Maoists may cash in on tribal-state conflict
We were subjected to harassment by police and subsequently jailed for two weeks when we sought title deeds over the lands under our enjoyment for three generations. We will fight it out until we get our due from the government in line with the Recognition of Forest Rights (RoFR)”, a furious Payam Jyoti, an Adivasi worker from Abhicharla of Kukunuru mandal of the erstwhile Telangana region said.
Vijayawada: “We were subjected to harassment by police and subsequently jailed for two weeks when we sought title deeds over the lands under our enjoyment for three generations. We will fight it out until we get our due from the government in line with the Recognition of Forest Rights (RoFR)”, a furious Payam Jyoti, an Adivasi worker from Abhicharla of Kukunuru mandal of the erstwhile Telangana region said.
The anger expressed by Jyoti at a recent convention of Adivasis held here that replicates the mood of tribals in the whole Agency areas spread over six districts in the successor state seemingly provides a fertile ground for the outlawed Maoists who maintained a low-profile after the bloody encounter in Malkangiri which reported heavy casualties.
Incidentally, Jyoti is one of the six Koya women who languished in the jail. In all, 15 tribals were jailed following implication of cases of ‘grabbing’ of forest lands to the extent of 150 acres. Damage of cotton fields allegedly by the Forest department personnel with the help of police followed the arrest of the tribals. The case was tried for six years even as all the Adivasi accused made rounds to the courts, enduring the trauma all along.
In a related case in Buttayagudem mandal of the neighbouring West Godavari district, the police slapped 15 cases against several tribals following a conflict with the Forest department over issue of title deeds for 8,000 acres in different tribal habitations.
It took more than seven years for the hapless Adivasis to get out of the prolonged court trials. A pamphlet circulated at the Adivasi convention said that the government has issued titles for 1.77 lakh acres over 3.20 lakh acres as claimed by 1.50 lakh Adivasis since the Act was made.
The Act envisages delegation of title deeds for land with an extent up to 10 acres for each tribal, the claimants received hardly two acres which in no way guarantee their livelihood, it is said.
Major irrigation projects such as the Polavaram, Chintalapudi and Purushothampatnam lift schemes are said to be the hiccups for granting of title deeds to the lands under enjoyment of tribals in the Agency in the Godavari districts.
Babji, an activist of the National Alliance for People’s Movement (NAPM) said, “If the government issues titles for the lands notified for acquisition to facilitate execution of the irrigation projects, the tribals are entitled compensation ranging up to Rs 10.5 lakh per acre (three times more than the market value) plus solatium as per the provisions of the Land Acquisition of Act, 2013.
This is the reason for the government’s hesitation to delegate land rights to tribals”. A large extent of 10,500 acres falling under the submergence area of the Polavaram project comes under the purview of the Forest Rights Act in the twin Godavari districts.
SS Rawat, Principal Secretary, Tribal Welfare department, was not available for comment over the status of the Forest Rights Act, in spite of repeated attempts by The Hans India to reach him over phone.
The unrest brewing over land rights apart, money lending by outsiders through illegal means reportedly breeds a lot of discontent among tribals in the Uttarandhra Agency areas.
To quote an adivasi rights activist PS Ajay Kumar, lenders lent Rs 1,000 payable within a crop period spanning six months with an additional Rs 500 as interest. Obtaining permission from the district Collector is mandatory for lending by non-tribals to tribals in the scheduled areas.
The Visakhapatnam Collector, responding to a petition filed under the Right to Information Act (RTI) sometime back stated that no one approached him seeking permission for money lending in the Agency areas. The Collector’s response is an indication for the flourishing lending activity illegally, Ajay said.