Government committee to determine future of Jarawa tribe

March 23, 2006

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The Indian government has set up a new committee to decide the future of the Jarawa tribe of the Andaman Islands. The Jarawa, who have only had contact with Indian settlers on their islands since 1998, are increasingly under threat from poachers invading their land.

The Indian newspaper The Hindu reports, ‘The sub-group will review the existing administrative practices and institutional arrangements for protecting the Jarawas…. The eight-member sub-group will also examine the feasibility of augmenting the sea transport as an alternative to the Andaman Trunk Road.'

The Indian supreme court ordered in 2002 that the Andaman Trunk Road must be closed. But the local authorities have left the road open in violation of the court order. The road cuts through the Jarawa's forest, bringing the tribe into daily contact with settlers.

Poachers regularly enter the Jarawa reserve from the coast and from the road, and hunt the animals on which the Jarawa depend. They give the Jarawa alcohol, tobacco and food in return for work. They also risk introducing diseases to which the Jarawa have no immunity.

Over a year ago, the authorities announced a policy on the Jarawa which recognised the need to protect the Jarawa's land and prevent poaching. But little has been done to tackle the problem.