A cry in the wilderness, literally

Two families have been living in anonymity in the Dandeli-Anashi tiger reserve

Calling Incholi nondescript would not only be cliched, but also an understatement.

One does not even know whether this village finds a mention in the records. But the nonentity status of Incholi and just the couple of its families comes as no surprise, because with just a handful of votes, it has no benefit for the politicians.
 
One of the only two houses there is peopled by Kedu Jannu Shelke, his wife Sagobai Gouli and a few of their family members.

Their doorless one-room hut has no walls, while only pillars and beams support the sliding, dry grass roof that almost touches the floor.Any description of the Shelke family would be incomplete without the mention of the cattle, poultry and the dogs and the family sustains only on its dairy produce.

Life has been one of near anonymity for this family, residing eight km inside the forest off the Dandeli-Yellapur Road, for four decades now. The place comes under the Dandeli-Anashi tiger reserve and there are countless instances of the family’s domesticated animals being carried away by the tigers and leopards in the forest.

Incholi is connected to the outer world only through the non-motorable kutcha road.

Water is accessible from a source one km away and it is an everyday labour for the people here to carry it in pots from that distance.

Education, power and health are alien terms for the tiny populace here. Being part of the reserve forest, there is no scope for development works here. The people graze the cattle in the forest, milk them in every morning and sell the milk at Bagwati or Ambikanagar, eight km away. Kunda, a sweet, is prepared from the remaining milk and sold in the nearby towns.

The biggest nightmare, however, is the people falling sick at night. They have only to suffer as there is no other go. “If anyone is ill in the morning, we take them to Yellapur or Dandeli for treatment,” says Sagobai. Shelke rues that a buffalo is not to be seen in the past few days and suspects it may have been carried away by a tiger. The family has lost count of the cattle that have fallen prey to tigers and leopards. Every time a cow or buffalo is lost, the families incurs losses to the tune of thousands of rupees and there is no leader around to offer solace.

There, however, appears to be light at the end of the tunnel for the Shelke family.

The Tiger Protection Authority of the Centre has announced a compensation of Rs 10 lakh to rehabilitate each of the families residing in forests coming under Project Tiger. The family is nursing the hope that it can resettle using the money at Mynol near Sambrani, away from the forest and out of harm’s way.

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