By Adithya Kumar and Aihik Sur
Monetary compensation and plots were awarded to the villagers of Navargaon inside Bor Wildlife Sanctuary which was declared a tiger reserve in 2014 who were rehabilitated to Khadki on the Nagpur-Wardha Highway. But life is not the same for them.
As per the proposal submitted by the Office of the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Nagpur to the Secretary of the Revenue and Forests Department in Mumbai, the shift was proposed to reduce the deleterious effects of the people and their cattle on the fauna present in the sanctuary.
The wildlife sanctuary which is around 138 sq.kilometres is home to tigers, leopards and bears. The herbivores include sambar deer, the Indian bison and barking deer.
The shift would free around 223.28 hectares of cultivable land and 373.90 hectares of non-cultivable land for wildlife. Twenty hectares of land in Khadki was made available for the villagers as a part of the compensation for moving them.
The new location where the villagers were rehabilitated, Khadki does not have proper electricity or amenities. The site is just open land along the highway where the rehabilitated people live in temporary structures.
According to Govind Luche, Range Forest Officer, plots of land measuring 1500 sq.ft each were allotted to villagers and each family was also given a compensation of Rs 10 lakh.
The villagers have to build their houses on the empty plots given to them at Khadki. Roads, electricity and water connections are yet to be given.
The villagers say that out of the Rs 10 lakhs that was supposed to be given, they have received only Rs 1 lakh in hand and Rs 5 lakhs was put in a fixed deposit account. Out of the remaining Rs 4 lakhs, the government has taken Rs 1.5 lakhs for developing power, roads, water facilities in the new village – an arrangement which the villagers were initially unaware of and only got to know of when they started moving to the new location.
According to Sahibrao Uike, the keeper of records in the village, “They said that if you don’t pay you won’t get water or electricity on time.”
The villagers are still yet to receive the remaining Rs. 2.5 lakhs and the plots provided to them are even smaller than the ones they originally had.
Dattu Nihare, the contractor at Khadki, say 200 houses are to be built there.
“The government asked them to leave Navargaon; left with no choice they left,” he says.
Navargaon was a close knit community of tribals and when faced with this situation, everyone left after one family agreed to leave.
There are three big tanks around the makeshift village. In case these tanks dry up, the villagers need to go 2 kilometres away where the nearest borewell is.
The villagers say they will take up cotton farming again, while some have gone to nearby Wardha and Seloo to live in rented homes until their houses are built.