The government has asked the centre to change the cut-off date of December 13, 2005 mentioned in the Forest Rights Act 2006, enacted by the then UPA government led by Congress, so that more cultivators could be granted rights over the lands they are cultivating. (DC File Photo)
ADILABAD: Under pressure over distribution of "podu" lands to long-time cultivators of lands adjoining forests, TRS government has put the ball into BJP-led central government’s court. The government has asked the centre to change the cut-off date of December 13, 2005 mentioned in the Forest Rights Act 2006, enacted by the then UPA government led by Congress, so that more cultivators could be granted rights over the lands they are cultivating.
State government is under pressure over the podu lands issue since next assembly elections are fast approaching. A senior forest officer of Komaram Bheem Asifabad district said they will fight tooth and nail against issuing pattas for forest lands in the name of podu lands to non-tribals in violation of the ROFR (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act.
However, the officer said they are sympathetic to Adivasis, who have been genuinely cultivating lands for a long time and deserve to get pattas.
It is a well-known fact that some non-tribals, backed by local political leaders, encroached forest lands and started cultivating them after the Forest Rights Act 2006 had been passed to grant pattas to scheduled tribes and other traditional forest dwellers. Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao went on record in State Legislative Assembly stating that his government will issue pattas for podu lands The state government also went on to conduct a survey and received claims from podu land cultivators during last November-December.
However, the state government got a shock on receiving lakhs of applications claiming lands, much beyond expectations. This made it clear that vested interests, many backed by political leaders, had started cultivating forest lands in the hope of registering these in their names.
Following this, municipal minister K.T. Rama Rao, speaking to media during his visit to Sircilla recently, threw the ball into centre’s court asking the BJP-led NDA government to change the cut-off under the Forest Rights Act 2006, so that they could issue pattas for podu lands in the state. Rama Rao went on to say that the TRS government will resolve the podu land issue once the centre changes the cut-off date in the ROFR.
But forest officials say state government cannot violate the norms fixed under ROFR for issue of rights to cultivate forest lands in the name of podu lands, that too to non- tribals, who are basically encroachers.