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Creation of 'Inviolate Space'

An inequitable and top-down approach, lacking scientific, historical and socio-economic considerations, has historically exemplified protected area management strategy in Sariska Tiger Reserve, Rajasthan. Attempts to evict local villagers without evidence of effective rehabilitation measures are a natural corollary of this policy. This paper appraises the role of village relocation as a management tool for wildlife conservation in the reserve by (1) documenting the forest dependency and livelihood conflicts faced by local residents who will be displaced; (2) identifying the aspirations of the proposed oustees in relation to the proposed displacement; and (3) studying the process of relocation planning and the rehabilitation package. It also suggests more participatory and rational ways to deal with the issue.

Special articles

Creation of ‘Inviolate Space’

Lives, Livelihoods and Conflict in Sariska Tiger Reserve

An inequitable and top-down approach, lacking scientific, historical and socio-economic considerations, has historically exemplified protected area management strategy in Sariska Tiger Reserve, Rajasthan. Attempts to evict local villagers without evidence of effective rehabilitation measures are a natural corollary of this policy. This paper appraises the role of village relocation as a management tool for wildlife conservation in the reserve by (1) documenting the forest dependency and livelihood conflicts faced by local residents who will be displaced; (2) identifying the aspirations of the proposed oustees in relation to the proposed displacement; and (3) studying the process of relocation planning and the rehabilitation package. It also suggests more participatory and rational ways to deal with the issue.


ocal biomass extraction, in the form of grazing and collection of fuelwood and non-timber forest produce (NTFP), has traditionally been viewed as the most serious threat to biodiversity by forest managers in India, particularly in areas earmarked for wildlife conservation. In general, wildlife policy in India revolves around strict nature protection with minimal anthropogenic disturbance, through creation of national parks and wildlife sanctuaries.1 In keeping with this philosophy, village displacement has been one of the priorities in management of protected areas (PAs) in India, particularly in tiger reserves. The aim of village displacement is to create “inviolate spaces” which are considered necessary by biologists for sustaining natural ecological functions [Soule and Terborgh 1999]. However, there has been a growing movement in India against village displacement due to the loss of livelihoods and impoverishment, that it typically entails for the oustees. The fact that the people most often suffering, belong to disempowered, lowincome groups such as scheduled tribes, makes things worse. Apart from a few reportedly positive instances such as Bhadra Tiger Reserve and Corbett Tiger Reserve [CSD 2003], displacement programmes have largely been ineffective in successfully rehabilitating people [Kabra 2003]. This is the consequence of the fact that oustees are moved to new environments without being provided the wherewithal for successful rebuilding of economies or effective substitution of the goods and services from the forests that they were originally dependent on [Rangarajan and Shahabuddin 2006].

Sariska Tiger Reserve is one of the Indian protected areas where village relocation has been prioritised as one of the key strategies for saving biodiversity. Sariska was one of the most important conservation areas for the royal Bengal tiger in north-western India, which is now extinct there. A vast diversity of other flora and fauna exist here, cheek-by-jowl with people living inside 27 hamlets, scattered over core and buffer zones of the reserve. The people mostly belong to the Gujjar tribe, traditionally dependent on livestock for their milk-production economy. Longterm use of the Sariska forests for grazing, fodder collection and firewood removal by local residents has been seen as the primary cause for degradation and biodiversity loss. The villagers and reserve managers have existed for many years in a situation of extreme conflict with grazing cattle being continually impounded and firewood collection taking place “illegally”. Recent management plans emphasise the need for relocating the villages currently existing inside the core zone of the reserve.

While displacement of cattle camps and two villages has been attempted earlier (and has been only partially effective), the latest plan for relocation involves moving the 11 villages comprising 493 households located inside core zone I (CZ-I). This plan has been on the anvil since before 2000, but gained impetus after the extinction of tigers in 2005, apparently due to poaching. It was felt by the government that the presence of people in the reserve was the primary reason for the observed “tiger crisis” and that tigers could never have been poached were it not for involvement of local residents.2

From 2004-05, we undertook a field study with the aim of understanding the policy and process of village displacement from Sariska, particularly in relation to reserve management. Our specific objectives were, (1) documentation of the forest dependency and livelihood conflicts faced by local residents;

(2) documentation of the aspirations of the proposed oustees in relation to the proposed displacement; and (3) study of the process of relocation planning and the rehabilitation package.

Our field study3 focused on the 11 villages in CZ-I which are most likely to be moved in the immediate future.4 The study was carried out using a structured household questionnaire survey using a 40 per cent sample of households spread over all 11 villages. In addition, numerous informal interviews and group discussions were also held. The field study was undertaken from September 2004 through April 2005.

From Hunters’ Paradise to Tiger Reserve

The area currently falling under Sariska Tiger Reserve was an important hunting reserve for the maharaja of Alwar since the early 20th century, particularly for tigers. However, there were strict controls on hunting which was reserved mainly for royalty and British officials. Several sections of the reserve were closed for grazing and wood-cutting in 1909. Simultaneously, parts of the valley were opened for commercial sales of forest produce such as wood for charcoal production, which contributed substantially to the state exchequer during the period of the maharaja of Alwar [Johari 2003].

From all accounts, the study villages originated between 70 and 100 years ago and were established under the ‘lamberdaari’ system5 for enhancement of revenue collection from forest products. Much after independence, Sariska came under the purview of the Rajasthan Wild Animals and Birds Protection Act, 1951 after a notification from the state government in 1955. It was declared as a wildlife sanctuary with an area of 492.29 sq kms on September 18, 1958 with an amended notification under the Rajasthan Wild Animals and Birds Protection Act.6 However, there was no process of settlement of rights of local residents as required for the establishment of a wildlife sanctuary under the Wildlife Protection Act (WLPA, 1972). As a result, the villages and cattle camps continued to remain inside even after sanctuary notification. However, seasonal cattle camps, referred to as ‘guadas’ by the forest department, were finally shifted out between 1966 and 1967 from Slopka and Kalighati.

