The Kerala Cabinet accepted the demands of tribespeople on Wednesday, paving the way for the settlement of their ‘stand-up’ agitation in front of the Secretariat.
After Chief Minister Oommen Chandy announced the Cabinet decisions, tribal leader C.K. Janu said the strike would be withdrawn upon receiving the decisions in writing on Thursday.
The Chief Minister told the media that the government would notify 7,693 hectares of vested forests, which had been cleared by the Centre and Supreme Court, for distribution to the tribespeople. Some of the land, which had either been allocated to them under Forest Rights Act or encroached upon by others, would be replaced. Fresh clearance from the Centre would be sought for this. The tribal leaders had maintained that forests allocated under the Forest Rights Act could not be considered as allocated in lieu of their alienated land.
Panchayats with nearly 100 per cent tribal population such as Edamalakudy and Aralam would be brought under the provisions of the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act. This would protect tribal land from alienation.
For evictees Mr. Chandy said 447 tribal families who had been evicted from Muthanga would be given one acre each and Rs.2.5 lakh for construction of houses. Legal aid had been given to tribespeople who faced prosecution following the Muthanga agitation for land. They would also be given assistance of Rs.1 lakh each. Cases had been withdrawn. Complaints regarding the Aralam farm and land allocated to the tribespeople there would be addressed. Pineapple cultivation in the farm would be discontinued as it attracted elephants. Besides, contactors were using pesticides.
Traditional agriculture in tribal hamlets of Attappady would be promoted through special programmes and the Integrated Tribal Development Project. A special package would be implemented for the Vedar community. Tribespeople settled in project farms would be given possession certificates following guidelines under the Forest Rights Act.