On January 17, 2014, Padmaiah Malekudiya, whose family had been living on about 2 acres of encroached forestland in Bijjale enclosure, Mala Village of Karkala Taluk, Kudremukh, chose to renounce the rights he had acquired under the Forests Rights Act, 2006 in favor of a fresh start and a better life outside, thanks to fair and just compensation from the government.
Through a landmark order dated 9th January 2014, the Deputy Commissioner of Udupi, M. T. Reju, provided a compensation of 29.3 lakh rupees for Padmaiah’s farm deep in the forest, which will now become a part of Kudremukh National Park. “I am happy to move out. These benefits far outweigh my Forest Rights”, Padmaiah told Niren Jain of the Kudremukh Wildlife Foundation. In seeking resettlement, Padmaiah and his family exercised their constitutionally guaranteed freedom to move to wherever they wanted, willingly relinquishing their Forest Rights in order to gain from the better opportunities outside, such as access to employment, transportation, education, and electricity, and safety of their crops and livestock from depredations by wildlife.
Padmaiah sought help for his relocation from Wildlife Conservation Society-India Program and Kudremukh Wildlife Foundation, and received the government cash compensation based on a full valuation of his assets, including the encroached land, from Mr. Sunil Kumar (MLA, Karkala), in the presence of Dr. Ramesh Kumar (DCF, Kudremukh Wildlife Division) and Mr. Shivaram Acharya (RFO, Karkala Range).
It his hoped that Padmaiah’s decision will act as a precedent for hundreds of other forest dwellers marooned inside Karnataka’s wildlife reserves, who are eager to relocate, but are being thwarted by the tangled process of settlement of Forest Rights. “This decision is a win-win, both, for poor families willing to relocate from nature reserves, as well as for wildlife, which needs undisturbed habitat”, said Dr. Ullas Karanth, Director, WCS-India.