The process of village displacement took a more organised form when relocation of Karnakawas and Kiraska villages took place during 1976-77. This was the first attempt to relocate full-fledged villages during the post-independence period, which took place amidst much conflict and was only partially successful. In 1979, Sariska was declared a project tiger reserve. A total area of 866 sq km was notified with a core zone of 400.14 sq km and a buffer zone of 466 sq km. This proved to be the beginning of an era of rapidly tightening controls on forest use both by local people and reserve management. Commercial felling of trees wasstopped by the forest department. Restrictions on grazing and agriculture by the local villages were now more strictly enforced, in comparison to earlier times.

Intention to declare CZ-I of Sariska Tiger Reserve as a national park was issued on August 27, 1982 under Section 35 of WLPA 1972. Following this, in 1987, the forest department issued a statement declaring all villages inside the reserve as “illegal”. All activities related to forest use by locals were completely

Table 1: Caste-wise Profile of Study Villages in CZ-I of Sariska Tiger Reserve

Village Caste-wise Break-up of No of Households Total No Gujjar Meena Rajput Bairwa Brahmin Meo House-Surveyed holds (Per Cent)

Bhagani 17 17 17 (100)Dabli 52 16 68 15 (22) Deori 52 18 3 73 15 (21)Haripura 30 30 6 (20) Kankwari 66 2 68 36 (53)Kraska 69 12 87 45 (52) Kundalka 28 2 6 30 5 (17) Lilunda 13 3 16 4 (25) Raikamala 49 49 10 (20)Sukola 22 22 4 (18) Umri 33 33 33 (100)All villages 431 32 2 6 6 16 493 36

banned and people were left with mainly informal rights of forest use. Sariska today refers to the tiger reserve of 866 sq kms, which officially includes the wildlife sanctuary, reserved forest and protected forest in none of which rights of villagers have yet been settled or compensated according to the due process of law.

In terms of rights, within CZ-I, villagers are informally allowed to graze their livestock and collect forest produce within a certain arbitrary area (up to a radius of 1-3 km) around their villages. They are generally fined for grazing if their livestock stray beyond this informal boundary. Villagers also believe that they have rights to collect timber for house construction and fuelwood for bonafide purposes. Our interviews with forest personnel, however, revealed that there is no clear understanding among them on the legal uses by the villagers.

Biodiversity Thriving: Perennial Streams, Cliffs and Forests

Sariska Tiger Reserve, covered by dry deciduous and scrub forests, has potential for sustaining a high density of tigers. Though largely semi-arid, at the smaller scale, the forests of Sariska form different vegetation associations.7 Hill slopes are covered by forests that are dominated by dhok (Anogeissus pendula) and salar (Boswellia serrata). Narrow valleys having seasonal streams or perennial springs harbour extremely diverse mixed deciduous riparian forest including tree species such as gular (Ficus infectoria), bamboo (Dendrocalamus strictus), kadamb (Mitragyna parvifolia) and khajur (Phoenix sylvestris). In drier and flatter terrain without permanent water sources, tropical scrub forest co-occurs with ber (Ziziphus mauritiana), raunj (Acacia leucophloea), dhak (Butea monosperma) and khair (Acacia catechu).

Sariska is important for biodiversity conservation in the semiarid zone, harbouring mammalian fauna typical of Indian deciduous forests such as sambar (Cervus duvauceli), chital (Axis axis) and nilgai (Boselaphus tragocamelus). While the tiger (Panthera tigris) is now extinct, other smaller carnivores such as leopard (Panthera pardus) and jungle cat (Felis chaus) are still relatively common. The rich mammalian and bird diversity in this semiarid reserve, despite the low rainfall conditions and extreme temperatures, is at least partly attributable to the presence of several permanent springs in Sariska, which sustains life during the long and intense dry season.

Living on the Edge: The People and Their Economy

Of the 11 villages existing inside the proposed Sariska National Park, Lilunda is the smallest with 16 households while Kiraska is the largest with 87 households (Table 1). The total population of the 11 study villages together is approximately 3000. All the villages are inhabited primarily by gujjars. Almost 87.4 per cent households are gujjars, coexisting with much smaller numbers of meenas, meos, brahmins, rajputs and bairwas (Table 1).

The basic human development indicators in this area starkly bring out the failures of the development process in India. The average literacy rate among the 11 study villages is only 31.63 per cent. Only about 1 per cent of the population above six years of age has completed matriculation studies. The average sex ratio in the study villages is an abysmal 735 females to 1000 males, far lower than the national average of 933. About 50 per cent of the population is below the age of 18 (Table 2).

An uncertain existence inside a proposed national park has deprived local villagers of even basic development infrastructure that rural India has to offer. Since the declaration of Sariska as a wildlife sanctuary, all developmental activity such as building of ‘pucca’ (permanent) structures, including roads, wells and schools, has been halted. The villagers in almost all cases need to travel a minimum of 10 km to reach the market (Table 3). The distance from a primary health centre (PHC) ranges from 2 km in case of Kundalka, to as much as 25 km in case of Umri (Table 3). Where the distance is less than 10 km, villagers need to walk over fairly steep terrain in order to reach the fair weather road and after that, to the bus stop. People do not tend to use local plants for therapeutic purposes, resulting in complete dependence on modern medicine.

While every village has easy access to a primary school, poor quality of teaching affects school attendance. Five of these schools are of better standard than the government schools, as they are run by Bodh and Tarun Bharat Sangh, both important regional non-governmental organisations.

The local economy is highly monetised and credit-based. Purchase of grain and food items is done mainly on credit at the interest rate of 2 to 3 per cent a month. Interestingly, while a typical household possesses several ration cards and below poverty line (BPL) cards, few people actually report buying grains from such shops.

The staple foods of the people in Sariska are ‘roti’ , chutney, milk and ‘chhaach’. Their poor nutritional status, coupled with poor quality water (obtained from deep wells and streams), make them generally unhealthy.

