Commentary and Analysis Issue-01 July to September 2010 Index Page
Full version of the report

Forced Eviction from The Dampa Tiger Reserve In Mizoram



The indigenous Chakma tribals of the Andermanik village situated on the India-Bangladesh border in Mamit district of Mizoram are facing forced eviction for extension of the Dampa Tiger Reserve.

After receiving complaints about the proposed forcible eviction, Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) decided to undertake a field visit considering that their displacement will not get necessary attention because of the comparatively less number of families (227 families) to be displaced and remoteness of the area.

ACHR researcher visited the areas from 4 to 12 September 2010. ACHR researcher also met a number of political leaders, social activists and villagers from Andermanik village who were camping in Aizawl to lobby with the State government officials for adequate compensation and rehabilitation of the villagers.

Subsequently, further information was provided to ACHR by the villagers.

ACHR’s findings

a. Backwardness of the village

Andermanik is a full-fledged Village Council having a total of 227 families – all belonging to Chakma minority community. The total population is around 1200.

The village was established by the families who were earlier evicted from the Dampa Wildlife Sanctuary (now tiger reserve) in 1989. At that time, the government promised to provide all the facilities to the Andarmanik village. But there is no semblance of development. The village has no road connectivity or a health care centre. To access food grains under the Public Distribution System or medicine or education beyond primary level the villagers have to travel 18 kilometers to reach Rajiv Nagar, the nearest village where these facilities are available. The Mizoram State Transport department also runs daily bus service between capital Aizawl and Rajiv Nagar and vice versa.

b. The proposal of relocation

On 18 August 2010, N R Pradhan, Field Director of Dampa Tiger Reserve submitted his “field survey report” to the Deputy Commissioner of Mamit district recommending the relocation of Andermanik village to a new resettlement village called “Sata Lui” near Rajiv Nagar village in Mamit district. In his report to the Deputy Commissioner, Mamit, the Field Director of Dampa Tiger Reserve stated that Sata Lui site was chosen as (i) Rajiv Nagar is very near and have access all facilities i.e. shops, school, PHC etc; (ii) the site can be approach by country boat or bamboo raft through Tuilianpui river system; (iii) forest blank land available for jhumming or agricultural purposes; and (iv) villagers of Andermanik showing willingness to go in this new site”

The Local Administration Department of Mizoram vide letter No. B-14016/25/07-LAD/VC, dated 28th September 2010 issued notification for eviction of the Andermanik villagers. It stated that “relocation of Andermanik villagers is within the purview of LAD” and requested the Secretary/PCCF, Environment and Forest Department, Mizoram that relocation of the villagers be “arranged quickly so as to enable them to continue their occupation of Jhum Cultivation for the next year at the new place.” 

On 1 October 2010, the notification of the proposed Andermanik Resettlement area was published in the Mizoram Gazette.

c. The relocation package: Lack of transparency and divided opinions of the villagers

The villagers of Andermanik were given two options as per the “Revised Guidelines for the Ongoing Centrally Sponsored Scheme of Project Tiger” (February 2008) of the Ministry of Environment & Forests, Government of India.

As per Section 4.9 of the Revised Guidelines, the two options given are:
Option I – Payment of the entire package amount (Rs. 10 lakhs per family) to the family in case the family opts so, without involving any rehabilitation / relocation process by the Forest Department.
Option II – Carrying out relocation / rehabilitation of village from protected area / tiger reserve by the Forest Department.

In case of option I, a monitoring process involving the District Magistrate/Deputy Commissioner of the concerned district would be ensured so that the villagers rehabilitate themselves with the package money provided to them. In this regard, a considerable portion of the amount may be deposited in the name of the beneficiary in a nationalized bank for obtaining income through interest generated. [Section 4/9(i)]

In case of option II, the following package is proposed, at the rate of Rs. 10 lakhs per family [Section 4.9 (ii)]:

(a)

Agriculture land procurement (2 hectare) and development

35% of the total package

(b)

Settlement of rights

30% of the total package

(c)

Homestead land and house construction

20% of the total package

(d)

Incentive

5% of the total package

(e)

Community facilities commuted by the family (access road, irrigation, drinking water, sanitation, electricity, tele-communication, community center, religious places of worship, burial/cremation ground)

10% of the total package

                   
The villagers of Andermanik find either of these two Options not satisfactory. Hence, they have been divided into two groups: supporters of Option I and supporters of Option II. 

