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Jobs lost to pandemic, tribals awaiting call from Anamalai Tiger Reserve officials

Some of them were engaged in clearing vegetation to prevent forest fire, while some others had been engaged in collecting parking charges from tourists in Topslip, a well-known tourist spot.

Published: 02nd October 2021 10:27 AM  |   Last Updated: 02nd October 2021 10:27 AM   |  A+A-

By Express News Service

COIMBATORE: Many residents of the Erumaiparai tribal settlement coming under the Ulanthy forest range in Anamalai Tiger Reserve (ATR) are without a job ever since Covid-19 broke out in March 2020.

Some of them were engaged in clearing vegetation to prevent forest fire, while some others had been engaged in collecting parking charges from tourists in Topslip, a well-known tourist spot.

According to VS Paramasivam, Coimbatore district president of Tamil Nadu Tribal Welfare Association, “Though ATR officials started allowing tourists to stay in guest houses in Topslip and collecting charges for parking vehicles, only one tribal is engaged in the work now, whereas four people had been engaged in the work earlier. Similarly, sweeping of the reception and cleaning of toilets, which had been performed by temporary staff, have now been given to permanent staff.”

Saroja, a tribal woman, said she used to get Rs 250-300 which was helpful in running her family and supporting her children’s education. She has been rendered jobless for the past one and a half years. “We were waiting to hear from the forest officials who had assured to give us jobs once the department started its activities. However, the officials failed to keep their word,” she said.

According to her, a total of 32 families have been living in the settlement. While over 100 tribal people had been engaged in various works, 40 of them are jobless now, she Saroja said.

Paramasivam said the tribals were facing hardship without jobs and that they had requested the forest department to create a platform where tribals can perform their traditional dance for tourists and in return collect a decent amount of money from them. “This will improve their livelihood apart from protecting their traditional dance. Such a practice is followed in Parambikulam Tiger Reserve, located adjacent to the ATR,” he pointed out.

A senior ATR official told TNIE, “We have provided employment to one member from each tribal family in Erumaiparai settlement and deny that 40 people are jobless. The tribals in Erumaiparai are engaged as drivers and in other works for the forest department. I have interacted with tribal families. However, a few persons do not possess the qualification for even a driver’s job. Clearing vegetation to prevent forest fire is seasonal work. We had engaged them for the work in summer, but we cannot engage them now in the rains.”

The official added that they were planning to introduce tribal dance before tourists and collect an amount for it. In this regard, the department would hold discussions with the tribals, he said.



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