Livelihood Options

Sariska villagers depend almost totally on forests for their livelihood. Traditionally a pastoralist community, their main source of income is selling milk, ‘mawa’8 and ‘ghee’.9 Except Deori, Kankwari and Kiraska, all of the people of every village reported milk sales as their primary occupation.

Agriculture and daily wage labour were reported as the secondary occupations, by 45 per cent and 38 per cent of households, respectively. People in the three villages of Dabli, Deori and Raikamala (located on the boundary of the reserve) have some agricultural land in CZ-I, being officially revenue villages. People here mainly grow wheat, corn, oat, mustard and gram. Some of the families (18 per cent) in the other villages do own property in the Buffer Zone, on the outskirts of the reserve or further away. The average landholding outside the CZ-I is meagre, ranging from 0-5 bighas.

More than two-thirds (72.33 per cent) of the income of an average household still comes from milk, mawa and ghee sales. Agriculture and daily wage labour together form about 14 per cent of total income. About 6 per cent of the average household income comes from the sale of livestock and about 9 per cent comes from other activities such as pensions or army employment.

By way of livestock, each household among the 190 surveyed owned nine buffaloes, one cow and 12 goats, on average. While goats comprise as much as 54.65 per cent of total livestock holdings, buffaloes make up 40.09 per cent. For the villagers, goats form a liquid asset because they can be sold easily at any time of the year. Herds are commonly doubled each year. Poorer households also tend to rely more on goats as they require less investment in terms of commercial forage and veterinary care.

People usually sell their milk to a local dealer who is usually from their own village. He then sells it in nearby markets, including those in the nearby towns of Alwar and Tehla. Milk is paid for at the rate of Rs 12 per litre from the better-connected villages such as Umri and Kankwari. The rate goes down to Rs 8 per litre in more inaccessible villages. People in the remote villages however, tend to make ghee and mawa out of their milk, which can be kept for a longer period. Price paid by town dealers for mawa varies from Rs 35 to Rs 60 across these villages.

The average household economy, based on livestock grazing and milk sales, literally subsists on the edge. While the average gross annual income per household is approximately Rs 48,175 (Table 4), the average household spends approximately Rs 18,000 every year on farm fodder and commercial fodder.10 Therefore, the average annual disposable household income is approximately Rs 30,190. A significant share of the average gross household income goes toward healthcare (on average Rs 8,500 per household per year). That leaves approximately Rs 27,000 per household annually as expenditure on food which works out to an average of Rs 350 per capita per month. In terms of proportions, about 50 per cent of household expenditure is on food, 21 per cent on commercial fodder, 11 per cent on farm fodder and 16 per cent on medical care. The economy of the average household is debt-ridden and precariously balanced, highly vulnerable in the event of natural disasters such as drought.

People reported a steep decline in average annual rainfall during the last 10 years that has resulted in a decline of as much as 75 per cent in natural fodder availability. The area also faced a severe drought in 2002-03 which caused heavy mortality (approximately 50-70 per cent) among livestock which was devastating for the villagers. Depredation of livestock by leopards and tigers also take their toll on the villagers’ livestock, losses that were not reported to be compensated by reserve management.

Table 2: Demographic Details and Development Indicatorsof Sampled Households in Sariska Tiger Reserve

Village No HH Total Popu-Popu-Popu-Sex Percentage LiteSur-Popu-lation lation lation Ratio of Matri-racy** veyed lation (Age<6) (Age 6 Adults culated (Per to 18) (Age>18) Persons* Cent)

BhaganiDabli 1 7 1 5 7 2 138 1 8 3 3 1 0 3 6 4 4 6 9 714 792 5.56 0.00 22.22 21.90
Deori 1 5 8 8 1 2 2 9 4 7 660 1.32 53.95
Haripura Kankwari 6 3 6 4 6 259 5 5 0 1 8 7 3 2 3 136 1091 639 2.44 0.48 43.90 27.75
Kraska 4 5 244 4 1 6 3 140 706 0.99 39.41
Kundalka 5 2 5 4 1 0 1 1 786 0.00 42.86
Lilunda 4 1 7 2 8 7 700 0.00 0.00
Raikamala 1 0 6 3 8 2 8 2 7 658 0.00 38.18
Sukola 4 4 5 8 1 5 2 2 731 0.00 18.92
Umri 3 3 226 4 6 7 5 105 852 1.11 25.56
All villages 190 1223 227 365 631 735 1.00 31.63

Notes: * (No of persons who have passed class 10/total population > 6 years) × 100. ** (No of literate persons/total population > 6 years) × 100. HH: Household.

Table 3: Development Infrastructure in the Core Zone I Villages

Village Distance to (in km) Availa-Fair Nearest Post Bus Bank Primary Middle Primary bility

Weather Mar-Office Stop School School Health of
Road ket centre Potable
BhaganiDabli 4 4 6 10 6 4 6 4 6 10 -0 6 - 6 10 × ×
Deori 11 Haripura 1 Kanakwari 8 Kraska 5 Kundalka 2 Lilunda 3 1 6 1 0 1 5 2 0 1 2 1 3 10 2 1 5 1 0 2 5 15 2 8 7 2 3 1 6 1 0 1 5 2 0 1 2 1 2 -0 0 0 0 5 0 1 0 9 0 1 -1 6 1 0 1 5 8 2 4
Raikamala 4 1 5 1 5 4 1 5 0 - 1 0 × Sukola 4 1 5 4 4 1 5 0 - 4 × Umri 3 2 5 2 5 1 4 3 5 0 3 2 5 " Note: * Based on local perception.

13.7 per cent of surveyed households reported losses of goats or buffaloes during the year 2004-05.

