Chenchu tribals caught between a rock and a hard place

By TheHindu on 28 Mar 2017 | read
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Chenchu tribals of 80 plus habitations in the Nallamala forests in Prakasam district are a happier lot with the Centre recognising their rights over forest land by enacting the Recognition of Forest Rights Act (ROFR) as they no longer have to depend on collection of dwindling forest produce trekking 10 to 20 km each day to eke out a living.

As the rain-fed agriculture is characterised by fluctuating fortunes, they are now in an unenvious position with no assured water for irrigation with the district facing drought in all the mandals for the third consecutive year.

In a conversation with The Hindu at Dornala, a group of tribals said, “We are no longer in a position to eke out a living by collecting the dwindling forest produce trekking 10 to 20 km each day.” They have bow and arrow only for self defence while moving in the forests as hunting has been prohibited in the forests, they say. They are neither in a position to carry on their traditional way of life nor lead a settled life as farmers due to lack access to assured water.

They want the State government to exclude their habitations, which are 10 to 20 km away from the main revenue villages, from the list of over-exploited villages where the ban on sinking of borewells is in force for them to make effective use of over 5,000 acres of land given to them in 56 Chenchugudems so far as per the provisions of the ROFR. Of this, close to 2,000 acres had borewell facility, explain the tribal farmers, who grow, among other crops, chilli, cotton, red gram, pearl millet and foxtail millet.

“Water can be seen even at a depth of 100 ft. to 150 ft. in their hamlets as against 800 ft. in the revenue villages in the mandals of Dornala, Yerragondaplem and Pullalacheruvu,” says a tribal elderman Pedda Manthanna.

They plead for provision of micro irrigation facility for their farms as this is the only way to improve their living condition.

Andhra Pradesh Micro Irrigation Project Director Y. Vidya Shankar says the department will provide micro irrigation system in phases to the borewells of eligible tribals free of cost.

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