Tribal welfare dept accused of misleading Cabinet on podu pattas

Hyderabad: Did the Tribal Welfare Department of the Telangana government mislead the state Cabinet on the rule positions to get approvals for the distribution of Podu land pattas covering an extent of 4,00,93 acres to fulfil the Chief Minister’s promise of pattas for those using forest land for agriculture?

Yes, says the Forum for Good Governance, which in a letter to chief secretary A. Santhi Kumari pointed out that the tribal welfare department “misrepresented facts” at the March 16 meeting of the Cabinet to enable the government to take up the patta distribution.

In its letter to the chief secretary, dated March 27, the FGG said there were several irregularities and flouting of the provisions of the Recognition of the Forest Rights (RoFR) Act in identifying beneficiaries for the new round of Podu patta distribution, which in itself, is not legal as the government violated the December 2005 deadline for forest land occupation by declaring that anyone who occupied forest land after the deadline will also be eligible to get rights over forest land they occupied.

The Forum said the chief secretary can easily establish the facts provided an independent enquiry commission headed by a retired high court judge is constituted to investigate the role of the state, and district administrations in the ongoing special drive to issue Podu pattas. The FGG said ineligible claimants have been legitimized “under political dictate,” by “misusing loopholes in the RoFR Act and its rules.”

The Forum further said that the proceedings of the district-level committees that vetted the fresh crop of claims are “quasi-judicial in nature” and the DLCs have to take their own decisions independently and not under the directions/resolutions of the Cabinet. “It is evident that the decision of the Cabinet is not only illegal but taken to gain political mileage to the ruling dispensation,” the Forum told the chief secretary.

The Forum requested the chief secretary to put on hold the distribution of Podu pattas “decided illegally in the State Cabinet meeting” until every claim is verified correctly regarding the occupation of forest land before 13.12.2005.”

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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