In forest areas
Travel across Melghat, and discussions with forest officials and local Korku tribals will confirm the deepest fears: egs cannot succeed wherever there are huge tracts of forest land, tracts where also some of the country's poorest people live.
"Melghat is spread in Dharni and Chikaldara taluka s of Amravati district, Maharashtra, with a total area of about 4,000 sq km out of which almost 3,000 sq km is forest land. There are only 100 villages within the protected forest area (the Melghat Tiger Reserve) whereas another 300 are outside the forest areas. The total population of these two talukas is about 2 lakh, of which almost one third is labour force. This means at any given point in time 45,000 people need to be employed. And even if we follow nrega (the current programme) and provide employment for only 100 days in a year, the cost comes to Rs 22.5 crore per annum for Melghat alone,' says R K Wankhade, deputy conservator of forests, Melghat Tiger Reserve. As per district administration figures, almost 246,621 labourers have already registered themselves for egs work across Amravati, out of which 45,777 are from Chikaldara and Dharni taluka alone.
But why is almost one-third of Melghat without any source of livelihood?
In early February this year, a large group of tribals from Melghat organised a padayatra and walked from Paratwada to Amravati to meet the district collector, Ravindra Jhadav, and demand work under egs . All had a common complaint
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