Panaji: Goa government, along with a few social outfits, is trying to bring a nomadic tribe whose traditional occupation is hunting and eating monkeys into the mainstream society.
"Its not an easy project. These people of 'Wanar-mare'(literally, monkey-hunters) tribe who have no fixed address do not even enjoy the scheduled tribe (ST) status, and therefore do not get any resultant benefits.
"They have been wandering in the forests all these years without possessing a single government document. We have started an effort to get them into the mainstream," said collector of South Goa district, Sachin Shinde.
Currently some hundred members of the tribe are camping in the Sanguem tehsil. South Goa administration, along with organisations like Dabhal Gramvikas Parishad, is working towards helping them earn a decent livelihood.
The tribe is found in the jungles of Western Ghats in Maharashtra, Goa and Karnataka.
"The introduction of Forest Conservation Act made them give up their traditional hunting, and now they work in sugarcane farms," said Sachin Tendulkar, a farmer and social worker associated with Dabhal Gramvikas Parishad. Some 17 families from the tribe are also camping at Nirancal village.
"Farmers hire them as they work for relatively low wages. But they get exploited. They live in temporary huts in forested areas where they are often at the mercy of forest officers," Tendulkar said.
The attempt to rehabilitate the tribe began with the children. Youth from the village helped the officials enroll the children in government primary schools and anganwadis (nursery schools run in rural/tribal areas).
"The families were given ration cards under the National Food Security Act," he said. The members of the tribe now also have Aadhar cards and even bank accounts opened under the Jan Dhan Yojna.
"The biggest problem was that they had no electricity in their huts. When we met them, they had mobile phones, but no power to charge them and they used to pay to get the phones charged," Tendulkar said.
Organisations like Sesa Workers Union, Mineral Foundation of Goa and Rotary Club funded solar lamps for them. Goa Bagayatdar Sahakari Society Maryadit Limited, one of the oldest cooperative institutes in the state, provided school bags and umbrellas to the children.
According to Tendulkar, Wanar-mare tribe is similar to Katkaris of Maharashtra, but lack ST status.
"When we moved the proposal, questions were raised as to whether they are originally from Goa. This is a nomadic tribe, so they have no state of origin," he said.