Forest officials have issued a final warning to over 300 evacuees of Navegaon National Park in Gondia district to peacefully vacate the park they forcibly occupied from Thursday morning or else, “they would be constrained to make use of force”.
People of five villages who were relocated out of Navegaon National park in Gondia district in 2012 had stormed back to their original places inside the park, raising fresh rehabilitation demands.
Adopting offensive tactics, the villagers set fire to the meadows that the forest department had developed at the places they had left and had started rebuilding huts, which has forced the district administration to seek police help.
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Hundreds of C60 commandos of Gondia police have been standing guard at the place as a precautionary measure.
The villages namely Kalimati, Zankargondi, Kavlewada, Tumlimendha and Malkajhiri totally comprising 358 people had chosen first of the two options of rehabilitation to move out of the protected area in 2012.
The option was Rs 10 lakh per adult along with a new place to set up their houses with facilities like school, water supply, electricity and such other amenities, which they did not have inside the park.
Their new location was close to national highway passing through the district making up for lack of connectivity they suffered for ages.
“Now they are demanding land to till and the Rs 10 lakh package for new members of the family that became adult after the cut off year of 2008 when their rehabilitation notification was published. These demands cannot be fulfilled since there is no such provision in the package,” said Deputy Conservator of Forest Jitendra Ramgaokar.
“We have offered them land near their new place to manage. They can grow bamboo, orchards there and keep the proceeds. But they are not ready for it,” Ramgaokar added.
The second option of land and house instead of Rs 10 lakh was ruled out in their case since the land available under the jurisdiction of a gram panchayat near the new place was not given by the said gram panchayat.
Ramgaokar said the package is uniform for all PAs and nowhere else have these kind of demands have been made after rehabilitation.
Bhandara collector Vijay Suryawanshi, DCF Ramgaokar and other officials made another bid to convince the squatters Saturday by inviting them for discussions.
“I personally went inside to request them to come for talks at Sadak Arjuni, 7 km from the spot. They refused. They have exhausted the last option, so we are constrained to evict them by force. We have pasted a notice warning them of the illegality of their move, the danger of wildlife attack, lack of cover in case of rainfall or any other natural problems etc. We will wait for one more day before the use of force becomes imperative,” said Ramgaonkar.
Navegaon national park is now part of the newly created Navegaon-Nagzira Tiger Reserve.