IFS officers urge PM to cancel illegally granted podu pattas

Hyderabad: Issuing pattas for podu lands by some state governments, and efforts to do so by some more, is a result of circumventing provisions of the Recognition of Forest Rights Act, 2006, setting a dangerous precedent that will wreak havoc on India’s forests, a large group of former Indian Forest Service (IFS) officers have said.

In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and to senior officials of the Union ministry of environment, forests and climate change and Union ministry of tribal affairs, 63 retired IFS officials, from 16 states and Union Territories, including from Telangana, urged Modi to take immediate cognizance of this “extremely serious matter” and ensure that the Forest Rights Act is implemented strictly, “and illegally granted rights are cancelled, and only genuine beneficiaries should benefit and not encroachers.”

Expressing “extreme concern” over “illegal distribution of titles of forest rights over forest lands causing irreversible damage to the forest land, including wildlife and forest resources,” they said this is being done in the garb of Forest Rights Act 2006 and in utter violation of Forest (Conservation) Act 1980 (FCA), Indian Forest Act 1927 and Wildlife Act 1972.

Pointing out to what happened over the last four years in Telangana after the state government had sought fresh podu patta applications, the letter said some politicians promised to regularize encroachments after the 2005 December cut-off date for podu land rights, “especially before elections to local bodies and state assembly.”

The officials brought to the notice of the Prime Minister about how Ministers, MPs, MLAs and different political parties publicly promised pattas/titles to post-2005 encroachments in violation of the RoFR Act resulting in encouragement to encroachments and attacks on forest officials in Telangana.

They said “the illegal recognitions are a quietly sponsored encroachment backed by powerful people into the rights of genuine Forest Dwelling Scheduled Tribes & Other Traditional Forest Dwellers and their communities. In the process, the forests which are not only a source of their livelihoods but also provide life sustaining eco-services to one and all, are getting wiped out.”

The officials, in their letters to MoEFCC, and MOTA said “some states have exploited legal ambiguity and are conducting gram sabha meetings repeatedly mainly to give patta/titles to ineligible claimants after 13.12.2005 by misusing the evidence of village elders. In recent times, in some states, ineligible claims extending over lakhs of acres of forest lands have been admitted solely on the strength of evidence of village elders and discarding satellite imageries and other public documents listed under Rule 13(1) in violation of FRA and FCA 1980.”

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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