Two years after reports of the disappearance of tigers from the Sariska Tiger Reserve, bringing into sharp focus the plight of India’s national animal and the serious poaching pressures it was under, the Rajasthan Forest Department has taken the first step forward in bringing the tigers back.
Following the recommendations of the Ministry of Environment and Forests which made a case for the translocation of tigers to Sariska, the Rajasthan Forest Department decided on voluntary relocation of 11 villages from the core areas in Sariska.
Out of these, four were to be relocated first on a priority basis. There are 17 more villages in the reserve.
Although voluntary relocation of the villages had been tried in Sariska in the seventies, it had not been successful due to various reasons.
This time however, the approach was more focussed and Bhagani village was selected to be the first of the four. An eco-development committee was set up in mid-2006 and by October 2006, every family had given its consent to move out to a better life outside Sariska.
Bhagani is a small settlement, in the Core Area 1 in Range Tehla in Sariska, consisting 21 families dependent on cattle rearing for livelihood. To help them adjust to a new life in Bardorh Rundh, agriculture trainings were organised for the villagers. According to the Field Director, PS Somashekar, more livelihood training programmes are being planned.
At an event organised to hand over bank drafts as compensation to the assenting villagers, SK Shrivastav, Chief Conservator of Forests, said while praising the villagers, “Animals are like young children who cannot express their feelings, but we understand that, and that is why we have this voluntary relocation programme.” He added that the move was infact a “Vikas Yatra” – a better future for the people.
Harikrishan, one of the villagers who will move base to the new settlement said, “It is a new lease of life for us as well as the tigers. Here we will have roads and access to other facilities that we did not have, living inside Sariska. Earlier on, we only reared cattle. Now we can till the land and produce food for our families as well as supply to the market. We are grateful for this opportunity and hope the other villages follow our footsteps.”
The Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) provided supplementary financial assistance to fill up the deficit brought about by cost escalation. At the function to hand over the bank drafts to 18 families who volunteered to relocate, Ashok Kumar, Vice-Chairman, WTI, said, “It is a small token, but a heartfelt one.”
The Government of India had approved a relocation package for each family. The amount however, had to be increased because of cost escalation.