People said that the income sources are more diverse today than about 15 years ago due to the fact that people have started going out of the area in search of employment. Most people spend four to six months of the year working in nearby cities – mainly Bhiwadi, Jaipur and Bharatpur. However, most people felt that the local employment opportunities that were available in the past, such as from agriculture or forest department labour, have declined. Importantly, local villagers do not seem to have benefited, even marginally, from wildlife tourism-related livelihoods inside the reserve, being mostly employed on daily wages as drivers or waiters.

Weak Foundations, Strong Convictions:

The Official Basis of Village Relocation

For several years now, ever since ecological research began in Sariska, warnings have been sounded by biologists about habitat degradation, particularly the impact of intensive biomass extraction including firewood and fodder collection and livestock grazing. By 2004, tigers had also become quite uncommon according to both biologists’ and villagers’ accounts. According to biologists, no more than 10-20 adult tigers survived in the few patches of high quality habitat that still existed in Sariska in 1997 [Johnsingh et al 1997]. During summer 2004 [Mazoomdaar 2005], the number was likely to have been much lower, possibly seven to eight. Even within the CZ-I, based on rough visual estimates that are conservative, up to 40 per cent of the total area was estimated to be severely degraded. More recently, quantitative studies showed that an intensive biomass extraction may cause significant changes in forest vegetation such as in types of trees, reduction in canopy cover, density of trees, number of tree species and average height of trees [Kumar and Shahabuddin 2005], changes that have begun to impact its diverse birdlife as well.

Our survey among the local households revealed a widely prevalent perception of decline in quality and quantity of natural resources including grazing lands, forests and water. While 97 per cent of people felt that available area for grazing had significantly reduced during the last 10 years, 85 per cent felt the same for forest area, and 93 per cent of respondents felt that the time needed to collect biomass had significantly increased. However, most people did not feel there had been any decline, in tree species diversity (92 per cent) although in conversations, reports of decline in some key species like ‘guggal’ (Sterculia urens) often came up.

Causes of Biodiversity Loss

While foresters and biologists have unequivocally linked local biodiversity decline to anthropogenic influences, local people’s perceptions on the causes of biodiversity decline in Sariska are far more complex. Most people strongly believe that their use has had no effect on biodiversity at all (83 per cent). In many cases local people also feel that a certain amount of biomass extraction is actually necessary for the health of the forest believing that pruning encourages leaf growth in shrubs and trees.

On the other hand, many villagers believe that they have contributed considerably to the disappearance of trees over the years. Older villagers mentioned that earlier, tree trunks were never chopped; rather only branches and leaves were lopped. While overgrazing and deforestation are admitted to by some, local people feel that the arbitrary restrictions on forest use laid down by the forest department have been indirectly responsible for overexploitation of forests. For example, villagers pointed out that they often cut large branches at a time in haste rather than leaves due to fear of discovery by the forest personnel. Importantly, several people said that exploitation had become more common now due to a sense of alienation springing from the arbitrary changes in use rights.

Villagers also commonly blamed the forest personnel for their poor management of the reserve. People feel that the guards have little knowledge of and interest in a forest and are certainly not comfortable around large carnivores. This perception was largely borne out by our own conversations with forest personnel, only a fraction of whom appeared to be motivated enough to patrol the forest. As a result, forest protection appears to be highly inadequate in the reserve. Neither poaching nor timber-smuggling are uncommon. Motivation among guards to stop intruders is understandable, given their low pay-scales and lack of arms training or insurance against injury. During conversations, references to corruption among forest personnel, political pressure and mismanagement of resources were common, which villagers said had a far greater role in deforestation than local forest use.

Larger Issues: Landscape-level Pressures

In the discourse on reserve management, attention is most often drawn to the forest dependency of local people as the most important “problem” to be solved, as indicated by our numerous conversations with forest personnel. This emphasis has historically obscured the fact that there are several other pressures originating from external extractive pressures, tourism and mining, the effects of which have never been considered in management planning [for instance, see Government of Rajasthan 2004].

Our observations suggest that there is tremendous biomass extraction pressure from outside the CZ-I. Visibly, considerable clandestine grazing, head-loading and fodder collection takes place by people living outside the reserve, many of whom come from towns as far away as 14 km.

Tourism-related pressures are beginning to tell on the reserve

Table 4: Reported Annual Household Incomes from Different Sources

Village No of HH Annual Income from Different Sources (in Rs) Average Gross Disposable Surveyed Milk Sales Agriculture Daily Wage Labour Other Sale of Livestock Total HH Income HH Income*

Bhagani 17 416500 0 22000 80000 17000 535500 31500 22794 Dabli 15 885000 82000 8000 50000 62900 1087900 72527 38067 Deori 15 341400 253000 78000 0 45500 717900 47860 38027 Haripura 6 178500 26000 42000 0 5000 251500 41917 35900 Kankwari 36 1352300 30000 136500 360000 185000 2063800 57328 36600 Kraska 45 1116500 19500 260600 189500 123100 1709200 37982 30433 Kundalka 5 185500 15000 18000 0 18000 236500 47300 28371 Lilunda 4 141500 12000 0 0 5300 158800 39700 24375 Raikamala 10 353000 140000 0 24000 25000 542000 54200 37400 Sukola 4 127500 5000 15000 0 12000 159500 39875 7875 Umri 33 1522700 30000 8000 81200 48700 1690600 51230 37433 All villages 190 6620400 612500 588100 784700 547500 9153200 48175 30190

Note: * Calculated by subtracting annual household costs of commercial fodder from gross income.

ecology as well. Within the CZ-I, there are two temples which are widely visited by religious tourists – Pandupol and Bandipul temples. The number of visitors approximated 2,93,649 in the year 2004, on days when entry is free for religious reasons.11 Additionally, hundreds of people from surrounding areas enter on foot from three other entry points that are not manned, on free entry days, a source of considerable disturbance. Washing of clothes and cooking utensils and burning of plastic garbage were seen to severely pollute the few water sources, including perennial springs that are critical to the existence of diverse mammals in this semi-arid landscape.

