Maldharis want to live close to lions
Times of India
The Maldhari community has written to Union forests and environment minister Jairam Ramesh requesting that they may not be moved out of the Gir sanctuary. They have said that the authorities should not consider them enemies of big cats.
The community has sent a memorandum to Ramesh through a non-government organisation, Setu, opposing the rehabilitation. Since 1972, the government has officially resettled 952 Maldhari families and many other inhabitants when the Gir national park was established. They say that these families have suffered badly as they were deprived of basic requirements like drinking and irrigation water, electricity, school and transportation facilities. The memorandum said that they did not even get the benefit of government schemes such as Rojgar Yojana and other welfare schemes.
They claim that the land they got was of poor quality and because of water shortage, cultivating that land was difficult. They also said that the eight acres of land which they got as the compensation put them in the category of big farmers and disqualified them from government schemes and thus made them poorer. A report by Gujarat government's directorate of evaluation on the rehabilitation programme of Gir Maldharis scheme said, "It has not been possible to achieve the objective of bringing the socio-economic uplift of the Gir Maldharis. On the contrary, the net income earned by the shifted families in 1986-87 is significantly less than the net income earned by families still inside, 10 years after rehabilitation."
Maldharis have also urged the minister and environment experts to understand that the lion has been part of their lives and culture. "They have been living together since centuries, without which, the survival of both is difficult. The Maldharis worship lions as one of their gods," the letter said.
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