Naik family at their new house in Joida. ©Jayanand Derekar
Situated deep in the Kumbarawada range of Kali Tiger reserve, the Naik family struggled to survive in isolation. Around 14 kms away from the nearest town, in the village of Naifed, the family had a tough life since they had no access to basic amenities such as schools, hospitals, and markets. This family is one of the several families which approached the Forest Department and WCS –India for their relocation in 2013.
Naik's grandchild is all smiles. ©Vinay Kumar M C
They wanted to live a life away from the forest, in the town, closer to basic amenities. WCS Project staff, Jayanand Darekar and Narasimha Chapakanda jumped into action. The first step taken was securing identities. The family consisting of a father, mother, elder son, daughter-in-law, younger son and two grandchildren stayed inside the forest with no legal papers. Hence, the Gram Panchayat had to be requested for their house number which helped in getting a ration and voter id card made. These identities were necessary to procure an agriculture labour certificate which makes one eligible to buy land for farming.
From 2007 onwards, although several families sought relocation, there was confusion about the package offered and the process involved. The WCS India Project team identified and decided to include these three families as beneficiaries under its privately funded relocation program. A government order issued in 2008 by the Government of Karnataka, empowers and encourages Civil Society organisations to pay compensation to families living inside the Protected Areas. The WCS India team hoped that the privately funded land purchase would trigger a cascading effect and would eventually lead to a full-fledged Government Sponsored relocation program in the Kali Tiger Reserve. With this in mind, WCS India offered Rs. 10,00,000 as compensation to each of these three families, at par with the compensation offered by the National Tiger Conservation Authority.
In 2013, when WCS had started helping with the relocation process, the father was attacked by a gaur and his hand was injured badly. Human-wildlife conflict was common inside the forest and hence, the family made it a point to not step out after 6pm in the evening. This incident strengthened the family’s resolve to move out of the forest.
The house in Kumbarawada where the Naiks used to live. ©Vinay Kumar M C
After helping the family locate land outside the forest in Joida taluk, and getting their houses built on the roughly 2 acres allotted to them, the family was finally shifted in 2014. Out of the compensation, Rs 16 lakhs was deposited in a long-term fixed deposit in SBM Kumbarawada to ensure they had an income till they started earning from agriculture. After shifting to Joida, the family had access to the hospital, schools, and market (to sell their produce), all within a radius of a kilometre.
The transformation is most visible on the grandchildren. Earlier, very shy and scared of visitors, today they are bright and talkative, having started schooling too.
Voluntary relocation is beneficial to both the people and the forest. Inside the forest, there was pressure exerted by the family through activities like cattle grazing and collection of NTFP (Non-timber forest produce). Once the family moved out, the forest could flourish without intervention and wildlife move unhindered. In the win-win scenario, the family too has easier access to amenities and is able to live a happy life.
Forests take over after the land is vacated. ©Prakriti Srivastava
P.M.Muthanna, Assistant Director of Conservation Operations, WCS adds, “Privately funded land purchase by WCS India in Naifed settlement of Kali TR is the perfect example of private -government partnership."
WCS strives to conserve, educate, and provide hands on support in the field, so there are more families like the Naik family who can have a brighter future.
Compiled and written by Meghana Sanka