PROJECT TIGER: IMPACT ON THE SOLIGA TRIBES OF KARNATAKA

INTRODUCTION

For quite a while, tip-top state entertainers upheld by individuals from the past administering class and metropolitan preservationists[1] set up and explained untamed life protection strategy and practice in India.[2] Most animal conservation initiatives have focused on establishing protected zones, normally untamed life safe-havens and public parks, from which nearby individuals have been expelled and whose utilization has been confined. The Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 (WLPA) mandated the establishment of protected areas, which maintained the colonial history of punishing forest-dependent communities for supposedly ecologically damaging subsistence practices. Entire communities were repositioned to the outskirts of protected zones, and residents were prohibited from engaging in swidden agriculture, hunting, cattle grazing, and collecting non-timber forest products (NTFPs) and small-sized timber. However, there have been few methodical efforts to document these deprivations.[3] The WLPA provided for the establishment of the National Tiger Conservation Authority, which is a statutory body of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change with its mandate to strengthen tiger conservation in India[4].

As the number of tigers declines, preventive steps ought to be taken to save them from becoming inexistent. Numerous attempts are being made to conserve their kind, and Project Tiger is a significant initiative targeted at tiger conservation in India. The Tigers’ habitat should be improved, and any tree felling in the region should be prevented. The Royal Bengal Tiger being the national animal of India, it is our responsibility to properly protect the species and the wildlife. Many efforts undertaken by India have resulted in a reduction in tiger depletion. Many protection zones were established to ensure that no human may enter and harm the tiger or its environment.

The WLPA gives statutory authority to Project Tiger which was launched on April 1st, 1973. Project Tiger has put the endangered tiger on a guaranteed path of revival by protecting it from extinction. The Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 was amended in 2006 to give statutory status to Project Tiger. Under former PM Indira Gandhi’s guidance, the genuinely necessary project was started at Jim Corbett National Park, Uttarakhand. The Project Tiger’s goals were distinct: to keep Royal Bengal Tigers from becoming extinct.

Humans are the primary cause of their decline; thus, all conservation zones have been designated human-free. They ensured that the tigers’ habitat was likewise safe and secure. Project Tiger has been effective in expanding the tiger population. The figure has risen from 1200 to about 5000. The project crew has worked tirelessly, and all national parks have contributed to the project’s success. This initiative involves around fifty national parks and sanctuaries. The national parks in India engaged in Project Tiger include Jim Corbett, Nagarhole, Gir, Manas, Bandipur, Ranthambore, Kanha, Sunderbans, Bandhavgarh, Panna, and many more. Tiger Reserves in Sunabeda (Odisha), Ratapani (Madhya Pradesh), and Guru Ghasidas (Odisha) are recent additions to this project.

THE SUCCESS OF PROJECT TIGER

Despite numerous challenges such as stealing and the Forest Rights Act, the project thrived owing to the government’s efficiency in tackling those problems. The tiger population was just 1200 in the 1970s, but according to a recent census, it has risen to 5000. In fact, there has been a 33% increase in population in the previous eight years. This speaks volumes about the government’s and national parks’ efforts. Compared to the global goals, India is way ahead in its bid to increase the tiger population. From tiger reserves to hunting grounds, India has demonstrated its ability to conserve wildlife overall. The wildlife and forest legislations have been revised. Any form of unlawful animal trade has been outlawed. Human intervention is not permitted in any of the reserves or forests. For the tigers to exist and survive, a suitable environment has been established.

As the project flourished, a greater need for human assistance was observed. Every aspect of it generated employment. As lands transformed into national parks, ordinary labourers were given jobs. The regions were planned by builders and architects. On the construction being completed and species has been relocated, the national parks were supervised. Every state has its own conservation squad comprising managers, supervisors, and workers. A marketing team was engaged to spread awareness about Project Tiger. Posters, banners, television advertising, and social media all contributed towards that cause. The tourist business is prodigious and profitable source of employment. Tourists flock to the area as national parks expand and unique creatures are preserved. The national parks have begun to charge an entrance fee and provide safaris for additional revenue and local guides are being benefitted.

CHALLENGES CONFRONTED BY THE GOVERNMENT

Any successful project must deal with a great deal of strain and confront several obstacles. Various government officials’ efforts and devotion are required to make Project Tiger a fruitful piece of work. It was difficult to remove hunting areas off the market in ancient times. Many people objected to it and voiced their displeasure. Nonetheless, the project went ahead. Poaching was another big issue. Numerous individuals used to exchange tiger bones and skin to foreign business sectors. This was a big business for them, and they made a lot of money from it. Despite all of the project’s efforts, they were unable to halt the illegal trade in animal skins. People used to violate the law in order to sell them to overseas customers. This resulted in the extinction of tigers.