Mining for marble, limestone and dolomite at the periphery of the reserve is another contentious issue. Legal interventions by Tarun Bharat Sangh (TBS), which started conservation work in the local villages in 1985, filed a public interest litigation (PIL) in the late 1980s that brought about the closure of as many as 470 mines in and around the reserve. Apart from noise and dust pollution, the local aquifers in Sariska are under threat from activities like marble mining which requires continual pumping out of water from quarries.

Apart from recent habitat change, there still exists much evidence of change in forest vegetation caused by historical commercial use by the state, such as timbering and charcoal production. Local rarity of several commercially extracted tree species such as Acacia catechu (from whose wood charcoal was made) and the lack of old trees of ‘dhok’ (more than 20-30 years old) in clearcut areas also points to such changes.

Above all, the historical mismanagement of administration that has kept people and their development in limbo, has played an important role in habitat loss. Yet these aspects rarely find mention in the public discourse, even when the “tiger crisis” dominates newspaper headlines. The lack of effective protection due to a crumbling administrative structure and prevalent corruption is completely sidelined in current discourse.

Thus it can be seen that though there has been no appraisal of the visible ecological damage caused by wildlife and religious tourism, mining, historical forest use or external extractive pressures, historically the purported cause-and-link relationship between local people and ecological degradation has dictated completely the policy of management in Sariska. This policy has focused on village relocation as possibly the only tool to secure biodiversity, ever since the establishment of the reserve.

A Bitter History: Past Village Relocationfrom Sariska

In post-independence India the first instance of village relocation from Sariska ordered by the state, dates back to the 1970s when Karnakawas and Kraska villages were relocated to Sirawas (near Silisere, Alwar district) and Bandipul (near Ajabgarh, Alwar district). It was on November 25, 1975, that the then district magistrate issued a notification for the settlement of rights for the villages of Karnakawas, Kiraska and Umri-Deori. People living in these villages were asked to inform the administration of their claims by January 28, 1976. On April 21, 1976 a notification of the Rajasthan government denotified the Rundh Bandipul and Rundh Dulawa Reserved Forest land into revenue lands for purposes of relocation. Similarly, the land at Sirawas was also denotified from Reserved Forest status vide Government of Rajasthan order dated March 23, 1976. While in Rundh Sirawas, 750 bighas12 were denotified, 251.19 bighas were recorded as denotified in Rundh Bandipul and 244.4 bighas in Rundh Dulawa.

In 1977, the actual process of relocation of people from Kraska and Karnakawas began. Apart from land allotments, cash compensations were also recorded as having been paid to villagers. These meagre cash compensations ranged from Rs 50 to Rs 9,705.13 Sixty-nine families of Kraska were paid a total of Rs 1,20,975 as compensation. Nineteen families had ‘pattas’14 for the land they owned inside their old villages (67.18 bighas), out of which 18 were allotted land at Sirawas. One family was allotted land at Rundh Bandipul. Kraska was thereafter declared as forest land and the villagers were only given permission to perform religious activities at their ‘devsthan’ (sacred site) and use the public road. However, out of the 19 families that were allotted land, nine sold their lands off and came back to the reserve along with other landless people, mainly settling near the village known as Kundalka.

Most of the forest department officials see this incident as an exploitative mechanism by local villagers to benefit from both their allotted lands (through sales) while not giving up their rights inside the reserve. However, when confronted with these questions the villagers blamed the forest department for the debacle and alleged that the promises made to them regarding the new site were not fulfilled. For example, they were not provided even the basic amenities at the site. Even the land was not fit for cultivation at the time they were asked to settle there. Above all, they were compelled to accept whatever meagre compensation was provided. They were given compensation on one hand and were made to pay back the amount in many cases as pending “fines”, on the other hand. The fact that the relocation was undertaken during the Emergency of 1975-77 meant that the villagers did not have the opportunity to react publicly to these coercive measures. It is not surprising that the fear of forceful eviction has remained in psyche of villagers even after 25 years, deeply engrained in family narratives [Johari op cit].

Our visit to two of the old rehabilitation sites revealed the stark contrast between promises made and reality of situation. Surrounded by steep hills on three sides, Sirawas is now inhabited by people who bought lands from original allottees of Kraska village. The trees were cleared by the villagers themselves as the forest department did not provide cleared land. The land is fertile and even the water table is satisfactory. However, there is no road to the site from Silisere and one needs to walk for about 20-25 kilometres to reach the site. The other approach is by boat across the Silisere lake. Thus this site remains to this day, almost completely isolated, approachable with difficulty by boat or on foot. There is no school at Sirawas, nor are there any health facilities or access to electricity.

An older forest department official revealed to us stark cases of mismanagement and callousness in allotting the land. The official pointed out that the most of the land provided to the Sirawas people was uncultivable and could not be developed for agricultural purposes. That is the reason why most of the villagers gave up their allotted lands. While nine families did sell off their lands, 10 others returned to Sariska without doing so. Additionally, a large portion of land has not yet been marked up, despite being de-reserved, even three decades after relocation. The villagers alleged that a farm house of around 300 bighas is built on land that was illegally allotted to the owner,15 from the denotified portion of reserved forest.

The second site, Rundh Bandipul, as it is locally referred to, is mainly occupied by original allottee families from Karnakawas. When villagers were relocated here from Karnakawas in 1977, the forest department had not even cleared the growth of vilayati kikar trees. The villagers themselves cleared the whole area and began cultivation. Land is reported to be fertile and the water table is satisfactory. But there are other more serious problems that persist even 28 years after the villagers were relocated. The lands are not marked clearly and distributed. Except for some people, most of the villagers cultivate the lands according to the boundary markings done by them. People of the 35 families settled there, still fear that if their lands are not marked and allotted properly they may even lose their lands and homes once again.

