Hyderabad: Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao on Saturday instructed officials to accept claims from tribals and others from November 8 to December 8 for podu cultivation. Village committees should be constituted as per Recognition of Forest Rights (RoFR) Act after convening preparatory meetings at various levels before November 8, he said.
The Chief Minister was addressing a high-level meeting on the podu land issue, protection and rejuvenation of forests, besides Haritha Haram with District Collectors and officials from Forest, Tribal Welfare, Police and Panchayat Raj departments at Pragathi Bhavan here.
Apart from appointing a nodal officer for two to three villages, Collector at the district-level and Revenue Divisional Officer (RDO) at sub-division level should monitor the process. In all, 87 per cent of the podu land encroached are in 12 districts – Bhadradri-Kothagudem, Kumram Bheem Asifabad, Mahabubabad, Mulugu, Adilabad, Jayashankar-Bhupalpally, Kamareddy, Khammam, Nirmal, Warangal, Nalgonda and Nizamabad.
The Chief Minister instructed the officials to resolve podu lands issue apart from rejuvenating forest through forestry initiatives. He asked the District Collectors, Police and Forest department officials to help innocent tribals who eke out their livelihood only relying on the forest. The officials should also identify people destroying forests and take stringent action against them including invoking PD Act against them.
Rao said the District Collectors must convene all-party meetings to solve podu lands issue and to chalk out an action plan to protect forest lands. Consensus should be evolved during the all-party meeting ensuring rights as per RoFR Act to tribals who have been cultivating in podu lands till now. “Subsequently, not an inch of land should be allowed to be encroached,” he said, adding that MPs, MLAs, Zilla Parishad chairpersons and other elected representatives should be involved in the meetings. The District Collectors should play a key role in protecting forests, he said.
“It is the innocent tribals who are protecting forests and external forces are only resorting to destruction,” he said, adding that Gond, Kolam and Koya tribals were children of forests who won’t cause any damage to forests.
The Chief Minister said government lands adjacent to podu lands should be allocated to tribals who are into podu cultivation deep in the forest. “If there are no government lands nearby, agriculture lands near the forest periphery should be allocated and power and water supply along with accommodation facilities should be ensured,” he said.
Boundaries should be fixed to the forest lands on permanent basis with protection trench. Gacha kaya (nicker) saplings must be planted on the trench. For establishing trench, officials can use forest and NREGS funds. Rao said it would not be right to compare forests with plantation of saplings even if they run into crores as part of social forestry. “Ten acres of forest is equivalent to some lakhs of saplings,” he pointed out.
Separate focus should be laid on forest rejuvenation in all districts like the work done in Gajwel. The districts, which are devoid of forests, should develop forest in lands owned by the Forest Department.
Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao on Saturday categorically stated that Rythu Bandhu, Rythu Bima and power supply would be stopped to farmers found cultivating marijuana in their agriculture fields.
He instructed officials to take necessary steps to arrest such farmers and send them to jail. At the same time, Recognition of Forest Rights (RoFR) patta would also be cancelled if marijuana was cultivated in RoFR lands apart from taking action as per law.
He also asked officials to completely eradicate manufacturing of illicit-distilled (ID) liquor and take up employment and rehabilitation for them.