Patna: Tharu tribals residing in 300 forested villages surrounding the Valmiki Nagar Tiger reserve in Bihar's West Champaran district are facing likely displacement if a proposal to increase the area of the tiger reserve is implemented.
    
The tiger reserve area is proposed to be increased from 335 square KMs at present to 599 square KMs to create a core and buffer zones, an official of the sanctuary said. CPI(M-L) Liberation leader Kumar Parvez said the increase in the area would displace roughly two lakh Tharus residing in Bagaha, Gaunaha, Mainatand, Harintand and Ramnagar areas in and around the reserve forest.
    
He alleged that apart from displacement, the people are faced with other problems like disease, hunger as well as persecution as forest officials suspect them to be timber smugglers.
    
The Bihar government said it had no knowledge of the tribal people's likely displacement. The Principal Secretary (SC/ST Welfare), Ravi Parmar, said that the Forest and Environment Department would take care of this problem if at all it arose in the future.
    
Ruling JD(U) MLA from Valmiki Nagar Assembly seat Rajesh Singh said the tribals'right over the forest resources would be protected under the proposal for the tiger reserve's expansion.Parmar said that the state government had unveiled several schemes for the tribals' education and rural and employmen-oriented development programmes.
    
Keeping in mind the dilemma of the tribals – their dependence on forest resources for livelihood and fear of violation of stringent forest legislations - the government had set up an integrated Tharuhat Development Agency in 2008 to look after their needs, the official said
 
 Construction

Construction of 10 residential schools has started in the exclusive Tharu-inhabited areas and a scheme is on the anvil to arrange computer and vocational training for the tribal youths to make them employable, Parmar said.
    
In addition, projects have been taken up to improve road connectivity inside the Tharu villages as well as between the villages and the district headquarters and block offices, Parmar said.
    
He went on to claim that the state government had provided Rs 8.02 crore and Rs two crore for Tharu development schemes in 2010-11 and 2011-12 respectively. Parvez, however, remained unconvinced, claiming a strong resentment has been brewing among the Tharu people for sometime as there was no road network in the villages and no potable water to consume.
    
He did not rule out a conflict situation if their rights on the forest light were not recognised and measures not taken for their uplift.
    
He said that his party has been trying to organize the Tharus to fight for their rights and has organized protests in the state capital to draw the attention of the state government. MLA Rajesh Singh said that steps had been taken to integrate the Tharu tribals with the mainstream society and there were a number of elected representatives from the Tharu tribe in the panchayati raj bodies.

(Agencies)

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