Much of the problem is due to lack of transparency about the acquisition of their land and the relocation process. The secrecy is to such an extent that the villagers even do not know whether the present jobs like government teachers will stay or not after relocation.

The supporters of Option I claimed that the Deputy Commissioner of Mamit has told the village leaders that only Rs 2 lakhs (i.e. 20% of the total amount for house construction) would be provided to each family if they opt Option II and the rest amount i.e. Rs 8 lakhs per family would be utilized by the government to buy land and bring infrastructure development and facilities like schools, water, electricity, roads etc.

The supporters of Option II claimed that if they opt for Option I, they won’t be resettled by the government which means that the villagers would be scattered and the Andermanik Village Council will be dissolved. The majority of the villagers are strongly opposed to dissolution of their Village Council.

The two groups have submitted memorandums to the authorities putting forward their own demands.

However, during interaction with the ACHR researcher and subsequent communications, both the groups (i.e. supporters of Option I and Option II) agreed to accept Option II provided that each family is provided Rs 5 lakhs in cash instead of Rs 2 lakhs as being proposed.

The officials including the Deputy Commissioner of Mamit allegedly told the village leaders that their demand for Rs 5 lakh cash is not possible as this has not been provided in the Guidelines issued by the Ministry of Environment and Forests. The concerned authorities in Mizoram have reportedly expressed helplessness as it is a Central government guidelines, not of the state government of Mizoram and hence, cannot be modified to accommodate the demands of the villagers.

But what the officials including the Deputy Commissioner of Mamit and the Field Director, Dampa Tiger Reserve, have failed to inform the villagers of Andermanik is about Section 4.9 (iv) of the Revised Guidelines which provides that “The above cost norms are indicative in nature to facilitate flexibility for State/site specific situation, and may be modified to allow inter component as well as inter family adjustments by respective State Governments as per site specific requirements.

This clearly means that the cost norms are not rigid but can be suitably modified as necessary considering the state specific situations. For example, unlike in mainland India, forest land is easily available in Mizoram and hence a major share of the money earmarked for procurement
of 2 hectare of Agriculture land per family (35% of Rs 10 lakh) and for settlement of rights (30% of Rs 10 lakh) can be easily given to each family so that the villagers become financially stable which will help them to further rebuild their lives in the new village. But
presently, the state government of Mizoram is reluctant to this idea.

Further Section 4.9 (xi) of the Revised Guidelines states that “In case the cost of relocation including settlement of rights per family exceeds Rs. 10 lakhs, the State Government has to meet the extra cost.” The state government of Mizoram can bear additional expenses if the cost of relocation exceeds Rs 10 lakhs per family.

d. Unofficial ban on jhum cultivation

The villagers of Andermanik are leading a very hard life. For the last one year, there has been an unofficial ban on jhum cultivation, which is the only means of livelihood for almost all the families in the village. The ACHR researcher has been informed that early this year the forest officials persuaded the villagers against cultivation of Jhums although the villagers had already cleared the forest land for jhumming purpose. The villagers finally decided not to cultivate jhums fearing the law of the land as, according to the forest department, Andermanik village falls under Dampa Tiger Reserve.

As Jhum is the only means of survival of the villagers, they are without any means of livelihood. Several families have taken loans from individual money lenders and banks which they are not able to repay.

