HUBBALLI (KARNATAKA): He lived most part of his life in deep forests of Western Ghats. With no road connectivity to mainland, he along with his family finally decided to move out of the forests six years ago. But his fight did not end there. After relocating from the forest he had to fight for the compensation amount. And in the last one year, he has been made to run from pillar to post for documents to receive the last installment of compensation which is rightly his.
Today Maheshwar Shetiya lies on his death bed in his new house at Kannigeri Village of Yellapur. He is being treated at the house which was allotted to him after he agreed to relocate from Babakumbri settlement of Anashi Wildlife Range of Kali Tiger Reserve in 2013. His first compensation amount of Rs 1 lakh was given to him in 2014 and followed by Rs 6 lakh in the later years. But for the last few years, Shetiya is unable to procure the final installment of Rs 3 lakh.
Shetiya lives with his wife and two sons who work as agricultural labourers. The family is struggling to meet the ends and also do not have enough money to treat Shetiya at a private hospital.
“My father met every possible official to get the final installment money released but in vain. My father says he wants to receive the compensation amount before he dies. But the condition of my father and the way officials of the forest department are acting we are not sure if we ever get the payment. My father’s health deteriorated mainly because of the harassment he received from the officials. Recently even the district commissioner had visited the land and had approved the final payment but in vain,” said Chandrashekar, son of Shetiya.
Shetiya's wife recalled the difficult days they spent inside the forest a few years ago. She said that the officials showed them colourful dreams to relocate us outside the forest. “But one can see how happy we are. My husband literally died seeking money which was rightfully his. Today he is unwell and we are asking money from our relatives and friends for his treatment. If this is the way the government will treat the people who opt for relocation why will the tribal families will come forward to let go of lands they owned in the forest,” she asked.
When contacted the officials at the Kali Tiger Reserve they said that the documents provided by Shetiya were not complete hence the delay occurred. “We had asked for some corrections in the documents which have been done. We shall release the amount soon,” assured an official.
“The DC of Uttara Kannada had visited the land of Shetiya and had approved the final payment but it was withheld at the office of the director of Kali Reserve. The matter needs to be investigated as it was uncalled for. If the documents were not clear why the DC official approved the payment. We are planning to meet higher officials in the department in this regard,” said an activist from Dandeli.