Groundwork for patta distribution in full swing

The District Level Committee (DLC) has approved approximately 44,000 claims over 1,38,000 acres of forest land from members of Scheduled Tribe communities under the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act (FRA), 2006, so far in Bhadradri Kothagudem district.

Expedited pattas distribution

The predominantly tribal-populated district has a forest area of around 10 lakh acres. The district administration has expedited the process of printing passbooks for the distribution of pattas (title deeds) to the eligible tribals as per the provisions of the FRA concerning the cutoff date of December 13, 2005, and other stipulations.

The official machinery is racing against time to facilitate the distribution of RoFR pattas to eligible persons soon, as per the statement made by Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao in the Assembly earlier this month.

The move is intended to find a lasting solution to the long-festering podu lands issue, which often led to skirmishes between the podu land cultivators and the forest department staff in Telangana’s tribal heartland in recent years.

It can be recalled that Forest Range Officer Ch. Srinivas Rao was brutally murdered allegedly by two Gutti Koya tribals with hunting sickles while trying to prevent encroachment of the forest department’s plantation at Errabodu, a tribal hamlet in Chandrugonda mandal, in November last year.

The ghastly murder of the FRO sparked outrage among the rank and file of the forest department and vociferous demands for provision of arms to the frontline forest staff for self-defence.

Satellite imagery survey

A survey involving GPS technology and satellite imageries was carried out rigorously in the forest lands across the district before taking up the massive exercise of approving claims over forest lands under the RoFR in recent months.

In all, 83,341 claims over 2,99,269 acres of forest lands were filed by as many as 65,616 tribal people and 17,725 other traditional forest dwellers (OTFDs) from 726 habitations under 332 Gram Panchayats in 21 mandals of the district, sources said.

Out of these, as many as 45,978 claims over 1,37,500 acres were recommended by the Gram Sabhas, rejecting 36,747 claims for 1,60,830 acres. Around 616 claims over 938 acres are pending with the Gram Sabhas across the district.

After the scrutiny by the Sub-Divisional Level Committees, nearly 44,000 claims have been approved by the District Level Committee till date, sources added.

In Khammam district, the DLC has so far approved 3,315 claims from tribal people over 4,400 acres under the FRA. The forest cover of the district is 63,700 hectares.

The claims of non-tribal traditional forest dwellers over forest lands have been rejected as they failed to produce documentary evidence to prove their continuous occupation of the land for 75 years.

‘Tribals evicted’

“Several tribals were evicted from the lands they had tilled for decades at Yerrabodu village in Karepalli mandal, Nemilipuri, Medepalli, Mulapocharam and Rangapuram villages in Enkur mandal last year”Bukya VeerabhadramKhammam secretary, Telangana Girijana Sangham

Telangana Girijana Sangham (TGS) Khammam district general secretary Bukya Veerabhadram rued that several tribals were evicted from the lands they had tilled for decades at Yerrabodu village in Karepalli mandal, Nemilipuri, Medepalli, Mulapocharam and Rangapuram villages in Enkur mandal last year.

Plantations were raised on these lands which were excluded from the survey of podu lands, depriving scores of poor tribal people and other traditional forest dwellers of pattas, he alleged, calling upon the State government to come to the rescue of the distressed podu cultivators.

On the other hand, Khammam District Forest Officer Siddharth Vikram Singh said the claims over forest lands were meticulously scrutinised and recommended as per the stipulated eligibility criteria under the FRA.

Our forest beat officers and Panchayat Secretaries are involved in the verification of the pending claims, which will be reviewed and settled by the DLC as per the provisions of the FRA, the DFO added.

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