R. Ilangovan

SALEM: Tribal groups and activists have asked the Tamil Nadu Government to stop harassing tribals and forest dwellers with threats of eviction. Instead it should give patta (title deeds) for the land they have been tilling for long according to 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 land to eligible beneficiaries, the Tribal Association for Fifth Schedule Campaign (TAFSE), working for tribal welfare in Tamil Nadu, has said that many states had started giving patta to its forest dwellers. But Tamil Nadu is yet to begin even preliminary works in this regard.

TAFSE convener A. Renganathan told The Hindu, that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had asked the states to give patta to all eligible beneficiaries. 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 given with another 94,000 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 7,741 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, 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 give pattas to eligible beneficiaries in forests on or before December 30, 2009.