Ooty: As Rahul Gandhi, MP of Wayanad bordering the Nilgiris, has become a neighbour of the Nilgiris, Gudalur residents have solicited his mediation to resolve the long-pending issue related to the controversial 'Janman' lands or Section 17 lands in Gudalur limits on the Nilgiris border.
A group of representatives from the Gudalur belt, led by Md. Ashraf, met Rahul Gandhi recently at Wayanad and submitted a memorandum that in the Gudalur limits 80,080 acres of land was owned by erstwhile Janmies that includes Nilambur Kovilakam.
These lands were leased out to farmers and plantation estates by the Janmies for agricultural operations. After the enactment of the Tamil Nadu Gudalur Janman Estates (Abolition and Conversion into Ryotwari) Act 1969, out of the 80,080 acres, ryotwari pattas were granted to 16,000 acres to eligible farmers, while 12,000 acres were wrongly classified as forest land without proper enquiry, and these lands were cultivated by several farmers.
The remaining 52,000 acres was brought under Section-17 of the Act, for which the ownership is vested with the TN government. Farmers cultivating these lands have no ownership rights nor were they entitled to any civil amenities.
Now the TN government has declared 17,000 acres of these 52,000 acres, as reserved forest, neglecting the claims of poor farmers for ryotwari pattas. The situation is similar in the remaining 35,000 acres. This apart, most agricultural lands in Gudalur are covered under the Tamil Nadu Private Forest Preservation Act (TNPPF) which restricts selling or mortgage of lands.
Recently, the TN government brought in another amendment which paves way for the government to declare any 'Janmam' land as reserved forest. As these developments subject farmers in the Gudalur-Pandalur taluks in the Nilgiris to untold misery, steps must be taken to survey and finalise the facts on the ground, and grant ryotwari pattas (absolute ownership) to eligible farmers, it was stated in the memorandum....