Invite to Seminar on Tigers, Tribes and Bureaucrats at NMML


The Nehru Memorial Museum and Library  invites all interested to to a Seminar on Tigers, Tribes, and Bureaucrats:  Relocations from Melghat Tiger Reserve, Maharashtra by Dr. Nitin Sekar, Princeton University, New Jersey, USA.

Date: Monday, 9th March, 2015
Time: 3.00 pm
Venue: Seminar Room, First Floor, Library Building, Nehru Memorial Museum & Library, New Delhi

Abstract: Relocations of forest-reliant peoples from protected areas to promote wildlife conservation has typically resulted in negative socioeconomic results for those displaced. India’s 2006 Forest Rights Act endeavors to improve outcomes of relocations for conservation by mandating that relocations only occur if villages provide their free informed consent; in theory, the socioeconomic results of such voluntary relocations should be generally positive.

The speaker conducted a field study in Melghat Tiger Reserve, Maharashtra—site of India’s most extensive programme for voluntary relocations of Adivasi communities—to examine a) the extent to which such relocations are truly voluntary, and b) how such relocations affect socioeconomic metrics and overall quality of life for those relocated. Using qualitative and quantitative surveys of villagers from nine villages (two yet-to-be-relocated), State officials, and non-governmental organization leaders, the speaker found that while consent to relocate was arguably free, it was not fully informed across the villages examined. Thus, while relocations may have been voluntary based on the prevailing legal interpretation of Gram Sabha resolutions, the relocations did not fully meet the standard of consent described in the Forest Rights Act.

Furthermore, the process of attaining Gram Sabha consent was found to be un-inclusive, under-representing the views of women and other marginalized individuals; this institutional problem is not specific to the relocations. The socioeconomic results indicate that relocated villagers make a trade-off, leaving a familiar, healthier environment and partially-monetized economic system for higher incomes and better access to modern services and employment. The median respondent in each village believed their overall quality of life was about the same or better post-relocation, suggesting the Melghat relocations were more successful than prior relocations of Adivasis for conservation. However, many households still faced preventable and unacceptable losses over the course of the relocation.

The talk will conclude with recommendations as to how better communication by State officials, involvement by non-governmental organizations, and inclusiveness in Gram Sabha decision-making could improve voluntary relocations. The scalability of such a program, however, is uncertain.

About the Speaker: Dr. Nitin Sekar is a conservation scientist with a focus on South Asia. He is broadly interested in conservation oriented towards social justice, ecological function, and culturally significant species. He recently received his PhD in ecology from Princeton University, USA, for his work on the role of Asian elephants in dispersing seeds of large-fruited species. While at Princeton, Nitin also earned a certificate in environmental policy from the Woodrow Wilson School, where he researched village relocations for conservation and the international ivory trade.

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