A more serious problem of a sociological nature revealed itself in the relocation site in Bandipul during our visit. The gujjars who have shifted to Bandipul from Karnakawas in 1975-77 face threats to their lives from the surrounding Meena villagers. In the past, they have been physically assaulted and have even had their crops destroyed. According to villagers, a Meena outsider has occupied a vast chunk of land adjoining the river so the livestock of the oustees cannot access water. Thus the oustees have a harsh existence in terms of access to water, development infrastructure and even basic security.

Relocation Planning and Nature of the Package

The latest plan to relocate villages from inside the CZ-I originated in the late 1990s. A new site at Badod Rundh, 75 km from Sariska was finalised for rehabilitation of oustees from Sariska. The forest department, submitted a relocation package for Bhagani, Umri, Kankwari and Kraska to the high court on December 24, 2002.

Through our questionnaire survey, we attempted to ascertain the kind of process that has been adopted by the forest department in the CZ-I villages for relocation, in terms of the degree of participation of local villagers in development of the plan and package and the decision on the relocation site.

The relocation policy of the state says that “willingness of people” should be an important factor in the relocation process. It also states that the assistance of a local NGO, namely, the TBS, would be taken to get people to agree to such a plan. The relocation package also outlines that the “proposed package” will be declared in planned meetings and workshops organised by the forest department or the NGO after which negotiations would follow with individual families.

Our surveys revealed that the forest department had not held planned meetings in any of the four villages from where relocation was planned in the first phase. This was not done either prior to the submission of the relocation plan for approval to the central government or after. A few unplanned meetings were undertaken during 2001-03 however. In the four villages to be relocated in the first phase, 55 per cent of respondents said that they did not know of any meetings with the forest department on the issue of relocation. 41 per cent had heard of such meetings being held, though they had not necessarily attended them.

The forest guards, who are often the only official source of information for villagers, informed some of the people about the proposed relocation during their informal interactions.16 Other people found out relocation only when forest guards initiated surveys for identification of beneficiary households and measurements of their lands. A large section of the population came to know about the proposed relocation by word of mouth from other people (37 per cent) or forest personnel (40 per cent) whereas 23 per cent of respondents did not know about it even at the time we contacted them. In the four villages proposed to be relocated in the first phase, however, the forest department has been cited as the source of information by more people than in the other villages (ranging from 24 per cent in Kraska to 69 per cent in Bhagani and Kankwari).

In the course of developments leading to preparation of a relocation package, most of the potential oustees were not even shown the new site. On a single occasion, the forest department took 30-35 (male) villagers from Kankwari, Umri, Kraska and Bhagani to the new site in two vehicles during 2002-03. When asked, 71 per cent of people said that they had not seen the new site while 26 per cent of them had seen it. People were divided among themselves as to having knowledge of the social situation at the new site with 59 per cent responding that they did not know about the caste of people living around the proposed site, while 41 per cent knew of the caste and occupation of the host community. This information apparently came by word of mouth, however, as did much of the other information relating to relocation planning.

Fifty per cent of the respondents said that they had some knowledge of the relocation package while 49 per cent did not have any idea about the contents of the package. Of the people who knew about the package, only 28 per cent of them were satisfied with it. Even this low figure is primarily because of Bhagani, from where villagers are very keen to leave due to their particularly harsh living conditions.

It is important to note here that even those people who claimed to know the relocation package had little knowledge of the details. From conversations, it was obvious, for instance, they did not know that the compensation of Rs 1 lakh per family promised in the package included the common villagewise expenditure on community services and compensation for trees, wells, crop compensation, disturbance allowance, transportation allowance and land development; rather they thought that was the amount they would get in hand. Therefore, even those who were agreeable to the current package had a fairly inaccurate notion about the nature of land and cash compensation they would actually be paid.

Most of the villagers (72 per cent) had not signed any document related to relocation so far, such as indication of willingness to move or acceptance of the package, despite plans already having been finalised by the reserve management (and sent to the central government for approval).

Other principles laid down in the state policy, such as involvement of NGOs in developing the relocation plan and package, are also not being followed. A TBS worker at Gopalpura actually denied that TBS had been part of the relocation process to motivate people to move, as described in the relocation document of the reserve authorities. He said that TBS has traditionally been against such displacement. Rather their focus has always been on development works that would harmonise local people’s livelihoods with the ecosystem [Bhatia 2000].

Further no official at Sariska had knowledge of any implementation committee having been formed, a requisite according to the state policy on relocation. There is also no evidence that the rural development schemes, which are supposed to be implemented as priority for resettled oustees, are being coordinated with forest department’s plans to ensure a smoother livelihood transition for people. During a public meeting with local residents observed in February 2005, it was obvious that neither the district magistrate nor the local divisional forest officer knew about the problems relating to land rights and allotments of previous relocations from Sariska Core Zone.

Fading Promises?

A natural corollary of the lack of people’s participation, NGO participation or expert guidance in preparation of the relocation plan is that it is highly inadequate. The plan clearly shows an incomplete understanding of the basic needs and aspirations of local people, an essential pre condition for a successful relocation programme and package.

According to the relocation package for Bhagani village, a meagre cash compensation of Rs 16,000 and a “disturbance allowance” of Rs 7,000 is supposed to take care of each household of five-six members over the transition period at the new site. Building of a house, a cattle-shed and fences have been allocated a sum of Rs 40-54,000 per family. The basic approach of the planners has been to squeeze in all compensatory items into a sum of Rs 1,00,000 per household, including personal benefits and allotments for communal facilities, according to established guidelines of the state.

According to the plan, 271 ha of land is required to settle 129 families of the two villages proposed to be shifted in the first phase

– Bhagani (19 families) and Kankwari (110 families) – keeping the requirement of 2.1 ha per family (0.5 ha for housing and 1.6 ha for farming) (reported in the Hindustan Times by Jha 2005). The land available at the proposed relocation site Badhod Rundh, about 222 ha in area, is therefore much less than this required amount. Even this calculation has been done without including land provision for community facilities, such as a school, a hall and cattle-ponds, as required by the state guidelines. Part of the land at the new site, Badhod Rundh, is already encroached upon (according to informal discussions with forest guards), further reducing the net availability of agricultural land for resettlement.

