Special Correspondent

ONGOLE: The CPI-affiliated agricultural labourers’ union has urged the State government to provide land rights to non-tribals living in forest areas without compromising the interests of tribals.

Severe hardship

Addressing a meeting organised by Andhra Pradesh Agricultural Labourers’ Union here on Sunday, general secretary of the State union and MLC Jelli Wilson pointed out that several non-tribals were facing hardship as they had lost their land rights. The poor non-tribals could be provided rights on the land they had been cultivating for several generations.

Stringent provisions

The stringent provisions contained in 1/70 Tribal Land Protection Act banned non-tribals from possessing land in forest areas. They can sell their land only to tribals.

Following their agitation, the government agreed in 2006 to provide them land rights if they produced recorded evidence that they were living in forest areas and cultivating the land for the last three generations.

As there was no record in most of the villages, it became well nigh impossible for non-tribals to produce the required evidence and so continued to suffer.

In this background, Mr. Wilson wanted the government to make further amendments to the Act to provide land rights to poor non-tribals if they can prove that they were living in forest area and cultivating the land for the last 12 years.

Fears allayed

He turned down fears that the amendment would be exploited by rich landlords to garner forest land.

He contended that landlords were already garnering forest land with the connivance of forest and revenue officials. They were seeking amendment only to help poor non-tribals, he said.