October 12, 2022
#LCWThread Podu land clashes between tribals and forest officials are on a rise in Telangana. On Sep 25, villagers in Bhadradri Kothagudem district stopped officials from destroying standing crops.
But what are these Podu lands? And, why are the farmers angry?
A thread! (1/16)
These frequent clashes are over the ownership of Podu lands. Podu, a form of shifting cultivation done using slash-and-burn methods, is practised on forest lands across Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Odisha and Chhattisgarh.
Forest Rights Act (FRA) ensures tribals and forest dwellers get land titles on Podu lands, if the claimed land was in their possession on or before December 31, 2005.
But FRA implementation in Telangana remains abysmal which fuels the ongoing land conflicts. (3/16)
To settle these claims, the Telangana government started a process in November 2021. The initiative, however, soon ran into controversies for its arbitrariness, unexplained delays and political influences. (4/16)
On September 11, Telangana’s Tribal Welfare Department issued a government order (G.O.140) constituting District Coordination Committees (DCC) to "oversee the proper disposal" of land title claims over Podu lands. (5/16)
Each of these DCCs, as per the G.O.140, is headed by a district in-charge minister with MPs, MLAs, MLCs and Zilla Parishad chairperson as special invitee members.
It is claimed that the order provides a backdoor to politicians who can influence the claims process. (6/16)
This didn't go down well with the state's tribal communities. A writ petition was filed in the Telangana High Court challenging the constitutionality of the G.O.140. The petitioners claim that the order is in contravention of the FRA and its rules. (7/16)
The High Court agreed. On Sep 23, it stated: “Prima facie, this Court is of the view that the impugned G.O is in conflict with the provisions of the Act and Rules made thereunder."
The court directed the state government to not hold any DCC meetings until further orders. (8/16)
Several DCC meetings have been held. A day before the court order, state Minister for Forest and Environment Indrakaran Reddy held one such meeting in Kumurambheem-Asifabad district. Reddy stressed on a quick solution to the Podu issue. (9/16) https://www.newindianexpress.com/states/telangana/2022/sep/23/solve-podu-land-issue-quicklyforest-and-environment-minister-indrakaran-tells-telangana-officials-2501083.html
“When FRA rules clearly specify how claims are to be verified and recognised, the idea to involve politicians in the process is illegal,” says Chikkudu Prabhakar, a High Court advocate representing the tribals. (10/16)
This is not the first time that the K Chandrashekar Rao government has attempted to tweak the FRA implementation. Last November, when the claims process started, it was concluded within a month instead of a period of three months, as specified in the FRA rules. (11/16)
The process was also limited to accepting individual claims only. The state officials ignored other land title claims like community rights, habitat rights and other forest rights ensured under the law. (12/16)
For the next nine months, the process of verification and granting land titles was controversially stalled. And now, G.O. 140 gets stonewalled by the High Court further delaying a resolution to the issue. The case is now listed for a hearing on October 21. (13/16)
, we have been tracking and documenting conflicts over #Podu lands. In April, our researcher @prudhvirr
wrote on how the FRA implementation in Telangana is compromised, leaving tribal farmers and families in distress.(14/16) https://www.thenewsminute.com/article/telangana-govt-stalls-podu-land-scrutiny-nearly-one-lakh-adivasis-hit-162756
Similar Podu land conflicts have also made it to our database. (15/16) https://www.landconflictwatch.org/conflicts/forcible-takeover-of-tribal-lands-by-forest-department-for-plantation
; Curated by: @furquansid
Video and photos arranged by: A Ramu
Visit our website for the latest updates on land, forest and natural resources governance. http://landconflictwatch.org (16/16)