By Our Representative A small village of about 200 in Central India, a majority of whose residents is dependent on mining as the main source of livelihood, is all set to become a major focal point, nationally and internationally. Reason: Allegations of refusal of the Madhya Pradesh government to protect them from forcible eviction from their land. Earning about Rs 100 to 200 per day, and belonging to Amravan village of Panna district, representations have been made against their forcible eviction to powerful international NGO Asia Indigenous People's Pact, Thailand; Victoria Tauli Corpuz, special rapporteur, UN High Commission for Human Rights; Satyanaryan Mohanty, CEO, Natonal Human Rights Commission; PL Punia, chairman, National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes; and Jual Oram, minister for tribal affairs, Government of India, among others. The representation appeals for "urgent intervention" in the present crisis in Umaravan, whose residents are being "brutally evicted without the implementation of any proper rehabilitation process or settlement of rights". According to the representation, "The affected families belong to the Gond tribe who are marginal farmers and live on forest produce and cultivation. The village received legal notices from the district collector in February 2015 to evict them from the village for expansion of thePanna Tiger Reserve and with an offer of cash compensation. No written or accurate information regarding settlement of rights and alternate livelihoods was provided to the affected families." "Majority of the families are illiterate and do not understand any governance procedures", the representation says, adding, "They have been intimidated and harassed by the district administration and wildlife officials and live in constant fear. They were verbally promised various rehabilitation measures and coerced into giving their consent."
Officials read out eviction notice to villagers
The representation says, "Even when the aggrieved tribal families raised several objections, cash compensation was forcefully deposited into their bank accounts but most of the tribal families who are residing in the village have not taken the amount. The village had earlier put up claims under Forest Rights Act for settlement of individual and community forest rights. Some of the families also received title deeds and others are still awaiting settlement." The representation further says, "The district administration has not bothered to settle their rights as mandated in the Forest Rights Act Section 2d, 2c and 4(1). Section 2d includes settlement of rights in sanctuaries and national park areas. There is a writ petition filed in the High Court of Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh, by the affected families of Umravan and the local NGO, Prithvi Trust." Pointing out that the case is posted for hearing on September 28, 2015, the representation says, "In spite of this the local police and forest officials descended on the village on Saturday, September 19, 2015, and have created panic by threatening the villagers that they will be forcefully evicted in the next few days if they do not vacate the village immediately." "This is a blatant violation of the rights of scheduled tribes, and of their constitutional and human rights, as well as blatant violation of the Forest Rights Act", the representation insists, adding, "Therefore, we appeal to you to intervene and protect the rights of the adivasis in this crisis."
Activists protest government move
It concludes, "Besides, as the legal case is under process we request you to give directions to the state authorities to follow due legal procedures and consider the long term sustainability of tribal people who are being thrown out unceremoniously without any rehabilitation or sustainable alternatives." Those who have signed the representation include Bhanumathi Kalluri, Dhaatri Resource Centre for Women and Children, Vijayawada; Ashok Shrimali, general secretary, Mines, Minerals and People, and Setu Centre for Knowledge and Action, Ahmedabad; Snehalata Nath, director, Keystone Foundation, Nilgiris district, Tamilnadu; Yousufbeg, Prithvi Trust, Panna district, Madhya Pradesh; Ravi Rebbapragada, Samata, Visakhapatnam, among others. Giving this information, Shrimali told Counterview that he personally met Mansukh Vasava, MP from Gujarat and India's minister of state for tribal affairs at Rajpipla, telling him about the havoc created by forcible eviction. "Vasava told me that he would ensure no such eviction takes place and tribal rights are not violated", Shrimali said. A highly neglected village, the state officialdom does not even care to provide jobs to the villagers under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, say reports. Worse, the village is devoid of any developmental work for the last three years. There is no ration shop in the village – if they want to buy ration from the public distribution system, they must go six kilometres away. The situation is such that, a large number of workers, who are involved in mining, suffer from the deadly silicosis disease, but there is no one to treat them. They begin working at the age of 14 or 15, but live for another 20 years before they become victims of the disease.