Podu Pattas from Today, Approved Claims Include FC Act Violations
DECCAN CHRONICLE | Filvin
Hyderabad: The distribution of podu pattas for forest land in Telangana state set to begin on Friday, could end up creating trouble for the state forest department with sources indicating that around a third of the 1,50,415 claims that have been recently approved are for forest land patches cleared after the December 2005 cut-off date imposed by the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006.
This would mean that the forest department will have to enforce the Forest Conservation Act provisions for all claims falling under the category of forest areas where trees were felled after the December 13, 2005 cut-off date for occupation of forest land, sources said. The current claims that have been approved are ten times that of those pending after the initial cut-off date.
It may be recalled that the central empowered committee in its June 5 letter to the chief secretary and the principal chief conservator of forests (head of forest force), made it clear that any forest patch for which podu claims are to be approved if the forest has been cleared after the cut-off date, must be done so only under the provisions of the FC Act.
Disputing that nearly a third of the fresh claims received by the government in 2019 after it called for fresh podu land applications, sources in the government, however, admitted that "cases that fall under the FC Act would be marginal, just about one or two per cent of the claims that have been approved."
In all, the government has approved distribution of podu pattas for 4,26,379 acres of forest land in the state, according to officials figures.
However, no steps have been taken yet to seek permission under the FC Act even for the one or two per cent of such cases, which would require alternate land being given to the forest department by the state government for compensatory afforestation along with funds to do so.
According to sources, the real trouble could come after the distribution of the podu patta passbooks with those not selected as beneficiaries unwilling to vacate the forest land occupied for them, especially in an election year resulting in conflicts with forest department staff and the claimants. Though the government had said that it would set up additional security forces to protect forests once the pattas are given, no steps in this direction have been taken so far, sources said.