Forest officials fear pressure from the politicians and higher officials while conducting verification on podu lands. (DC file photo)
KHAMMAM: Forest officials fear pressure from the politicians and higher officials while conducting scrutiny and field-level verification of the applications on podu lands.
They expect that the alienation of lakhs of acres of forest land will be affected and their (forest department) voices will be silenced.
About 16,781 applications were received by officials, the claims being for 39,631 acres, apart from 83,000 applications in Bhadradri-Kothagudem district for 2,89,263 acres. Forest officials were asked to be ready for the scrutiny of the applications and ground-level verification. The order will be issued within a week and the government is ready to adopt a lenient view in giving rights to the podu lands, keeping the next assembly elections in view.
The podu issues is serious in Karepalli and Konigerla in Khammam district and Pinapaka, Aswapuram, Manuguru, Mulakalapalli, Annapureddypalli, Dammapet, Aswaraopet, Chandrugonda, Dummugudemm, Charla, Julurpad and Chunchupalli mandals in Bhadradri-Kothagudem district.
The ground-level verification will be done in 100 gram panchayats in Khammam district and 332 gram panchayats in Bhadradri district.
A forest official said, "We came to know that the government wanted to consider the cut-off time as 2014 and give pattas to podu farmers. If so, lakhs of acres of forest land will be alienated. Our voices will be silenced. The collectors were in favour of alienating forest land."
Village forest rights committees (VFRC), sub-division level committees (SDLC) and district level committees (DLC) will be given more weight than to the opinion of forest officials in the scrutiny. If the VFRC accepted the application of a podu farmer, it would go to the SDLC even though the beat officer rejected the claim, he said.
Another forest official said, "We have information that the higher officials of the revenue department were briefed on the government policy on podu lands and they may use their powers in giving forest lands to them".
About three lakh acres in Andhra Pradesh was given to 93,494 claimants in 2006 under the RIFR Act in Telangana. The present extent could be at least 2 lakh acre in Telangana. Sources in the forest department said, "We got guidance from the higher officials. They told us to write down our opinion on the applications. This is a safe situation for us (forest department) in dealing with court cases in future. Things may not happen the way we want."
"Ironically, most of the lands were in the hands of non-tribals who cultivate them in the guise of adivasis. The issue will not be taken to its logical end and the rejected applicants will fight for the land after the next government takes charge," the sources said.
- No weight to the views of forest officials
- Field-level verification to start soon on podu lands.
- Revenue officials in favour of settling more applications.