Traditional farming practiced by Baiga community: Planting 16 types of seeds every monsoon – Chhattisgarh

The Baiga tribals in Chhattisgarh have been repeatedly facing displacement from their home and forest-dependant livelihood over the years with more areas being notified as reserve forests in the State […]

Old-timers like Sunarin can hardly see and doesn’t know her age, but remembers that she and some of the people in this village have been evicted many times. “First we lived in the hills in Boirha and nearby. We travelled a lot before ending up here. Now we hear there is some sanctuary and we could be moved out again,” Sunarin grins.

Rashmi Dwivedi of Baiga Mahapanchayat, Chhattisgarh says that she has recorded the movement of this group of people since 1989 and found that they have been chased out of settlements 12 times.

“At first, the Forest Department opposed the shifting cultivation or bewar that the Baigas practised. They brought us down from the hills and made us give up bewar,” recalls Sunarin. She recites the names of the 16 types of seeds they used to plant every monsoon, including millets, vegetables and nutritious plants.  That biodiversity is almost extinct now and they grow mostly paddy and some greens now.

The Forest Department is not comfortable with the Baigas residing in the core area and even more displeased with Ms. Dwivedi who is perceived as someone “who is encouraging the Baigas to clear land and settle down.” While there has been no formal notification to relocate Ghameri yet, people have been told by Forest Department officials that they will have to leave eventually since plans are afoot to relocate 15 of the 19 villages. […]

The Rajak village with 60 families is on the list of five which the Forest Department wants to relocate this year. “The beat guard is telling us that we have to move. There is little information on where to. We have seen some forest land at Tilwankhar. We will go if we have no choice,” says Andhru. His wife Chaiti, however, is defiant: “There is no way I will leave this village. Our forefathers are buried here. Why should we leave?”

The Baigas in the six villages already relocated from the Achanakmar Tiger Reserve in 2009 are facing issues of livelihood. The land given to them, two hectares per family, is newly-cleared forest land (diverted after due permission) — some with large tree stumps, uneven and without proper embankments. “Right now it is difficult to grow anything on it but we are trying,” says Manmati, a resident of the new Jalda village. […]

In Bokhra Kachchar, Gulab Singh says that healthcare facilities are at Kudhiya which is about three km away but there is no money to pay. “We leave it to God if we fall ill. The Baigas are not used to chemically grown food,” he adds. His words reflect the general feeling of despair when he talks about his life in the forest.

Ironically, three of these six villages — Kuba, Bahaud and Jalda — are located in the natural corridor with Kanha and on the periphery of the tiger reserve, say conservation activists who predict increased man-animal conflicts in the future in these areas in the absence of a proper wildlife management plan. […]

Some distance away, at Tedgi Mahua, a new settlement has sprung up for sheltering the displaced from Bhoramdeo. There is no access road and the village is located behind a hill across a stream.  The new place is over 30 km away from their old home inside the forest.  They have a school and water supply thanks to the local panchayat office. The only thing they lack is a road but they have learnt to live without it. […]

Jasvirsingh S. Chouhan, field director of Kanha Tiger Reserve, says there was no proposal to move villages out of the buffer zone and they had nothing to do with the Baigas’ relocation.

Source: Forest versus forest folks | The Hindu
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Date Visited: 28 January 2022

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