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The All India Tribal Students Association, Assam (AITSAA) has submitted a memorandum to Union Minister of State for Social Justice and Empowerment, Ramdas Athawale demanding permanent relocation and settlement of over 1,400 families of Laika and Dodhia villages under Dibru Saikhowa National Park in Upper Assam.
An AITSAA delegation met Athawale, who was in the city on Sunday to review the social welfare schemes of Assam.
“We demand immediate permanent settlement of the families belonging to the indigenous Mising community and living in the flood and erosion affected Laika and Dodhia villages under Dibru Saikhowa National Park,” the association said in the memorandum.
Protesters, including several women, have braved the winter chill to take shelter in makeshift camps near the Tinsukia Deputy Commissioner’s office for the past three weeks now, demanding immediate relocation and rehabilitation of the families in a suitable area of Tinsukia district.
“The protesters have been taking shelter for 21 days in cold weather without proper shelter, drinking water, hygienic food and sanitation,” the association stated.
Unfortunately, two women protesters, including a pregnant lady, died because of illness and health complications even though the Laika-Dodhia Rehabilitation Committee, which has been spearheading the agitation, requested the district administration for healthcare facilities and drinking water for the people in the camp.
The Assam government had on December 30, 2020, constituted a ten-member committee to find out ways for relocation and rehabilitation of the residents by the end of this month.
However, the members of the Laika-Dodhia Rehabilitation Committee are not convinced if an agreeable solution and settlement would come out within the month.
“We have lost our faith in the government. Over the past three years, the government has made assurances for our relocation in two forest areas but to no avail,” a committee member said, adding that the committee is opposed to relocation in a flood-prone area identified in Lakhimpur district.
Last year, the government gave a written assurance to rehabilitate the families on a 470-hectare plot in the Ouguri area of Upper Dehing Reserve Forest.
“However, the forest department objected to the move, saying that 8,000 trees will have to be uprooted for land clearance,” he said.
(Edited by Ladiangti Rani)