Kerala

Govt. U-turn leaves Malaya tribespeoples high and dry

The State government’s sudden backtracking from its earlier promise to allocate 14.67 acres of reserve forestland at Kadappara, near Mangalam dam, to Malaya tribespeople of Moorthikkunnu settlement has once again exposed the callous attitude of government departments in handling issues related to hapless tribes.

While the Revenue, and Scheduled Tribes Welfare Departments back the landless tribespeople who are on a warpath, the Forest Department has backtracked from its earlier promise to provide land rights saying the agitating tribespeople do not come under the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006.

The Forest Department has deemed that none of the 22 families engaged in the struggle are traditional forest dwellers. However, an expert committee led by District Collector P. Marykutty had found the demands of the tribespeople just and that they all were traditional forest dwellers.

No objection

When the process to allocate land began in March this year, the Forest Department did not objected. The committee comprised representatives of Forest, Revenue, and SC/ST Departments apart from tribal rights activists, experts, and people’s representatives.

However, it has been opposing land distribution for the last one month.

The agitating tribespeople are still living in temporary sheds on the occupied land since January 15 this year.

There are 78 members in the 22 families which were struggling for survival due to lack of cultivable land.

They had occupied the reserve forestland with no forest character demanding that it be divided equally among the families.

“We were forced to live on 40 cents of rocky land all these years. There were 18 huts and 23 graves on this small patch and no cultivation was possible over the rocks. As far as the dead were concerned, there was no burial ground. We had no option but to dig graves in the close proximity of our houses,” said Mathu, a tribal woman, while narrating the situation that forced them to launch the land occupation struggle.

“Though at present classified as forestland, the occupied area was surplus land reclaimed by the government from a local landlord. The land has no character of a forest and its four boundaries are agricultural lands occupied by settlers from Kottayam and Ernakulam districts,” said Velayudhan, a tribal man.

Ms. Marykutty when contacted by The Hindu said that the Revenue and Scheduled Tribes Welfare Departments were in touch with Forest officials to find a solution to the issue.

“If no solution emerges at the district level, we will seek the intervention of the Chief Secretary. As far as the district administration is concerned, the land can be distributed among the tribespeople as per prevailing norms,” she said.

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Printable version | Mar 8, 2021 10:34:34 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/Govt.-U-turn-leaves-Malaya-tribespeoples-high-and-dry/article16723406.ece

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