The Struggles of the Adivasis of Nandurbar: Yatra Day 68

Nandurbar is part of a region called Khandesh. The district is one of the least developed districts not only the state but also in the country. The district has 72% adivasis and the blocks of Akkalkuva and Dhadgav have about 88% adivasis. In these two blocks 92% of adivasis are below the poverty line and 66% of adivasis are landless i.e., they do not have patta for land that they are cultiivate. The literacy rate among women in the district is 22% whereas in those two blocks the literacy rate among women is 9%.

7600 families in 32 villages that were displaced by the Sardar Sarovar Dam were from the district of Nandurbar. The government does not understand the difference between resettlement and rehabilitation. The most progressive response from the government for resettlement is to give land in return for the land that is acquired. But this does not ensure rehabilitation of the adivasi. People’s culture, social relations, agricultural practices are all closely tied to their land. When they are resettled their entire life takes a hit. For instance, when adivasis who live deep inside the forests in the mountains were resettled, their traditional agricultural practices had to be completely abandoned.

In the mountains they were used to organic farming but when they were resettled in the plains they lost access to their traditional seeds. Hence they ended up depending on the retailers of seeds for technical advice for farming like the amount and use of fertilizers. Depending on non-technical people for technical adivce affected their farm-output. Most adivasis lease land from big farmers and hence are unable to develop their lands.

Due to these issues, 75% of adivasis migrate to Gujarat during non-farming seasons for work. Even though the Maharashtra government spends about 9000 crores in addition to the centrally sponsored MNREGA program, the administration is unable to address the migration of adivasis. Less than 10% of adivasis in the area have received land under Forest Rights Act. Out of 48,000 applications for pattas under the Forest Rights Act, 43,000 were rejected under some pretext or the other. 5000 adivasis carried out a padayatra to Mumbai from March 1st to 15th and walked a distance of 480 km and in response to this the government has decided to review the applications for patta of forest land.

In the morning a welcome public meeting was organized in Akkalkuva. Bhil Samaj – Ranchod Kaka spoke about the non-acceptance of claims and slow settlement rate of the applications from adivasis belonging to Bhila adivasis. Ukai dam – displaced people’s claims are not being considered. 7500 families FRA applications have not been processed. Jilla Bhai said that adivasis were lot more happier before the formulation of the Forest Law in 1980 but after the law was passed, the attitude of the forest department became more aggressive. Immediately after the passing of Forest Law in 1980, the forest department filed several cases of encroachment on the adivasis. A rally was carried out to the tehsil office of Akkalkuva and a memorandum was submitted to the Tehsildhar so that these issues can be resolved in a time-bound manner.

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