‘Podu’ land issue

Source: By Sreenivas Janyala: The Indian Express

The Telangana government has decided to move landless, non-tribal farmers engaged in shifting cultivation inside forests to peripheral areas as it looks to combat deforestation. Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao recently said the authorities would take all protective measures to ensure that forest land is not encroached upon. He also said the rights and livelihood of traditional forest dwellers will be protected.

Telangana government has red-flagged encroachment of forests by non-tribals, who are indulging in the practice of shifting agriculture (podu). Several political leaders have raised the issues of shifting agriculture and deforestation wherein encroachers clear a portion of land to raise crops one season and move to a different location next season, thereby clearing large areas of forests. The government now wants to shift out all farmers from the forests to the periphery by allotting lands to them for cultivation. Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao has assured the legislative assembly that the government will launch a drive to protect the forests and remove the encroachers.

Tribal farmers who have been traditionally cultivating for decades will not be affected by this drive against illegal encroachers. The government has, in fact, given land ownership titles to tribals. Officials said that more than 3 lakh acres have been allocated to tribal farmers across the state.

These farmers can apply to the state government to allocate them land outside the forests. Those who are shifted out of the forests will be given land ownership certificates, power supply facility, water, and Rythu Bandhu benefits (welfare program to support farmer’s investment for two crops a year by Telangana government), and farmer insurance schemes would be extended to them. A survey will start in November to identify lands that are encroached. Once the encroaching farmers are shifted out, the government will set up forest protection committees to monitor the forests.