Kaptipada: The district administration has initiated process to ensure habitat rights for the Mankidia community, a semi-nomadic primitive tribe, in Mayurbhanj district, but the forest department has some legal hurdles in going ahead with the plan, a report said.
Of the 75 primitive tribal groups (PTG) living across India, 13 including Mankidia, Khadia and Lodha, have been identified in Mayurbhanj. The district has nine Mankidia villages where 255 families reside. Kaptipada sub-division alone has five villages having 164 families.
Sometime back the administration had started the process to provide habitat rights to Mankidia tribals under the Scheduled Tribes and other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006.
The revenue and forest department had conducted a joint survey and convened Gram Sabhas in Mankidia villages in consultation with the tribals and their heads. The joint report has been referred to the sub-divisional level land committee, which has sent the report to the district level land committee (DLC). The habitat rights of Mankidia will be effective if the DLC approves the report.
To ensure habitat rights for the primitive tribals, several NGOs have long been working and organising drives. But the forest department admits that it has some legal hurdles in carrying forward this initiative.
Mankidias living in Kaptipada sub-division have several demands including legal autonomy to carry on their traditional activities like collection of ‘sialilata’ (a kind of wild creeper), firewood, minor forest produce, honey, resin, mushrooms, and free movement in a vast area spanning Barha Jamuda, Bhanjabasa, Meghasana, Chidia Chaturi and Ghagara.
The problem is that these places are located within the core area of the Similipal wildlife sanctuary.
On the other hand, to ensure national park status to Similipal, the forest department has already started relocating villagers from inside the sanctuary. But the demand of the Mankidias for free movement inside Similipal and collection of minor forest produce has thrown up a legal problem.
While their livelihood, lifestyle, tradition, social systems and customs are solely dependent on forests, how far the demand of the Mankidias will be acceptable has posed a question mark. Silalilata is a major source of their livelihood. The tribals make ropes out of Sialilata and earn a living by selling the product in local markets.
But the forest department has declared the creeper a fodder for elephants. This will affect the livelihood of the Mankidias too.
“Under the Similpal Tiger Project, breeding of Royal Bengal Tigers has started. This ambitious project will be affected if the Mankidias are granted habitat rights inside the sanctuary. Except this demand, the administration may focus on resolving their problems and taking steps for their rehabilitation so as to bring the primitive tribals into the social mainstream,” said an official of the forest department.
Mankidias are residing in Damasahi and Uthanasahi in JS Jamudiha panchayat; Dongam under Khunta block; Mohalibasa under Thakumunda block and Rangamatia in Sarat.
Meanwhile, about 50 of 120 families living in Damasahi and Baliposi have been relocated at Uthanisahi under the rehabilitation scheme.
“Mankidias living in Damasahi and Uthanisahi are deprived of government benefits like ration cards,” lamented Baina Mankidia and Naku Mandkidia.
“Though houses have been provided to some of them under the Biju Pucca Ghar Yojana and Indira Awas Yojana, their construction has been left abandoned by contractors,” said Siba Mankidia and Munsi Mankidia. PNN