Reporter: Rohit Gandhi, Producer: Vrinda Aggarwal
At the edge of the Corbett Tiger Reserve, approximately 20 km from the town of Kotdwar in Uttarakhand lives a community of Gujjars. Several years ago, they migrated from Jammu and Kashmir. They have been nomads all their lives moving from one place to another searching for food for their livestock. In the Reserve, they are living on someone else's land always under the fear that they can be ousted anytime. They have built kutchcha homes from mud that require constant repair and upkeep.
The nearest village is 8 km away. Their community is off grid with no access to drinking water, education, electricity etc. The community fear sending their children far off to schools due to the wildlife. Generations of this Gujjar community are unlettered and with no school in the near vicinity, the trend is bound to continue. In the past one month, the local political leader has put a solar panel for these houses. Now, they get few hours of electricity in the night.
Every gujjar family gets a permit from the forest department to rear a defined number of livestock in a decided protected area of forest. Each year, the males of the community take their livestock for 4-5 months to the jungle for rearing. They have no protection in the jungle from wildlife. Over the years, they have lost several family members and their livestock to wildlife. The women stay behind taking care of homes and children. The community is living in the hope that one day the government will give them land in exchange of the permit. Years back, they had done given 10 bighas of land to a few community members.
A piece of land would stabilise their life. They can build pucca houses, start a business or take up farming.
There is no timeline to when this fringe community can get a piece of land but at this point, one of the pressing issues that they are facing is the lack of education for their kids.