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Bushfire razes 30 houses in Hailakandi

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By OUR CORRESPONDENT
  • Published 23.03.10
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Silchar, March 22: A blaze in a jhum field on a hill slope in south Assam’s Hailakandi district gutted around 30 houses last night, forcing Reang tribal residents there to flee to the plains in the Baldabaldi gaon panchayat area under the district’s Katlicherra block along the Mizoram border.

A forest department official said bushfire is lit every summer in the hilly and wooded areas under the Katlicherra block to clear the jungle for cultivation of paddy and vegetables.

The hill areas provide enough lands to the tribals to cultivate paddy.

These tribals practise farming in a cyclical manner on the lands after burning and then slashing the under-growth and bushes, which is popularly known as the jhum method of farming.

Though the Integrated Tribal Development Project was set in motion by the Assam government in the late sixties for weaning the tribals away from the injurious jhum cultivation after prodding them to take up the alternative permanent farming, it could not make any substantial breakthrough in the block, thus keeping thousands of tribal jhum peasants there dependent on this primitive form of cultivation.

A hilly land comprising 6,000 acres in Katlicherra area is still being tilled for jhum cultivation, mainly by hill tribes like Reangs, Hrangkhawls, Chirus and Chakmas.

Such kind of farming is also widespread in Mizoram and North Cachar Hills, which are adjoining to Barak Valley areas.

While practising jhum, helped by the speedy winds, sometimes fire leaps out of the fields and spread to the tribal settlements on the hills near the jhum lands, creating havoc there in its aftermath.

As many as seven persons were burnt to cinders last week in Mizoram as the forest fire from jhum fields spread. Over 30 houses in North Cachar Hills were razed in at least two jhum sites recently.