The Adivasi community of Velip has lived in the Shisheval village of Poinguinimin Cancona,Goa for decades. Their main source of income is self cultivation of forest land.But little did they know that just about anyone could walk up, destroy their small cashew plantation and walk away like it was all in a day’s work.
The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 states that communities that were cultivating “forest land” on or before the 13th of Dec 2005 retain right for continued use and ownership of that land. Community Correspondent Devidas says it was only because of a chance walk through the area that the 15 Adivasi families realized that their plantation, just ripe for harvest, was being decimated by the forest guards. If it wasn’t for them witnessing the act, they would’ve never been able to prove who the culprits were.
Though the damage had been done, the people immediately protested the illegal act and complained to the forest officials as well as then local MLA Ramesh Tawadkar. With Mr. Tavadkar’s support the people asked the Regional Forest Officer on what basis the order to destroy the tress was made. Much to their surprise, the officer denied having ever given the order and passed on the blame to his juniors. The Regional Forest Officer assured them that strict action would be taken against the perpetrators. That action is still awaited.
The Velip community wants to ensure that no one will / can alienated them from their ancestral land. They do not want to become dependent on wage labor for the rest of their lives. The community must be compensated as per the law for the loss of their crop due the gross apathy on part of the Forest Department.
Their right to a decent livelihood should be restored. Their lone supporter former MLA Ramesh Tawadkar now holds the Sports and Youth Affairs as well as Tribal Welfare portfolios in the newly formed cabinet of the Goan Government. The Velips of Poinguinim hope Mr. Tawadkar continues to stand for the rights of his people and gets them their due.