Wisdom behind decision questioned

Chief Minister K. Chandrashekhar Rao’s proposal to accord “podu” rights over forest lands has evoked consternation among forest and wildlife activists, who vouch that the decision would only lead to more drastic deforestation in future.

Mr. Rao, during his address in the recent monsoon session of the Legislative Assembly, promised regularisation of up to 10 lakh acres of forest land which is encroached by tribals and others for cultivation.

On Saturday, he conducted a day-long review meeting during which issues pertaining to ‘Podu’ rights have been discussed.

Claims for ‘Podu’ lands should be received from the tribal cultivators from November 8 to December 8, Mr. Rao directed.

Wildlife activist and founder of the NGO ‘Hyderabad Tiger Conservation Society’ Imran Siddiqui calls the announcement a “misuse of Forest Rights Act”.

“Under the Forest Rights Act, only encroachments up to December 13, 2005 may be regularised. In 2019, the Supreme Court had ordered eviction of all the rejected claimants from the forest lands, which is yet to be done,” Mr. Siddiqui said.

Forest officials pleading anonymity liken the move to rewarding a crime. Reminding the widespread destruction of forests post the enactment of the Forest Rights Act, they say the same would repeat if the Chief Minister’s idea is to be implemented now.

“People started felling forests assuming that the land would be regularised in future. If fresh rights are granted now, it will only lead to more destruction,” an official remarked.

State governments have the authority to regularise only encroachments prior to 1980, and any violators later should be punished.

‘Centre’s purview’

Retired forest officer Rama Krishna Rao says all the forest related acts are within the purview of Central government and State does not have any right to alienate even an inch of forest land.

“The proposal to accord more rights now will not hold any water, when the wisdom behind Forest Rights Act itself is being questioned,” he opines.

P. Veerabhadra Rao, another forest and wildlife activist and advocate, calls the move politically motivated, rather than intended to benefit the tribal population.

“This announcement has the political and real estate lobby behind it. Big sharks and middlemen instigate the landless poor to fell forests so that they can reap the benefits. Does the government intend that tribals should for ever be confined to forest fringes as poor cultivators? Shouldn’t they get any share of the development pie?” Mr.Veerabhadra Rao questions. Already several lakhs of acres of forest land has been diverted for the purpose of railway lines, roads, mines, and other projects, besides agriculture, and the State cannot afford to forgo the remaining wilderness, as it could have disastrous consequences for the environment, he says.

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Printable version | Dec 1, 2021 5:53:54 AM |

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