Culture & Heritage
Inhabitants of Melghat are predominantly scheduled tribes. These include ‘Korku’, ‘Gond’ and ‘Nihal’. ‘Balai’ is a major constituent in the category of scheduled castes. A race designated as ‘Gaolan’ belongs to backward class. The remaining population is made up of ‘Gaoli’ and others. It is seen that majority of the villagers residing within the MTR are Korkus and percentage of Gonds, Balais, Gaolis is limited.
Gaolis are traditionally occupied with cattle rearing and don’t contribute much towards labour requirements for forest protection or other activities. They are also not much interested in agriculture. They have large herds of cattle, usually 20 to 40 animals per family. They rear the buffaloes in large numbers. Selling of milk products as also farmyard manure is the main source of income. Gaolis are intelligent; they have simple habits and are very hardy
Korku, Gond and Nihal
Traditionally Korkus had been drawing their sustenance mainly by engaging themselves in forest produce harvesting works for a period of almost one century. They have provided labour force for all the forest conservation and development works. They have acquired skills required for harvesting forest products and used to be employed earlier for processing of forest produce to market. For them, agriculture used to be a supplementary activity. Only after 1973, the villagers acquired permanent rights on the land in their villages and have been since pursuing agriculture practices. Their land holdings are limited and majority of them hold hardly 5 acres or so per family.
Korku’s and Gond’s needs for the forest produce for bonafide use have been recognised and thus concession to collect the same from the forest areas are being honoured. Korkus do occasionally in trapping of jungle fowls, peacocks. Fishing is one of their main passions.
As compared to Korkus, Gonds are less compatible with forest eco-system. Nihals are simillar to Korkus, also found inside the forests. They are placed at a lower rung in the social hierarchy.
Balai, Gaolan and Rathya
Balai means weaver. The process of making cotton cloth, in which the cotton threads are doubled, is called Balai. Balai weavers currently earn their living as farmers and farm laborers contributing to cotton cultivation. The group Gaolan is considered socially higher as compared to these scheduled castes and has been traditionally following agriculture.
For construction of meter gauge line, connecting Khandwa and Akola, labour force of a community was obtained from outside. After completion of the railway line, many of these, have now settled down in certain areas. These people are locally known as ‘Rathyas’.