A day after the killing of a forest official by Gutti Koya tribals in Telangana’s Bhadradri Kothagudem district, forest personnel on Wednesday demanded that the government drive out encroachers of forest land from the state and provide weapons to foresters for their self-defence.
Alleging that Gutti Koya tribals infiltrated into Telangana from other states and encroached forest land, forest officials demanded that the government take immediate steps to drive them out.
The demands were raised by the forest department officials during the last rites of Forest Range Officer (FRO) Challamalla Srinivasa Rao in Khammam district on Wednesday.
Forest Range Officers’ Association and Junior Forest Range Officers’ Association demanded that the government provide weapons to all forest personnel moving into the forest as they face threat to their lives while discharging their duties.
Leaders of the two associations said they will decide future course of action after waiting for the government’s response to their demands.
They recalled that two years ago, the chief minister had announced in the state Assembly that Gutti Koya tribals would be sent back. “Had the government done that, we would not have lost our dear colleague Srinivasa Rao,” an officer said.
The associations said weapons to all forest personnel who go into forests will give them protection and instill fear among forest land encroachers. They demanded that the government take immediate steps to ensure that no such incident recur in future.
During the last rites, some of the forest personnel raised slogans for killing the murderers of Srinivasa Rao. They also wanted the government to stop the survey of podu lands in the state.
Podu lands are the forest land under cultivation by tribals and non-tribal forest dwellers. There has been a rift between the cultivators and the forest department. In recent years, plantations undertaken by the forest department on such lands led to skirmishes between the two sides at various places in the state.
FRO Srinivasa Rao (42) was hacked to death by Gutti koya tribals when he resisted their attempts to remove the saplings planted by the forest department.
As per the direction of Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao, last rites of Srinivasa Rao was performed with state honours in Erlapudi in Raghunadhapalem mandal
Forest minister A. Indrakaran Reddy, transport minister P. Ajay Kumar, other public representatives and forest and police officials from Khammam and Bhadradri Kothagudem districts attended the last rites.
Ajay Kumar alleged that Gutti Koya tribals coming from other states tried to demoralize forest officials with the killing of FRO but Telangana people and tribals will not tolerate this.
Indrakaran Reddy said the chief minister himself will take decision on giving pattas to tribals and non-tribals after ongoing survey of podu lands across the state.