The tribal communities in Hunsur and Nagarhole belt in Karnataka have appealed to the Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy to announce a development package for the welfare of the forest-dwelling tribal communities. The newly formed JD(S)-Congress coalition government in the state will be presenting its budget on July 15, 2018. The appeal has been made to the CM hoping that the communities would be included in the state budget -- with the allocation of adequate funds for the forest dwelling and Adivasis communities.
Hunsur has a significant presence of tribals. Sreekanth of Development Through Education (DEED), an NGO based in Hunsur and working for the rehabilitation of the tribes, told The Hindu that, the state government had released Rs 200 crore the previous year, but the money was not utilised. The Narendra Modi-led BJP government at the centre aimed in replicating the BJP’s Gujarat model of tribal welfare. Under Vanbandhu Kalyan Yojana, all the state governments were allocated Rs 200 crore. The above-mentioned allocation to the government of Karnataka was part of the scheme.
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Going by the report in The Economic Times on Jan 16, 2017, it is not only Karnataka that failed in utilising the allocated funds. All the states including the BJP ruled states failed the scheme. According to the tribals, blocks with the lowest literacy rate in the state should be identified and given an annual grant to initiate important works not covered under any state or central scheme; the tribal affairs ministry’s statistics, show that only 12.5% of the funds were utilised by the states in 2015-16. Of the Rs 200 crore earmarked for 20 blocks in as many states, only Rs 24.93 crore was utilised.
The struggle of the tribal communities in the region
This is not the first time when such an appeal for a special tribal development package has been made. The tribal communities in the Hunsur have been protesting and demanding for a better rehabilitation since long. In 2015, when the then Siddaramaiah-led Congress government observed the centenary year of Devraj Urs, a similar appeal was made to the CM by the tribal leaders.
The leaders then had demanded an upgrade for the 30 Gram-Panchayats; drinking water and sanitation facilities; infrastructure development in schools and colleges; improvement to hostels in rural areas; upgrading the primary health centres and government hospitals in rural areas and protecting the lakes and water bodies. However, these demands were not paid any heed to by the previous government. The main demands in the recent appeal to the state government include setting up of a university to protect and foster tribal culture; implementation of the Forest Rights Act and ensure proper education for the Tribal Children.
Around 300 tribal families in the Hunsur region went on a strike on January 26, 2018. These were the families that were relocated from the core area of the Nagarhole to the periphery of the region. The relocated locals were promised five acres of land for each family by the government. The order that was passed in 1997, is yet to be implemented. 751 hectares of reserve forest, was denotified for conversion into agricultural land to rehabilitate the tribal communities and this land has been encroached upon now. The political parties and the government after governments of the state have been ignoring the demands of the forest dwellers. Rehabilitation, a word that is freely thrown around by the ministries and the development officials, remains just a mere word.
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The state of Karnataka is the home to 42.49 lakh tribals comprising of the 7 percent of the state’s population; out of which 50,870 belong to the primitive groups. 50 of the tribal communities in the state have been notified under the Scheduled Tribe category. The tribal communities in Hunsur and Nagarhole belt claim that the Scheduled Tribes in the region, Naika and Valmiki reap the benefits of the policies and the schemes, leaving the forest dwellers and Adivasi communities untouched. In the recent appeal made to the CM the negligence of these communities is highlighted.
Just a month prior to the state assembly elections, the tribal activists from Hunsur released their own ‘manifesto’ which was circulated to all the contesting candidates. The manifesto had asked for the “declaration of Hunsur sub-division as a district to allow for a more focused approach to taking up development works unique to the region.” The manifesto had covered a wide range of demands like the creation of check dams and rainwater harvesting system. The manifesto had demanded rehabilitation of the 3,400 families. The manifesto also urged for the state government to allocate the Union Government’s package of Rs. 15 lakh for each family along with the land allocation for agricultural activities.
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The tribal communities in the region, along with the demands mentioned above, are also demanding for tribal education, improvements to ashram schools, the appointment of qualified teachers, a commitment of Rs. 1,030 crore to development works to uplift Adivasi housing, housing for nearly 20,000 tribals and constitution of a ‘forest Dependent Tribes Development Board.’