Tribal groups and activists have urged the Tamil Nadu government to `stop harassing’ the tribals and forest dwellers with threats of eviction and start issuing `pattas’ (title deeds) for the lands they have been tilling for long as per the provisions of the Tribals and Traditional Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006.

Claiming that the Forest department has not taken up the exercise of `identifying and allotting’ the lands to the eligible beneficiaries, the Tribal Association for Fifth Schedule Campaign (TAFSE), working for tribal welfare in Tamil Nadu, has pointed out that while many states had started issuing pattas to its forest dwellers as per the act, Tamil Nadu is yet to initiate even preliminary exercise in this direction.

TAFSE convener A. Renganathan told `The Hindu,’ that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had asked the states to issue pattas to all eligible beneficiaries as per the act. The Central Tribal Commission has also pointed out that it had received 23.73 lakh appeals seeking title deeds till August, 31, 2009 and against which, 4.15 deeds had been issued with another 94000 ready for distribution.

“Chattisgarh stands first with 1.69 lakh pattas followed by Andhra Pradesh (1.24 lakh), Tripura (29,507) and Madhya Pradesh (24,571) since May this year. But Tamil Nadu has received a mere 7741 appeals none of them has been processed so far by the committees, constituted under Rule 5/7 of the Act,” he pointed out.

Barring Tiruvannamalai district, tribal activists claim that no other district administration has taken it up seriously. They charge that many of these District and Sub Divisional committees, especially in Coimbatore, Nilgiris and Tirunelveli districts, have been stuffed with officials from Forest department thus violating the act’s mandatory ratio of 3 + 3 (villagers and officials).

Hence Tamil Nadu government should issue pattas to eligible beneficiaries in forests as per the act on or before Dec 30, 2009, they insisit.

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