Nation Current Affairs 23 Nov 2022 Podu pattas promise: ...

Podu pattas promise: Forest officials feel useless, abandoned

DECCAN CHRONICLE. | BALU PULIPAKA
Published Nov 23, 2022, 11:55 pm IST
Updated Nov 24, 2022, 7:48 am IST
The overwhelming feeling of helplessness, tinged with rage and a sliver of rebellion, appears poised to cast a cloud over the podu land patta claims verification, with forest officials declaring that they will no longer attend grama sabhas discussing these applications. (DC File Image)
 The overwhelming feeling of helplessness, tinged with rage and a sliver of rebellion, appears poised to cast a cloud over the podu land patta claims verification, with forest officials declaring that they will no longer attend grama sabhas discussing these applications. (DC File Image)

HYDERABAD: Telangana forest department officials, particularly those at the district level and in the field, are feeling abandoned, crushed, and essentially useless, having been placed at the epicentre of the now-raging podu lands pattas controversy.

The overwhelming feeling of helplessness, tinged with rage and a sliver of rebellion, appears poised to cast a cloud over the podu land patta claims verification, with forest officials declaring that they will no longer attend grama sabhas discussing these applications. As of Tuesday, it was unclear whether processing claims in the absence of forest department officials would have any legal sanctity, as it were, as a result of this decision. The trigger for such a decision was the brutal murder of an unarmed forest range officer of Kothagudem range, Ch. Srinivasa Rao, who was practically butchered to death by some Gothikoyas in Bendalapadu village of Chandrugonda mandal in Bhadradri-Kothagudem district on Monday, department officials say.

“We have been dragged into an unnecessary battle that is not of our making. The government has made it appear over the past few years that we in the forest department are opposed to podu land pattas and every other department is in favour. However, the law as it stands does not allow giving away pattas for forest land,” a district level forest official requesting anonymity said.

Forest officials were unanimous that in grama sabhas where podu patta applications are being vetted in some districts, any objection from them was being thrown out by district administration officials. “The collectors appear dead set on giving away forest land in accordance with government’s directives. Where is the need for us then? We were gradually, but deliberately, portrayed as villains who are against the people,” said an official who attended Srinivasa Rao’s funeral.

Officials were also taken aback by minister Puvvada Ajay Kumar's comments to the media at Srinivasa Rao's funeral, in which he stated that the government was prepared to issue pattas for approximately 11 lakh acres of forest land based on applications received last year. "The process isn't even finished, and it's strange that a figure has been determined. Everything has already been decided, so why are we being sacrificed,” another officer asked.

The government received applications last year for approximately 13 lakh acres of forest land to be declared as podu cultivation, including some from districts with no history of such practice. Forest department officials told Deccan Chronicle that when the Recognition of Forest Rights Act (RoFR Act) was first implemented, recognised beneficiaries received user rights to 3,08,614 acres of forest land in Telangana. According to the officials, more than half of the 13,18,971 acres for which new claims were made last year came from non-tribals who simply cannot be given pattas for forest land under the Act.

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Location: India, Telangana, Hyderabad




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