The Telangana government on Tuesday begun the exercise to address the issue of “Podu” lands, or lands in forests tilled by tribals, with a meeting chaired by Chief Secretary Somesh Kumar discussing the modalities.
Following the recent decision of Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao to launch an action plan to settle the disputes over Podu land, the meeting decided to receive the applications from the third week of October.
The meeting of Somesh Kumar with the heads of the departments concerned to decide on the modalities of action plan discussed the details like model of application process to be followed, committees at various levels and issues to be included in the application such as forest boundary coordinates, and participation of the citizens for the conservation of forest.
It is proposed to conduct meetings with district Collectors, Division Forest Officers, Conservators of Forests and others.
There has been a row over these between the tribals and the Forest Department, and disputes in some places have led to clashes between tribals and forest personnel in recent months.
Following appeals from elected public representatives, the Chief Minister on October 9 directed the officials to launch an action plan to settle the issue.
He made it clear that once the podu land issue comes to a logical end, the officials should take all measures to ensure that even an inch of forest land is not encroached and there should be an end to the land grabbing in the forest areas.
The Chief Minister said the state government would not hesitate to take any stringent measure to protect the forests in the state. He said if need be, an all-party meeting would be convened as part of finding a solution to the podu lands issue and he would demonstrate and practically show with evidence to the leaders on how forest land is being encroached upon.
He instructed the officials to prepare guidelines to appoint the Forest Protection Committees in the state. The CM said the Podu cultivation which is taking place in the middle of the forest would be shifted to the edge of the forest areas and land would be allotted.