Gutti Koyas’ migration causes major concern

Gutti Koyas’ migration causes major concern
Highlights

Though they are aboriginals and inhabitants of the wild, the raging Maoist-government forces conflict in Chhattisgarh forests forced them to trek to the bordering Telangana State, but things are not all hunky-dory for them in the State.

Though they are aboriginals and inhabitants of the wild, the raging Maoist-government forces conflict in Chhattisgarh forests forced them to trek to the bordering Telangana State, but things are not all hunky-dory for them in the State. Officials allege that Khammam and Warangal districts continue to lose their forestlands as Gutti Koya tribals’ migration from across bordering Chhattisgarh continues till today.

According to official estimates, the government has lost 10,000 hectare forestland in the last three years alone. Also during that period over 120 new habitations of Gutti Koya tribals have come up, particularly in the Palvancha mandal of Khammam district. However, in Bhupalpalli, officials are taking measures to vacate them from the forestland.

District Collector Akunuri Murali on Thursday counselled Gutti Koyas, who raised habitations in forests of the district, to leave them and shift to the nearby villages. The Gutti Koyas, who have migrated to Telangana six years ago from different places in Chhattisgarh State, have settled in the forests of the district, razing large extents of forests to make way for podu cultivation.

About 35 families have raised a habitation, called Maddimadugu, six kilometres deep into the forest from Singaram village of Mahamuttaram mandal in the district. Several times the forest officials of the district have told the tribals to leave the forests and give up podu cultivation but in vain.

Following which a group of 20 Gutti Koyas were taken to the Collector on Thursday. Speaking to them, the Collector advised them not to destroy forests and told them not live in the forests without any basic amenities. He promised the tribals to provide one gunta land for housing for each family along with drinking water, toilet and other facilities if they shifted to villages.

DFO Ravi Kiran, Forest Range Officer Sanjeeva Rao and others were present. It may be recalled that the migration of Gutti Koyas from Chhattisgarh began years ago and it turned into a stream when the Orissa government-propped Salwa Judam came as a counter force against the Maoists. Though Salwa Judam has been banned the government, troops continue to fight the Maoists.

According to official sources, the number of Gutti Koyas who made forests in the erstwhile united Warangal district their home is comparatively less than those who settled down in Khammam. One of the most affected mandals in the district is Palvancha. Gutti Koyas are a notified Scheduled Tribe in Chattisgarh but it does not enjoy the same status in Telangana.

The district officials have been keeping a tab on their arrivals for quite some time. The problem of the forest department as far as Gutti Koyas are concerned is of different nature. “Since these migrating tribals are not able to find any other areas for settlement, we are losing a portion of the forest land. They clear the forest, put up their shanties and take up cultivation activity. After some time there is no way they can be removed.

The forest is already under threat from various quarters. The problem is the government can’t even evict them forcefully as there in no specific policy on the matter. We will more and more forestland if we don’t rehabilitate them to adjoining villages,” said a senior forest official.

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