A casual look at the new relocation site of 222 hectares, Badhod Rundh, located 75 km from Sariska, would make one believe that this is an ideal agricultural site. People here generally have satisfactory crops of wheat, mustard, maize, gram and bajra. The site is located on the state highway to Jaipur, offering easy access to markets, schools and other facilities. Some of the homesteads around the site were a picture of prosperity possessing modern machinery, borewells and cemented houses.

However, conversations with adjacent villagers in the proposed relocation site reveal that a huge investment is required by cultivators in this area. Most importantly, expensive borewell facilities are required because the water table has gone as deep as 400 ft due to water-intensive cultivation of wheat and mustard.

Given this difficult situation with respect to water availability, the relocation plan does not even mention provision of drinking water resources, let alone irrigation or borewell facilities. Sustainability of agriculture, even with expensive inputs, is highly doubtful in this area, given the dropping water tables. Concerns of irrigation facilities are specially serious in the lowrainfall zone in which Sariska is located, where surface water availability is limited to the short wet season.The quality of land at the relocation site for agriculture is also doubtful. Part of the land is visibly rocky in nature.

While the plan makes brief mention of utilising existing governmental schemes to develop infrastructure at the new site, there is no exact budgeting of such items. Neither is there any guarantee that basic village amenities will be in place before the oustees are relocated, a condition found to be critical for successful rehabilitation.

The proposed relocation site is adjacent to the village Kakwa which is dominated by the Jat community. Gujjars are traditionally looked down upon by jats given the existing caste hierarchy in this part of Rajasthan. Thus, the degree of acceptance of a new gujjar-dominated village by the more prosperous host community is highly questionable, particularly as conflicts related to livelihoods, water, grazing pastures and fuelwood are likely to arise in future. Caste-related conflicts are likely to further escalate if economic interests also clash.

Lack of forests and pastures close to the relocation site may become another serious concern if agriculture is not successful in the area and the oustees require fodder for sustaining their milk-based livelihoods. Cooking gas connections or alternative sources of fuel have not been considered in the relocation plan.

In the event of agriculture being taken up as a new occupation at the new site, the relocation package makes meagre provisions for crop compensation in case of crop failure in the new site or income compensation during the transition period.

The plan for relocation of two villages from Sariska is thus riddled with innumerable problems that need to be addressed before people can be moved. The Sariska relocation plan is likely to lead to further marginalisation of the gujjar residents. The relocation process adopted in Sariska is likely to lead to a situation similar to that in Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary where there has been severe impoverishment, even starvation, of relocated people of the Sahariya tribe, due to lack of development of agricultural livelihoods [Kabra op cit].

What People Want: Local Perspectives on Relocation

We attempted to understand the people’s aspirations from a relocation process, if it was ever carried out. Regarding relocation, answering a simple question about whether they would like to move out, a large number of people (27 per cent) said that they would not like to relocate out of the reserve under any condition. However, 48 per cent of respondents were ready to relocate if their conditions were fulfilled, while only 22 per cent said they would go given the current situation they find themselves in. Incidentally, the figure of 22 per cent is made up largely of people from Bhagani village, whose inhabitants are desperate to move out because of the extremely difficult conditions there, as conversations indicate.

When we asked the villagers to spell out what in their opinion a good relocation package must consist of at the minimum, the largest number of people (34 per cent) said that they would move out if they are given 5-10 bighas of land and Rs 1 lakh as cash compensation along with the basic amenities of a connecting road, a health centre, a school, electricity and irrigation facilities. Around 10 per cent of respondents said that they would move out if they are given 10 bighas of land and paid Rs 2 lakh as additional compensation. Ten per cent of respondents demanded more than 10 bighas and about Rs 2 lakh as additional compensation to move out. A large number of respondents (22 per cent) said that they would agree to whatever package the village decides. Twelve per cent of respondents said that they would not move out under any circumstances.

When we tried to ascertain people’s perception of life after relocation to the new site, most people felt that they would not be able to follow their current occupation (59 per cent) while some were more optimistic that they would (15 per cent). Because the villagers knew of the imminent occupational shift from grazing to agriculture, many felt that relatively Badhod Rundh would be a better place since it would be near the state highway with far better connectivity to the markets than they currently had. Respondents were fairly divided on whether they would like to continue with livestock-grazing as their primary occupation in the new site or not.

Finally, we tried to find out what people think would be effective ways to improve the declining natural resources situation.18 per cent of respondents felt that “strict management” would be more effective, mainly referring to people from outside the villagers who come in for wood collection or grazing. The majority of villagers (35 per cent) believed that only “god” could improve the situation. God in the parlance of the local people, actually refers to rain and other appropriate weather conditions which can deflect drought conditions. However, significant proportions of respondents also believed that cooperation between villagers and forest department (26 per cent) or conferring more rights to villagers (8 per cent) can help improve the situation.

Reframing Conservation Strategy for Sariska

All over the world, economic benefit-sharing with local people, sustainable use options, community-based protection and democratic co-management are being experimented with, as ways to improve the effectiveness of wildlife conservation, a paradigm shift that the Indian bureaucracy seems to be resistant to. Such a shift has become imperative in the face of increasing evidence that the “fences-and-fines” approach is failing miserably in most Indian Tiger Reserves [MoE 2005].

While there is a need for strict protection in the CZ-I, which would necessitate partial relocation, we feel that the CX-I of 400 sq kms should be exclusively managed for biodiversity conservation, and CX-II, CZ-III and the buffer zone should be managed as multiple-use, forested areas covering 466 sq kms. Although it is degraded in large parts, CZ-I has significant potential for revival as tiger habitat, having diverse forest types, permanent surface water and high density of native herbivores. Revival of CZ-I can be done only by justly relocating four villages currently located centrally in it. However, it is also to be recognised that an inviolate Core Zone cannot be maintained without the cooperation and participation of local residents. Therefore, the remaining peripheral villages can be productively envisaged as being part of “protective garland” for the Core Zone.