Recommendations

The State government of Mizoram is seeking to abolish Andarmanik Village Council by inducing people to accept Rs 10 lakh package per family. This is despite the fact that Section 4.9 (ii) of the Revised Guidelines allows to amend the proposals suitably as necessary considering the state specific situations. Further, Section 4.9 (xi) of the Revised Guidelines urges that the State government to provide more funds “in case the cost of relocation including settlement of rights per family exceeds Rs. 10 lakhs.

It is essential that the Andarmanik Village Council is maintained in a new village where the Chakmas have agreed to resettle. Considering that the victims have already been displaced once in 1989, the State government must provide adequate facilities in a new set up.

ACHR makes the following recommendations:

a. To the government of Mizoram
• As Section 4.9 (iv) of the Revised Guidelines of the MoE& F allows modification of the components in Option II according to state/site specific requirements, ACHR recommends the state government of Mizoram to modify Option II as follows:

(a)

Agriculture land procurement
(2 hectare) and development

15% of the total package

(b)

Settlement of rights

10% of the total package

(c)

Homestead land and house construction

60% of the total package

(d)

Incentive

5% of the total package

(e)

Community facilities commuted by the family (access road, irrigation, drinking water, sanitation, electricity, tele-communication, community center, religious places of worship, burial/cremation ground)

10% of the total package

• Provide the entire fund of component “(c) Homestead land and house construction” i.e. Rs 6 lakh per family to the Andermanik villagers under the package of relocation;
• Ensure full transparency in the process of payment of the relocation package and ensure proper resettlement and rehabilitation as per the provisions of the National Resettlement and Rehabilitation Policy of 2007;
• Undertake Social Impact Assessment (SIA) and Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) as provided
under the National R&R Policy, 2007 for any displacement of more than 200 families in tribal/hilly areas and take appropriate remedial measures as per the findings of the
SIA and EIA;
• Undertake developmental and welfare activities with top priority in the new settlement village under different existing schemes and programmes such as Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA), National Rural Health Mission (NRHM), New Land Use Policy (MLUP), Multi Sectoral Development Plan for Minority Concentrated Districts (MsDP for MCDs), Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadhak Yojana (PMGSY), Indira Awas Yojana (IAY), Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS), Border Area Development Programme (BADP), National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, among others;
• Bear the extra costs of the resettlement and rehabilitation as may be incurred as provided under Section 4.9 (xi) of the Revised Guidelines for the Ongoing Centrally Sponsored Scheme of Project Tiger” (February 2008) of the Ministry of Environment & Forests;
• Allow the Andermanik villagers to cultivate jhums within their present village council areas from (2011) if the relocation is delayed/not done by that time; and
• Ensure that the village council of Andermanik is not dissolved after relocation.

To the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India

• Allow modification of the cost norms for the components given in Section 4.9 (ii) of the Revised Guidelines for the Ongoing Centrally Sponsored Scheme of Project Tiger” (February 2008) of the Ministry of Environment & Forests to facilitate flexibility for site specific requirements on the condition that the component for “Homestead land and house construction” be 60% of the total package and direct the state government of Mizoram to pay the entire amount of this component to the villagers under the relocation package;
• Direct the Mizoram government to submit Social Impact Assessment and Environmental Impact Assessment reports and reject the proposal of the government of Mizoram without these reports;
• Direct the state government of Mizoram to undertake development and welfare with top priority under different existing schemes and programmes such as Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA), National Rural Health Mission (NRHM), New Land Use Policy (MLUP), Multi Sectoral Development Plan for Minority Concentrated Districts (MsDP for MCDs), Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadhak Yojana (PMGSY), Indira Awas Yojana (IAY), Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS), Border Area Development Programme (BADP), National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, among others; and
• Appoint a senior official of the Ministry specifically to closely monitor the relocation process and disbursement of cash assistance by the Mizoram government.

Endnotes:
1. Report submitted by Field Director, Dampa Tiger Reserve, Ref No. B.15012/6/2010-PT(D) dated 18 August 2010
2. Local Administration Department, Govt of Mizoram, Ref No. B-14016/25/07-LAD/VC, dated Aizawl the 28th Sept. 2010
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