The tribals living in remote padas/hamlets had been facing problems while trying to build new houses for their growing families. When the 2005 Forest Rights Act came into force, people living on the lands from before 2005 were allowed dwellings at the same place. But those with growing families had failed to build new houses as there was no land available.
“This is a very big problem for tribals who are dependant on the farms in their respective padas. They cannot afford to leave for bigger villages or cities. If we construct houses just outside our padas, the forest department considers it as encroachment. The officials register criminal cases or demolishe the structures,” said Sharad Zhirwal of Dindori taluka.
The requests for dwellings with the district authorities are also turned down. This is in stark contrast to villages or city areas where there is a space for construction of new residential quarters either in the form of gaothan or yellow zones.
“We have no option, other than to stay in small houses or ultimately leave our pada to find a dwelling elsewhere,” said Satish Gavit, another member of the tribal community who has been facing problems since he and his brother got married in 2010 and 2014, respectively.
Wayam, an NGO working in the travel sector, took up the issue with the state government and with the governor. “This notification says that if the residents of respective padas do not have any space to build new houses for growing family needs, the forest department should provide one hectare of forest land within or adjacent to the pada for the construction of dwellings as part of community forest rights. The pada can then accommodate the new houses. But this is not for those coming from outside the pada,” said Milind Thatte of Wayam.
Government officials said that this would provide a major solution to the tribals’ dwelling problems and reduce migration. There are nine tribal talukas in Nashik district with 938 revenue villages and 839 padas, housing 9.20 lakh tribals.