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As govt dilly dallies, tribals to take warpath for podu lands

As govt dilly dallies, tribals to take warpath for podu landsThe tribals submitting pleas seeking podu land pattas during the Girijana Darbar programme at the ITDA office (file photo)
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During the campaigning for Assembly elections in Kothagudem, Yellandu and Pinapaka areas, in December 2018, Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao has...

Khammam: During the campaigning for Assembly elections in Kothagudem, Yellandu and Pinapaka areas, in December 2018, Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao has promised to solve the pending issue of podu lands within six months after his party attains the power.

Though he and his party won the polls with good majority, the Chief Minister and none of his cabinet colleagues have taken the initiative to solve the issues of podu lands that have been concerning the tribals for the last many years. With the government putting the issue on the backburner, the tribals, especially those dependent on podu cultivation for livelihood, have decided to launch protests and rallies to exert pressure on the government to solve the pressing issue.

Already they have started protests in their respective mandals. In erstwhile Khammam district, except Paleru, Madhira and Sathupally, the remaining seven constituencies are densely populated with tribals. These tribals have been cultivating lakhs of forest lands in Yellandu, Kothagudem, Aswararaopet, Bhadrachalam, Pinapaka and Wyra for the last many years.

Though the government gave pattas from 2009 to 2011 after the introduction of Recognition of Forest Rights (ROFR) Act in 2006, after that no single patta was awarded to podu land tillers. Of late, it has become a common sight in both Khammam and Bhadradri-Kothagudem districts to see tribal farmers approaching the officials and submitting their pleas during the Grievance Day programme, held on Mondays.

While Left party leaders are extending their support to tribals, in some areas such as Gundala, Yellandu, Cherla, Dummugudem, Mulkalapalli, Aswaraopet, Chandrugonda, Karepelli, Pinapaka, Karakagudem, Aswapuram and Burgumpahad, a large number of non-tribals are also supporting the tribals cause.

Further, with thousands of tribals cultivating the forest lands, the clashes between the forest department officials and the tribal tillers broke out several times. While the Forest officials destroyed the crops many a times citing that the lands belong to the government, the tribals, on the other hand, have been claiming ownership to the land stating that they have been cultivating the lands for the last many last years for the livelihood. Further, a large number of cases have been booked against the tribals at the behest of Forest officials.

Speaking to The Hans India, Kalthi Nageswara Rao, a farmer from Gundala in Bhadradri-Kothagudem district, said that the government has not awarded the pattas to the tribals though they have been cultivating the forest lands for the last 30 years. "Political party leaders come during election and do the lip service by assuring of providing the pattas. However, after coming to power, they ignore our pleas. Though the government gave pattas to some tribals, the forest officials are troubling the tribals to return the pattas. The government must solve the issue as soon as possible," demanded Rao.

Despite cultivating the lands for many years, the forest officers are troubling us due to lack of pattas, added another tribal farmer K Narasaiah from Cherla mandal.

"The government has no interest in solving the issues. The government awarded pattas to only those farmers cultivating the lands prior to 2005, which is not right. I appeal to the government to give the pattas to all farmers cultivating the podu lands. At least now, the Chief Minister should address the issue instead of seeking votes with his high-decibel and honey-coated speeches," said G Narasiah, a tribal leader from Yellandu constituency, adding that huge protests would be taken out in the coming up days if the government continuous to delay the issue.

Meanwhile, according to officials, in Bhadradri-Kothagudem, Khammam, Mulugu and Mahabubabad districts, which fall under the Bhadrachalam Integrated Tribal Development Agency (ITDA), nearly 31,165 tribal farmers, who were cultivating the lands prior to 2005, were given pattas allowing them to cultivate 1,08,064 .84 acres under the ROFR Act. Nearly 4,815 farmers are yet to get the land rights. Nearly, 26,000 are taking the benefits of Rythu Bandhu scheme.

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