Government authorities enacted tough legislation to address the issue. During the construction of sanctuaries and reserves, the human population living there encountered difficulty and, as a result, spoke out against it. A Forest Rights Act outlining their difficulties was passed. Humans continue to live on the fringes of certain national parks. They have made peace with Project Tiger and recognise its significance.

PROJECT TIGER AND THE SOLIGA TRIBES

Biligiri Rangaswamy Temple Wildlife Sanctuary in Karnataka state was established in 1974. The indigenous people residing in the forest called Soliga Adivasis, were compellingly moved to provinces along the highways or on the reserve’s borders. They were prohibited from setting fire to the forest (a customary management method), shifting crops and shooting animals. They were allowed to collect tubers and wood fuel only for home usage, as well as market NTFPs such as arale (Terminalia belerica), amla (Phyllanthus emblica), lichen, and honey. The Karnataka Forest Department established and maintained a cooperative to oversee and manage the sale of these goods. In 2006, the Biligiri Rangaswamy Temple prohibited the collection of NTFPs (in response to the 2002 amendment of the Wildlife Protection Act).

During the 1970s relocation effort, not all households acquired land; those that did received only tiny tracts that they were approved to cultivate yet didn’t claim, and consequently had no residency security. The cultivated region was assigned as “forest land”, and occupants might be removed at any time by the Forest Department. As a result, land was lost on a regular basis. Forest Division personnel would dig trenches round the property to separate farmland from the encompassing forest, and with every outline, less land was contained. Such barbarous dispossession has been basic everywhere on the Biligiri Rangaswamy Temple’s history. As a result, less than half of Soliga’s households currently cultivate land living within the reserve. These stories of dispossession are intertwined with those of loss of admittance to woods and scenes.

SOCIAL, CULTURAL AND ECONOMIC TIES

For the Soligas, the Biligiri Rangaswamy Temple land is a site of strong social, cultural, and economic importance. Oral histories collected from community elders reveal that the entire terrain is made up of culturally significant locations and sites.[5] Soliga Tribe in the Biligiri Rangaswamy Temple is clan-based, with each of the six clans worshipping their deity shrine for the dead (Kallu gudi), goddess (Maramma), (Devaru), graveyard (Samadhi), hero stone (Veeru), and sacred spring in the terrain (abbi). These sites are placed in clan-specific regions (called yelles), with some clans worshipping multiple. Participatory planning of these areas and destinations uncovered that the Biligiri Rangaswamy Temple has around 500 socially important places in 46 yelles. Accordingly, the scene is bursting at the seams with importance and association, which conservation methodology fails to comprehend.

CONCLUSION

More than fifty national parks have participated in Project Tiger, and each park is making an equal effort to conserve the endangered species. One of the project’s key achievements has been the increase of four thousand tigers in the last several years. Humans have nearly completely ceased hunting and illegally selling tiger skin. National parks are taking steps to rescue and conserve all animals. People have grown more conscious of the wildlife crisis and have taken efforts to prevent its extinction. Many people found work as a result of Project Tiger. Since the project’s inception, wildlife has had fewer issues. Howbeit, the human population that calls these protected areas their ‘home’, has had to put up with several tribulations.

Author(s) Name: Debalina Roy (Student, Xavier Law School, XIM University, Odisha)

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References:

[1] Ranjitsingh, M.K. 2017. A Life with Wildlife: From princely India to the present. New Delhi: Harper Collins

[2] Thapar, Valmik. 2013. Tiger Fire. New Delhi: Aleph

[3] Shahabuddin, Ghazala and Padmasai L. Bhamidipati. 2014. Conservation-induced displacement: recent perspectives from India. Environmental Justice 7(5): 122–129; Lasgorceix, Antoine and Ashish Kothari. 2009. Displacement and relocation of protected areas: A synthesis and analysis of case studies. Economic & Political Weekly 44(49): 37–47.

[4] Verma, Ayush. 2020. Conservation of Tiger under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, https://blog.ipleaders.in/conservation-tiger-wildlife-protection-act/.

[5] Rai, Nitin and Madegowda, C. 2017. Rethinking landscapes: history, culture and local knowledge in the Biligiri Rangaswamy Temple Tiger Reserve, India. In Bhagwat, S., ed., Conservation and Development in India: Reimagining wilderness, pp. 132–141. London: Routledge, UK.

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