claim the rights on land in their villages and on the minor forest resources.
The FRA is, however, subject to change in case dwelling continues in the Critical Wildlife Habitats and the same is now being applied to the Critical Tiger Habitats as well a forest official told IANS.
The total land under the tiger reserve is over 37,761 sq.km as per the official data. This is, however, only one per cent of the total land mass of india.