State Consultation on Tiger Widows, Forest Rights Act, Reproductive Health Rights, and Human Trafficking

Sundarban is the largest tidal mangrove forest located in the south-east of India adjoining the Bay of Bengal with a total area of 10,000 km2. 60% of the forest is located in the part of Bangladesh and the rest 40% remains in India. Geographically Sundarban is an estuarine delta formed by the River Ganges and Brahmaputra, bordering the Bay of Bengal. In India it is located mainly in the coastal districts of West Bengal, i.e. South 24-Parganas and North 24-Parganas. There are villages in the border area all along the northern boundary of the Tiger Reserve. On the eastern boundary lies Bangladesh separated by the rivers Kalindi, Raimangal, and Heronbhanga.


SLIC has been working in this deltaic region for the benefit of the marginalized people supporting legal aid for a long time. SLIC has been continuing its activities by networking with the NGOs and CBOs organizing trainings, workshops, seminars etc. SLIC has set a strong relation with some Peoples Organizations, NGOs and CBOs such as 1) Pashchim Banga Khet Majur Samiti 2) Sramajibi Mahila Samiti 3) Bhubaneswari Swadhikar Samiti, 4) Jai Bhim India 5) Prakriti Sevasram Sangha 6) Paschimbanga Sankhalaghu Yuba Federation 7) Jamat-E-Ulema-Hind 8) Desh Bachao Committee 9) Matsajibi Samanyay Samiti 10) Poundra Maha Sangha etc.   


Through our initiatives we gradually came to know that the local people who used to go to the forest for catching fish, collecting honey, and cutting trees were commonly being hunted by the tiger. According to the report of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change provided to the Lok Sabha on June 28, 2019, 71 people have died due to tiger attacks in Sundarban in just five years from 2014 to 2018. There are around 3,000 tiger widows in the islands of the Sundarbans. They are commonly uttered as “Bagh Bidhaba '' and their hamlets are spoken as “Bidhaba Pally”.    The environment pushed the people to the stage of “Hunting and Gathering” for their survival. Most of the people who go to the “Core Zone” do not have a permit from the authorities thus they cannot claim compensation. There have been two fact findings and one district network meeting conducted on the same issue to understand the problem of the tiger widows and the problem of seeking compensation from the government each time there’s a death in the region.