This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Down To Earth. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

This Adivasi Village Is Fighting For Its Livelihood Against A Giant Power Coporation

More from Down To Earth

By Shruti Agarwal:

Note: This article has been republished from Down To Earth.

Maharshtra adivasi village
There is no provision in any law or rule to compensate communities for losses in livelihood (Credit: Vikas Choudhary/CSE)

In the Gadchirolli district of Maharashtra, a first of its kind people’s movement has been brewing. An adivasi village, Lavari has stalled the construction of a transmission line for nearly six months now. The project requires cutting down hundreds of Minor Forest Produce (MFP) tree species, a major source of livelihoods for the adivasi community in Lavari. Lavari is not saying ‘no’ to the project; it is asking to be compensated for the loss in income that will arise from the removal of these trees and use the amount to plant more than double the trees in their forest.

Power Grid Corporation of India Ltd (PGCIL) received forest clearance for its 765KV transmission line project from Raipur to Wardha in December 2015. Being a linear project that has been exempted from obtaining Gram Sabha consent for approval, the work commenced, soon after approval. The first step was felling trees, which lay along the length and breadth of the proposed transmission line.

Lavari received Community Forest Resource (CFR) rights over 536.03 hectares of forest land in 2012. The village formed a Vanhaq Sahniyantran Samiti (Forest Rights Co-Management committee) comprising of 7 men and 5 women. The village is dependent on collection and sale of MFP for its sustenance. Lavari gram sabha has been harvesting and selling bamboo and other MFP species, profitably, since the recognition of its community forest rights (CFR). The gram sabha has a bank account and its own Permanent Account Number.

Livelihood Loss From The Transmission Line

The forest department has estimated that 961 trees belonging to different MFP species in Lavari’s CFR will be removed for the transmission line. After carrying out a survey along the stretch of the transmission line through their village, Lavari gram sabha recalculates this number at 1,675. “The department has not included the trees that would grow to the height of the transmission wire the next year, which would be cut down eventually”, says Rahul, the secretary of Lavari’s Vanhaq Sahniyantran Samiti.

The gram sabha has also calculated the loss in income that would result from the removal of these trees for every species. There are 204 Mahua trees identified for removal. Each Mahua tree would fetch the village atleast Rs 2000 in one year, resulting in a loss of Rs 4.08 lakhs. There are also 70 trees of Char, where each tree brings revenue worth Rs 1000 per year to the village. Then there is tendu, jamun, amla, hirda, behra, the losses from which have been enumerated as well. Interestingly, all calculations have been made for the entire village and not for households. According to Rahul, even the most conservative estimate suggests that the village would lose nearly Rs 5.56 lakh per year from the loss of these trees.

The forest department officials have a different perspective. “The trees that would be cut down will regenerate in a few years. In fact, for some species like tendu, cutting them periodically ensures that new leaves come sooner. In any case, only a small area in the CFR would be diverted for the transmission line. The losses will not be significant. Additionally, medicinal plants will be grown under the transmission line which will provide employment to the locals,” says a forest official.

No Policy On Compensation

Lavari is not willing to settle for a seemingly ‘feel good’ model. “Our livelihoods have improved significantly since we received CFR rights. People in the village have started to realise that they do not need to migrate to nearby towns and cities, if forests are providing them sustained income. We have been planting bamboo every year in our CFR now since 2013. This year, the plan is to increase the bamboo plantations in the CFR by 20,000. We will use the compensation amount towards raising these plantations. This way, our forests will be healthy and our people happy,” adds Rahul.

Sadly, the gram sabha’s demand for compensation finds no legal backing in the current scenario. “There is no provision in any law or rule to compensate communities for such losses. Compensation is provided when a project displaces people. That is not the case here”, say the forest department officials, without commenting on whether or not these demands were fair. “As part of their mandate under Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), PGCIL has offered solar lights and other benefits to Lavari, but the village is not agreeing to them.”

In addition to depositing funds for Compensatory Afforestation (CA), project developers require to pay for the loss in ecosystem goods and services from forest diversion, till the afforested area starts to provide comparable benefits. This is called Net present Value (NPV) of forests, which almost always, forms the largest share of the total funds received from developers. Based on estimates of proportion of benefits of all forest goods and services, an IIFM study in 2013 estimated that about 50 per cent of the economic losses of forest diversion occur at the community level. The study sponsored by the environment ministry, recommended that 50 per cent of the NPV funds should be allocated for affected communities, while 34% and 16% should accrue to the states and the centre respectively.

The recommendation has no mention of forest diversion or utilisation of CA funds. The Compensatory Afforestation Fund (CAF) Bill 2015, which awaits the decision of the Rajya Sabha in the upcoming monsoon session, has been widely criticised for lacking provisions to benefit communities. While the Bill provides utilisation of funds for a range of services including artificial regeneration (plantations), assisted natural regeneration, protection of forests, forest related infrastructure development, Green India Programme, wildlife protection, it has been completely silent on involving or benefiting communities. The draft National Forest Policy of 2016, which has been disowned by MoEFCC for reasons unknown, has added utilisation of NPV funds for establishing wildlife corridors around diverted forests, but maintained silence on compensating affected communities.

Need For A Fair Model

The argument against compensation is that communities find gainful employment when ‘development’ projects come to their villages. Such employment opportunities are often in the form of wage labour, which treat local communities as recipients or beneficiaries of a scheme, and not as right-holders. In most cases, when the number of jobs created is measured against the loss of livelihoods, the latter outnumbers the former significantly. This explains to some extent why such models, which have been in existence for years now, have done little to improve the lives and livelihoods of forest-dependent communities. Perhaps it is time to think more creatively. Lavari’s demand for compensation is centered on reviving forest livelihoods and keeping migration in check, through a rights-based framework. Perhaps we can all learn from what the gram sabha’s long term vision in demanding compensation has to offer for our forests and the people dependent on them. While policy makers debate on ‘state-of-the-art’ ways of eliminating poverty in forest fringe villages of India, a small adivasi village in Maharashtra is offering solutions. With PGCIL working directly under the Prime Minister’s Office, will government pay heed?

Image source: Google

You must be to comment.

More from Down To Earth

Similar Posts

By Abhishek Padiyar

By Down To Earth

By Down To Earth

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below