Relocation, when undertaken, should be based on the principles of decentralisation and using participatory mechanisms. An equitable relocation can take place only if the mechanism adopted takes popular aspirations into consideration and rationally evaluates the requirements beforehand. The cost of relocation which has been set at Rs 1 lakh per family by the state guidelines, has to be substantially revised upwards, as suggested by the Tiger Task Force in 2005 [ibid]. Ensuring that the infrastructural facilities be provided at the relocation site before relocation process begins and dove-tailing governmental schemes with the relocation plan, are two necessary steps for ensuring effective rehabilitation. Above all, expert guidance is necessary in deciding on which, if any, villages are to be relocated, preparing relocation plans as well as their implementation in and around PAs.

As may be obvious by now, relocation by itself, is unlikely to achieve the goals of conservation. Creation of livelihood alternatives for peripheral villages through various means, including augmentation of tourism benefits from the CZ- is necessary. Positive interactions have to be inculcated between peripheral villages and reserve management via substantial compensatory mechanisms such as for loss of access to forest resources, compensation for injuries and crop-raiding by wild animals.

Simultaneously with measures to increase benefits to local residents, there is a strong need for stepping up protective measures that can guard the forests from external extractive pressures that currently threaten the reserve and the removal of encroachments particularly religious structures and advancing agricultural fields on the reserve boundaries. Firm protective measures can only be implemented by improving the capacities and numbers of personnel and the infrastructure for protection. There is a need to enhance motivation among forest officials and to sensitise them to social and ecological concerns through training programmes. Basic field necessities such as provision of at least one official vehicle per forest range, well-funded insurance schemes for injury and lives and free medical treatment are necessary to increase motivation and work capacity among staff. In the longer term, it is necessary to plan for improved management of the buffer zone as a multiple-use area that contributes to biodiversity conservation inside the Core Zone. Large-scale development of plantations, pastures and forests is required in the Buffer Zone of Sariska and beyond, to reduce pressures on CZ-I for biomass. Above all, it is time for us to rethink our current emphasis on “inviolate space” as the only precondition for successful biodiversity conservation in the Indian situation.




1 An amendment to the Wildlife Protection Act (1972) in 2002 now allowsfor categories of PAs in which local communities have greater involvement,namely, community reserves and conservation reserves.

2 Government of Rajasthan 2005, Rajasthan State Empowered CommitteeReport.3 For details see the technical report [Shahabuddin, Kumar and Shrivastava2005].

4 However, the proposed relocation has not yet been undertaken (as ofJanuary 2007) as planned due to bureaucratic difficulties and, recently,more organised opposition to displacement by local villagers. Lately thegovernment-sponsored scientific studies in preparation for reintroductionof the tiger have also begun.

5 A system of tax collection wherein a person (the ‘lamberdaar’) wasassigned the task of revenue collection from a revenue unit comprisingof one or more villages.

6 Project Tiger Website: 7 Groups of tree species tending to occur together. 8 Derivative of milk used for making sweets. 9 Clarified butter.

10 Such purchases are particularly required during spring and summer whennatural forage becomes scarce, even within the reserve.

11 Government data on visitation, Sariska Tiger Reserve.

12 ‘Bigha’ refers to an area of land which measures approximately onefourth of a metric hectare or 165 feet on the side.

13 Forest Department Relocation Status Report, undated.

14 Legal land entitlement.

15 The relative of an influential politician from Rajasthan.

16 Forest guards generally lack the basic information on relocation processand hence could not convey the exactness of the relocation package orsite to the villagers.


Bhatia, V M (ed) (2000): Dialogue on Sariska, Alwar, India, Tarun Bharat Sangh, Alwar, Rajasthan.

CSD (2003): Proceedings of the National Seminar on ‘Relocation of Peoplefrom Indian Protected Areas: Policy and Process’, Council for SocialDevelopment, New Delhi, September 18.

GoR (2004): ‘Management Plan for Sariska Tiger Reserve’ (2004-14),government of Rajasthan.

– (2005): ‘Report of the State Empowered Committee on Forest and WildlifeManagement’, government of Rajasthan.Jha, S (2005): ‘Centre Agrees to Relocate 11 Villages near Sariska’, Hindustan Times, July 19: 7.

Johari, R (2003): ‘Of Sanctions and Sanctuary-Making: The Cultural Politicsof Nature in Sariska Tiger Reserve, Rajasthan, India, 1850-2000’, MS Thesis, York University.

Johnsingh, A J T, K Sankar and S Mukherjee (1997): ‘Saving Prime TigerHabitat in Sariska Tiger Reserve’, Cat News, 27: 3.

Kabra, A (2003): ‘Displacement and Rehabilitation of an Adivasi Settlement:Case of Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary, Madhya Pradesh’, Economic and Political Weekly, 38(29):3073-87.

Kumar, R and G Shahabuddin (2005): ‘Effects of Biomass Extraction onVegetation Structure, Diversity and Composition of an Indian TropicalDry Forest’, Environmental Conservation 32(2): 1-12.

Mazoomdaar, J (2005): ‘No Evidence of Tigers in Sariska – WWF-India’,Indian Express, February 15:1.

MoE (2005): ‘Joining the Dots: Report of the Tiger Task Force’, Ministryof Environment and Forests.

Rangarajan, M and G Shahabuddin (2006): ‘Displacement and Relocationfrom Protected Areas: Towards a Biological and Historical Synthesis’,Conservation and Society 4(3).

Shahabuddin, G, R Kumar and M Shrivastava (2005): ‘Forgotten Villages:A People’s Perspective on Village Displacement from Sariska TigerReserve’, Technical Report, Council for Social Development and NationalFoundation for India.

Soule, M E and J Terborgh (1999): Continental Conservation, Island Press, Washington DC and Covelo, California.

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