Forest dwellers discovered utilizing forest land after relocation

Udhagamandalam: An inquiry by the forest officials revealed that 12 families of forest dwellers have been living in the forest lands despite being given compensation under the relocation programme.
The inquiry followed the death of 45-year-old S Sethumadhavan, a resident of Manvayal, after he died in an elephant attack in the core area of Mudumalai Tiger Reserve (MTR) in the Nilgiris on March14. Sethumadhavan, who was visiting his father-in-law’s house in Bennai, came out of the house to attend nature’s call in morning. “A wild elephant attacked him and he died at the spot,” said deputy director of MTR Pushpakaran.

On inquiry, it was revealed that the victim’s father-in-law, Arumugam, 70, was given land and house near Gudalur as compensation under the relocation programme. “In spite of this, Arumugam has been using three acres at Bennai inside MTR,” said Pushpakaran.“Further, 12 families are still living in Bennai village without vacating the forest land even after given compensation,” he added.

While Arumugam cultivated ginger in the compensated land in Gudalur, coffee has been cultivated in the forest land. “It is not fair on the part of residents of Bennai village. Proper action will be taken against them if they don’t vacate the lands immediately,” said the forest official.

There are about 701 families dwelling in deep forest in MTR. About 235 families from Nelliyalam and Bennai villages were relocated to Ayyankolli in Pandalur taluks a few months ago as part of the first phase of relocation programme, which was started with a amount of Rs 23.5 crore.

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