Forest staff face double whammy in safeguarding land

KHAMMAM: Officials of the forest department claimed immense pressure in undertaking the podu land survey, with MLAs, politicians and farmers considering forest officials their ‘enemies’ and the police, revenue officials and the administration not cooperating in protecting forest land.

They alleged that officials are trying to corner them during meetings on the podu lands, while top forest officials were not responding to their plea for help.
Forest officials have been subject to a series of attacks while seeking to protect forest land, their primary objective.

In one such incident on April 12, 2021, three beat officers were thrashed and one of them was tied to a tree in D-Kothuru forest under Chintaguppa village in Dummudugem mandal of Bhadradri district. Forest officials said they were undertaking plantations on reserved lands when farmers, claiming ownership of the same, attacked them.

In another incident, the deputy range officer of Chatakonda section of Kothagudem, M.R.P. Rao, was pulled up by Kothagudem MLA Vanama Venkateswara Rao for constructing a compound wall to protect forest land.
Officials have been obstructed and attacked in Khammam and Bhadradri-Kothagudem districts over the past eight years, with incidents repeatedly reported from Konigerla, Karepalli, Chandrugonda, Mulakalapalli, Penuballi and Annapureddipalli mandals.
Around two days ago, around 150 farmers in Manikyaram of Karepalli mandal cut plants raised by the forest department. The police filed cases but there was no further action.

In an incident on July 8 this year, two women forest staff and eight Adivasi women were injured in a clash over podu land at Koya Poshaguda in Dandepalli mandal of Mancherial.

While the forest staff sought to clear encroachments, including cultivations and hutments, from forest land, tribals attacked the staff with chilli powder to chase them away.

In an incident at Kagaznagar mandal of Kumuram Bheem Asifabad district on March 1, clashes erupted during an awareness programme conducted by the forest department, with an argument on podu land escalating. Forest beat officer Sirisha, who was pregnant then, was attacked and suffered a fracture to her little finger in an attack.

In June 2019, zilla parishad vice-chairman Koneru Krishna and his henchmen were booked for attacking forest staff with sticks, injuring range officer Chole Anitha and others, when forest officials started cultivating 50 acres at Kotha-Sarasala in Kagaznagar under the Haritha Haram programme.

In March 2015, 26 persons were booked for obstructing forest officials, attacking personnel and damaging forests in Chandrugonda mandal.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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