Bhadrachalam ITDA Project Officer VP Gautham had asked forest officials to stop digging trenches in podu lands that the tribal community in the area farms on.

Tribals vs forest officers Attempt to transfer TS official opposing podu land digging
news Controversy Friday, August 02, 2019 - 12:22

Adivasis in Telangana's Bhadradri Kothagudem have alleged that efforts are being made to transfer Bhadrachalam ITDA (Integrated Tribal Development Agency) Project Officer (PO) VP Gautham after he assured the tribals in the area that he will work for their rights and welfare.

Adivasi activists have alleged that the PO’s steps to ensure the implementation of Recognition of Forest Rights Act, 2006 has not gone down well with few politicians from ruling TRS party, who are desperately trying to get him transferred. 

Earlier this week, activists under the banner of the Adivasi Joint Action Committee staged a protested at ITDA office in Bhadrachalam. They have demanded that Gautham should continue serving as the PO since he is taking firm measures for the betterment of Adivasis.

It all started when VP Gautham acted on the complaints from Adivasi rights organisations and NGOs and decided to take steps in favour of the implementation of Recognition of Forest Rights Act, 2006.

In March this year, several Adivasis and NGOs had reached out to PO alleging that forest officials were digging trenches in the cultivable podu lands resulting in the loss of livelihood.

The PO, citing the provision in Section 4(5) of the Recognition of Forest Rights (RoFR) Act, 2006, stated that no eviction should take place till the process of recognition and vesting of forest rights under the act is complete. 

Section 4(5) of the RoFR Act states: “Save as otherwise provided, no member of a forest-dwelling scheduled tribe or other traditional forest dwellers shall be evicted or removed from the forest land under his occupation till the recognition and verification procedure is complete.”

Gautham had asked the forest divisional officers in the districts not to dig trenches in cultivable podu land and not to remove the tribals from the lands that are under their occupation. Beside enclosing pending claims and under process claims, he had asked the forest officials to issue suitable instructions to concerned range and field level officers.

In July, Adivasi JAC Convenor Vasam Ramakrishna Dora filed a complaint with the PO seeking that he protect the tribals podu lands which are in their occupation since 50 years from forest department in Koppurai, Modugulagudem and Rajaramthanda of Tekulapalli Mandal. 

PO then asked Kothagudem Forest Divisional Officer to give suitable instructions to concerned staff to not to evict any tribal from their cultivable lands as per RoFR Act 2006.

Speaking to TNM, Adivasi JAC Convenor Vasam Ramakrishna Dora alleged that a few local politicians who have vested interests trying to transfer the Bhadrachalam ITDA PO.

“As the officer gave strict instructions with regard to issuing of agency area certificates, verifying the certificates which were issued wrongly, and has ordered the forest officials to not to evict the Adivasis as per the RoFR Act 2006, a few TRS leaders have considered approaching MP Maloth Kavitha and other leaders in the government to transfer him,” he said.

“We demand that the government let him serve his full tenure since he is taking all the measures to ensure that the health centres and tribal schools in the region have proper facilities and he is taking steps to implement the RoFR Act 2006,” he added. 

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