Resorts inside forest a threat to tribal life

Residents of tribal areas threaten to go on strike

Mushrooming private resorts and home stays on the forest fringes in Wayanad district that flout government norms destroy the tranquillity of highly vulnerable tribal communities inside the forest.

Residents of the Chookalikkuni Kattunayakka hamlet and Kumizhy Paniya hamlet inside the Wayanad wildlife sanctuary complained that the increasing number of resorts and homestays inside the hamlets were not only posing a threat to the tribal people but also to the wildlife in the area.

Chandrika of Chookalikkuni said both the hamlets were surrounded by forest and as many as 130 families, including 110 tribal families and 20 families of Wayanadan Chetty families, were residing in it.

“As many as 13 private resorts, including a resort owned by a former Deputy Police Superintendent, were functioning in the hamlet flouting all norms. They were functioning even without obtaining licences from grama panchayat authorities,” Ms. Chandrika said.

“Though we had submitted grievances against the resorts to the departments concerned, they were yet to adopt any steps to stop it,” Sheeba of Kumizhi tribal settlement said.

As per the Forest Rights Act, a road connecting the hamlets with outer world was permitted only for the use of residents. But resort owners were misusing it for their private purposes, N. Badusha, president, Wayanad Prakriti Samrakshana Samiti, said. Many a time, the tourists were provoking elephants and spotted deer in the adjacent forest for taking photographs, he said.

The roaming of tourists in tribal huts, night parties, and camp fire in an intoxicated mood, supply of alcohol to tribal people, and round-the-clock working of diesel generators for generating power, were also posing threats to the tranquil life of residents as well as the wildlife .

A tribal woman, who was working in a private resort, was found dead in a mysterious circumstances a few years ago .Though her husband had complained to the police, they were yet to take any action, Ms. Sheeba said.

Many a time the resort mafia were purchasing the land from settler farmers, who were forced to leave the area owing to man-animal conflict, at a throwaway prices, he said.

“We have submitted separate grievances to District Collector, District Police Chief, ITDP officer, and warden of the sanctuary to address the issues,” he said. If the authorities failed to adopt positive steps, the residents would launch indefinite agitations, they warned.

But the sanctuary authorities said it was the onus of the district administration to take steps against the resort owners, as the resorts were mostly on revenue land though inside the sanctuary. And, if the traffic movements on the road was blocked, the residents also would be affected.

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