NAGPUR: Timid response from forest department has encouraged relocated villagers from Navegaon National Park, now part of Navegaon-Nagzira Tiger Reserve (NNTR), to start cultivation right inside the park. Over 300 residents of three villages relocated from Navegaon in Gondia district, 130km from here, had entered the park on June 11, demanding more money than due under rehabilitation package, agriculture land and government jobs. On June 19, talks between district administration and forest officials failed.
However, in the last 20 days no effort was made by the forest officials to evict the squatters who occupied the lands of their previous villages. Three days ago over 125 villagers, still staying inside the park, started paddy transplantation and on Sunday were seen cultivating land with the help of tractors. It is surprising how the squatters were allowed to take tractors inside the park. The villagers have taken possession of a school building and several of them are residing in makeshift tents. Over 357 families from Kawlewada, Zankargondi and Kalimati in Navegaon were relocated to Shree Rampur near Saundad on NH6 in 2013 under Option I (Rs10 lakh per family above 18 years).
Though entire package of Rs10 lakh per family has been paid to them, the villagers are demanding Rs2.5 lakh per family more, besides jobs and agriculture land. During this entire period forest department did not take police or SRPF help to evict the villagers. When asked, Sarjan Bhagat, principal chief conservator of forests (PCCF) for wildlife, said, “The elections to Gondia zilla parishad are slated for Tuesday. Once the elections are over we will get sufficient police force to evict the villagers. If they don’t go on their own we will have to use force.” Gondia deputy conservator of forests (DyCF) Jitendra Ramgaonkar too said at present around 125 people remained inside the park. “We will have to use force if the squatters do no go voluntarily,” he added. Sources said non-availability of police force was linked to Naxal presence in the district. “As ‘Naxalite Week’ is going on, police are not ready to take any action as of now,” they said.