Displaced by an irrigation project,tribal villagers in Dhindori taluka of Nashik district have been rendered landless with the Water Resources Ministry saying they had acquired the land from the forest department and therefore rehabilitation was the responsibility of the Forest Ministry,which in turn was not willing to give the villagers land at another location.
Almost 20 tribal families living for several generations in forest land in Devsana and Gogul had to forgo their land after the Forest department acquired it for Manjarpada phase 1 medium irrigation project. The villagers said the government had promised to rehabilitate them with land but the project commenced in 2008 without that happening.
Villagers who cultivated rice,varai and magli are now reeling in poverty as they have no land.
Narayan Pandu Bhoye,a project-affected villager,said,Since 2008,we have been landless. The forest department asked us to vacate the land for the project. Nobody bothered to rehabilitate us.
The water resources department led by Sunil Tatkare said they acquired the land from the forest department,which was responsible for compensating the tribals. A senior water resources official said,The land was acquired from the forest department and therefore we dont come into the picture. The ministry of forest,relief and rehabilitation should have looked into the matter.
The Ministry of Forests headed by Patangrao Kadam,who also heads the Relief and Rehabilitation ministry,though was reluctant in providing land to villagers.
A senior forest department official said,The government is not averse to their rehabilitation. It appears they are not willing to take financial compensation. Providing land will require consent of other departments.
Dhanraj Haribhau Mahale (MLA) from Dhindori district said,Unfortunately,these poor tribals have become victims of an inter-departmental tussle. All they are seeking is their right. Mahale said,Villagers are not interested in financial help. They want land.
He said,The tribals are willing to be relocated to adjoining villages if given land rights. Sitaram Buwaji Dhule,a villager,said,The land acquired was in our name. The revenue department has all records.
Arjun Gaikwad said,We have been living in the forest for generations. We were given rights to farm on five acres each by the revenue ministry. Everything is recorded with the government. Now they are saying the land belongs to the forest department and we cannot be compensated.
The villagers have sought help of Nashik guardian minister Chhagan Bhujbal. He has promised to take up their cause.