‘Dhangars at the receiving end of stringent forest rules’

Goa Dhangar Samaj Seva Sangh president B D Mote says the Dhangars living in the state have been at the receiving end of the stringent forest rules. In an exclusive interview with our senior reporter SOIRU VELIP, the Dhangar community leader implores upon the government to improve their lot and include the community in the scheduled tribe list

Q: As the president of the Goa Dhangar Samaj Seva Sangh
that works for the welfare of the community, how do you look at the recent
arrests of five persons belonging to the community over the tiger killings?

The tiger deaths is an unfortunate incident. But I must
make things clear here that the Dhangars have been living in forest areas for
decades and totally dependent on forests for their livelihood. Hence we must
understand the background of the tiger killings incident that took place in the
Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary. I would not say much on the tiger deaths, but want to tell the world that
the Dhangars have never been enemies of tigers or any other wild animals. I
must stress here that the five persons arrested by the forest department for
allegedly killing four tigers have never been poachers; they do not have history
in killing wild animals.

Q: You mean to say that the tigers were killed because
the wild cats attacked the cattle and

As I said, the arrested persons have no history of
killing wild animals. Some 25 days back,
a milchy cow was killed by the wild animal and that time the Dhangar family had
complained to the authorities. However, no action was taken by the forest
department or other authorities. After a few days, a milk giving buffalo was
also killed in the same area. If the complaint had been acted upon by the
department then the tigers would not have been killed.

Q: How the families of the arrested villagers have been
living without the support of their breadwinners?

The incident has devastated two Dhangar families as the
arrested persons were the sole breadwinners of the families. The deputy
collector visited the families on Tuesday… we hope that all support will be provided
to them by the authorities. As the president of the association, I strongly
feel that justice must be delivered to the beleaguered families.

Q: What is the present condition of the Dhangar community
in Goa? Do you get support from the
authorities on various issues?

The Dhangar community’s livelihood and culture are
directly connected with the forest. However, they are at the receiving end of
the stringent forest rules, which have forced them to migrate out of the forest
areas. The Dhangars live in remote areas and are dependent on dairy farming.
Our association has been working for the welfare of the community for the last
29 years. There have been no sincere efforts by the government to provide
better facilities to the Dhangar community. Enough efforts have not been made
to improve their lot…

Q: How many Dhangar families still live in
thickly-forested areas?

In Sattari taluka, there are two Dhangar families living
in Surla forest, four in Satre and four families live in Golavali village in
the Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary. Some 411 families live in Sattari taluka with
2182 members. The community has population of around 20,000 in Goa.

Q: After the recent incident, the government said that it
will move the families out of the remotest forest areas. How do you look at it?

The Dhangars are ready to shift from forests to other
areas provided the government makes arrangements for grazing land for cows,
buffalos and other livestock. The government should come out with a policy for
rehabilitation of the Dhangars that will take care of the needs of houses,
children’s education, water and power supply, proper roads, cow sheds and
grazing land for domestic animals. The government will have to ensure that our
traditional dairy farming will be encouraged in new areas.

Q: What are your other expectations from the government
for the upliftment of the Dhangars of the state?

The government must make budgetary provision of funds for
improving the lot of the community. The
government should resolve ownership issues of land occupied by the families.
And most importantly, the government must make serious efforts for inclusion of
our community in the scheduled tribe list as soon as possible.

Source:: The Navhind Times

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