FGG warns Telangana to follow RoFR Act while reviewing podu pattas

Hyderabad: Forest department officials, along with those from tribal welfare, as well as district collectors who have been involved in vetting applications for podu land pattas, were urged to strictly follow the provisions in the Recognition of Forest Rights (RoFR) Act of 2005 while approving applications.

Raising the prospect of mass prosecution of state government officials involved in the process, the Forum For Good Governance said on Friday that such officials would be liable for prosecution not just under the RoFR Act, but also under the Forest Conservation Act.

The FGG, which has filed a PIL in the High Court over the issue of podu pattas, said it was taking this issue to the notice of all the top officials from the departments involved in the podu pattas exercise as the High Court had said that the RoFR Act provisions must be strictly followed.

The FGG wrote letters to the Chief Secretary, district collectors in districts where podu patta applications were received after the November 2021 memo from the Telangana government, and to the principal chief conservator of forests, as well as to the Commissioner of Tribal Welfare and field officials of the forest and tribal welfare departments on this issue.

In its letters, the FGG said the reliance by the state government on testimony of village elders to prove provenance of claims that the forest land was in occupation before December 2005, was “mischievous” which is most susceptible for manipulation out of 30 evidences that can be produced as per the 2008 rules framed for implementing the RoFR Act.

The FGG said, “it is the responsibility of the Chief Secretary and Chairman, State Level Monitoring Committee to ensure that not even one acre of forest land encroached after 13.12.2005 is allocated under the ongoing special drive in violation of FoFR Act, Forest Conservation Act 1980, and in violation of order of the High Court on March 13 directing all respondents to strictly follow RoFR Act and Rules made there under.”

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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