The magic of unity

The Saiga adivasis of Ghanneri village, living in Achanakmar sanctuary area of Bilaspur, have nothing but their undying spirit of struggle to fall back upon. Many at them, basods by profession (who make their living by selling bamboo-based goods like brooms, mats etc), have been ruined, since the forest policy of Madhya Pradesh prohibits them from using bamboo from the forest. They can buy it, of course, at subsidised rates from the for" depot. But that's some option for these abjectly poor tribals!

Ironically, bamboo from the sanctuary is being supplied to a Birla-owned papermill. Chainsingh of village Jakhadbandha alleges, "Bamboo is being supplied from many of the villages here, some of which even fall the sanctuary area".

Interestingly, political clout gets you anything in the jungles. The powerful Yadav lobby actually large cattle-shelters right inside the restricted areas, adivasis allege. And last year, Chandrakumar Bhanot, a former minister of the state government was actually caugkht by officials while in the possession of tiger skins.

However, things are changing for the Raigas aftor they set up organised resistance to the pulling down their houses by the forest department a few years ago, Says Nandkushiyabai. "Earlier, we had to give liquor, chicken, etc to the foresters in return for collecting MFPs. All that has stopped ever since we organised our movement".