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Hyderabad: Conflicts between tribals and forest officials with CM’s assurance

The department officials are having problems with the tribals in conserving the forest lands in the vicinity of the Godavari river. . To the forest officials entrusted with the task of protecting the forest lands, clashes continue between the tribals who claim their authority over such lands due to lack of clarity on forest land rights.

According to the 2006 ROFR Act, the issue of 5.7 lakh acres of forest land has come to a standstill and the lower level officials are facing problems in the conservation of Ata lands as per the CM’s assurance on non-tribal land cultivation rights.

Forest officials feel that this whole issue has become a major obstacle to the non-determination of rights under the Scheduled Tribes and Other Species (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006.

The Act provides for the proper rehabilitation of all those living before December 13, 2005, as well as those who emigrated from there. According to the law, the tribals have acquired more than 2.4 lakh acres of forest land.

Similarly another 2.5 lakh acres are in the possession of various persons. In total, officials now feel that the issue of forest rights under the ROFR has to be decided in the case of about 5.7 lakh acres.

Adding that Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao had promised to resolve the issue before the elections two years ago. He reiterated the same several times and even recently. As there is no decision coming forth from the State government, the beat level officials are going as part of their job for the removal of encroachments.

However, taking exception to the same, the residents of Chintaguppa village under D Kotturu beat of Dummugudem mandal of Bhadradri-Kothagudem district have tied forest officials to the trees. The tribals have resorted to these acts when the officials have gone there to dig a trench. Treating the forest officials’ entry into their lands as an act of encroachment, the tribals tied them to a tree leading to tension in the area.

It is not the lone case and similar incidents of clashes between the tribals and forest officials have been witnessed in recent times in Huzurnagar, Adilabad, Nizamabad, Warangal and Khammam districts. The main problem of forest rights remained a point of a clash between the forest dwellers and the officials.

“The issue is snowballing into a bigger one whenever we seek the help of police for protection or rescue of our staff,” said another official from Adilabad.

Earlier, the Tribal Welfare Department which was the nodal agency to decide the issue had reportedly rejected the claims of 90,000 applicants. But, the same was not communicated to the applicants. In turn, this makes those tribals continue to feel that since they had submitted the application, their rights remain intact.

That apart, the forest department sources said, “There are new encroachments encouraged by the leaders and politicians and outsiders from the plains using the tribals. The interference of politicians, in particular, has been making the situation volatile if they are from the ruling dispensation.”

Further, the State government has no say in the case of the RoFR Act, as it falls under the ambit of Centre. Against this backdrop, what policy decision the Chief Minister and his government intend to take and how the State government is going to convince the Centre to resolve this contentious issue has become an issue for discussion among the senior forest officials.

 

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