Tigers the cat’s-paw in tribal eviction drive

Tigers the cat’s-paw in tribal eviction drive

V Gangadharan
First Published : 13 Nov 2009 03:43:00 AM IST
Last Updated : 13 Nov 2009 02:34:12 PM IST

KEEZHPUNACHI: With Keezhpunachi Moopan (village head) Arumugam moderating, villagers debate if they should accept the government’s offer of a golden handshake.

To quit or continue to be in the lap of nature amidst lush green landscapes, mighty hills and cascading waterfalls is the debate that is raging among tribals and other forest dwellers in this little hamlet tucked away in the slopes of the Western Ghats, seven kilometres from Attakatti on the highway to Valparai from Pollachi.

It is not only this tiny settlement of 40 Pulayar families, a Scheduled Caste community officially (villagers are offended if one doesn’t call them tribal), a lot of others in small villages nearby including Mavadappu, Karumutti and Vellimutti debate if they should go to the plains or not.

As all these high altitude villages fall under the Anamalai Tiger Reserve, a critical tiger habitat covering an area of over 120 sq km and home to about two dozen tigers, tigresses and 800 plant species, the government, as part of its tiger conservation efforts, want these families to be resettled elsewhere.

“We offer Rs.10 lakh to each family to relocate and would assist them to the hilt,” said R Sundararaju, Chief Wildlife Warden and Principal Chief Conservator of Forests. “But, the choice is theirs and we are trying to educate people on the importance of sufficient wild space for the big cats to breed,” he said, adding that the tigers had nowhere to go but to the forests. “At least humans have a choice.”



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