KHAMMAM: Not only podu farmers but even forest officials, particularly field-level officers, who are to retrieve forest land from encroachers, are expecting a permanent solution from the cabinet sub-committee that has been constituted to look into the issue.
The tussle between forest department and podu land farmers is prevalent across all districts, including Khammam and Bhadradri-Kothagudem. Forest officials feel that political leaders are posing a problem than that of podu farmers.
A Venkateswarlu, a forest range officer of Sattupalli, said that they are retrieving encroached forest land one stretch at a time after convincing podu farmers. “The concept of ‘Due Procedure of Law” is paying dividends. Firstly, we issue notices to farmers first. They are asked to show ownership documents, failing which we explain the forest laws to them and indicate that they cannot get any rights”, he said.
A family of three in Regallapadu in Sattupalli range had 9 acres of revenue land in the same village and they encroached 14 acres of forest land. They are into podu and are claiming its rights. In the same village, a family with 9.5 acres of revenue land is tilling podu over 14 acres. Political parties come to their rescue whenever forest officials try to retrieve the forest lands.
Venkateswarlu said, “After a relentless fight, I succeeded in retrieving 130 hectares of forest land from the podu farmers between 2020-21 and 2021-22,” he said.
A forest range officer, on condition of anonymity, said “Ten acres in Khammam district were allotted to a political party by podu farmers. How can we consider it as a land issue? We want a permanent remedy. There are some genuine claims by adivasis and they did not get pattas because they are ignorant. We are expecting the sub-committee to put an end to this turmoil.”
Radhika, forest range officer of Khammam, said “We (forest officials) are deemed as villains by podu farmers. I retrieved around 150 hectares of forest land from encroachers”.