Shikaribas residents demand relocationThe village situated in the middle of forests of Parsa and Chitwan national parks does not have basic infrastructure and facilities.
Narayan Aryal has spent about seven and a half decades of his life in Shikaribas village. The eldest member of the village does not want to live there anymore. The 82-year-old wants the government to move the villagers to a place with basic amenities.
“I have almost spent my whole life in this village in the middle of a forest. I missed out on a lot in life. I don’t want my grandchildren to suffer the same fate as me,” said Aryal. “I want them to live in a safe place that has development infrastructures. I wish the government would relocate our whole settlement outside the forests,” he said.
Twenty-one-year-old Rajendra Chaudhary is tired of living a life of poverty, unemployment, scarcity amid the fear of wildlife. “There is nothing in the village. Parsa National Park had relocated Rambhauribhatha, a settlement inside the park forest, to a safer place around 15 years ago. I wish they would do the same for us,” he said.
Shikaribas is an old settlement in Ward 3 of Thori Rural Municipality, Parsa district. The village is surrounded by the forests of Parsa and Chitwan national parks. One has to pass a dense forest around seven kilometres wide to reach the village from the Birgunj-Thori section of Postal Highway. People often encounter wild elephants, tigers and bears, among other wild animals, on their commute.
The locals of Shikaribas have to live in constant fear of wild animals and the village does not have modern facilities like electricity, drinking water, roads and a health post. Around 250 people of 54 households in the settlement are impatient for relocation.
“Nobody wants to stay in a village that does not have basic facilities like electricity, drinking water, roads and health posts. We have been urging the government without launching any movement and protest to shift our settlement. But the authorities concerned have ignored our demand for years,” said Bhuwan Khadka, another local of the settlement.
The village has a basic school that runs classes up to grade five only. The school was established in 1979 but it is yet to be upgraded up to the secondary level. The children have to commute 14 kilometres to reach the nearest school in Bijayapur or Ghyangdanda if they want to continue their studies after grade five. And there is the risk of attacks by wild animals while going to and returning from the school outside the settlement.
According to the villagers, Shikaribas is a settlement older than Bijayabasti, Subarnapur and Thori. “The other villages have modern infrastructures and facilities but Shikaribas is still in the ‘stone age’,” said Khadka.
Of the total 54 households, 52 are Tharu families. According to Rajendra, around 99 percent of the villagers are landless. And the houses are all thatched huts. “The villagers have been using the land for years but they do not have land ownership certificates. They cannot sell the land, nor can they take a loan from the financial institutions by keeping the land as collateral,” he added.
There are around 100 bighas of paddy fields registered in the name of landlords outside the village. Almost all the locals in Shikaribas are tenants, tilling the paddy fields of landlords. They get 50 percent of the total harvests. “Around 40 percent of the crops are destroyed by wild animals like elephants, wild boars and deer,” said a local farmer.
Until three years ago, the villagers did not have access to safe drinking water and were using water from the local stream. The villages then initiated the construction of an intake in the Amawa Jiurwa stream three years ago and constructed half a dozen drinking water taps. But the tap water is not drinkable during the rainy season as it becomes murky. “And the wild animals, mainly the elephants, damage the supply line time and again,” said Rajendra.
Thori Rural Municipality does not have any concrete plan either to shift the village or carry out development activities. The local unit planned to launch a homestay service in Shikaribas two years ago but the programme has been left in limbo due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We don’t have any specific development projects in Shikaribas,” said the rural municipality’s chief PL Shrestha. He instead said they are coordinating with the provincial and federal governments for relocating the villagers.