“Taungiya” is a colloquial word for plantation settlers, which was settled in forest villages by the forest department for maintaining forests during the late 1800 and early 1900. Majority of the taungiyas belong to Tharu and Buxa Tribes having come across the border of Nepal long back. However, later taungiya system was abolished and many of them were driven out of forests. More than 1 lakh taungiya settlers face unknown fate in Uttarakhand living mainly in the districts of Udhamsingh Nagar, Champavat, Hardwar, Dehradun and Pauri-garhwal. They become victim of wrath of forest department and revenue department and many of them suffered imprisonment on the charges of encroachment of forest lands. According to the forest officials, Taungiya system was abolished in 1980s, The Scheduled Tribes and other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 mandates the land rights to traditional forest dwellers including the Taungyas but the State Government has denied to recognize these forest-villagers as traditional forest dwellers and therefore rights available to them under the Act. Pairvi organized a fact finding on land rights of taungiyas and visited a number of forest villages in US Nagar, and Champavat, and met govt officials, NGOs.
Later a workshop was organized to create an opportunity for the taungiyas to interact with govt officials and peoples representatives. Forest department officials and local MLA participated in the consultation along with a number of NGOs and taungiyas. The Consultation brought out that govt is willing to accord rights to taungiyas, however, a large number of people claiming to be taungiyas are not taungiyas and have settled far later on lands earlier occupied by Taungiyas. Therefore, before rights of taungiyas could be considered determination of actual taungiyas was required. The MLA assured that he will request the government to set up a committee to determine this question and have a comprehensive survey of taungiya settlements. It was also decided to speak to the Chief Minister, who was contesting a bi-election from neighbouring constituency and seek his support. Reportedly Taungiyas and local NGOs have met the Chief Minister and secured an assurance for appropriate action from him.