KOCHI: Twelve years since then Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan razed down illegal encroachments during the politically volatile Munnar eviction drive, the Kerala Government is set for a similar effort to evict 17,256 people who have claimed forest land, saying it belongs to Scheduled Tribe (ST).
Following the Supreme Court verdict ordering forced eviction of more than 10 lakh tribals and forest-dwelling households across the country, the state government is under tremendous pressure to implement it in areas, mostly Idukki, Kozhikode, Malappuram, Wayanad, Kannur and Palakkad districts. The drive will affect many big-time encroachers who have been enjoying forest land.
It needs to be seen whether the LDF Government will hastily implement the apex court order as such an eviction might lead to political trouble for the ruling front in the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections.
The Department of SC/ST Development and State Forest Department will work in tandem to implement the court verdict. As per the Forest Department data, 42,659 people have come forward, claiming to be tribals.
The village-level committees, sub-divisional committees led by respective Revenue Divisional Officers and district-level committees headed by District Collectors have rejected 2,847, 5,407 and 9,002 claims in that order.
Revenue and forest officers said the eviction drive would affect only those who have staked claim for the land and encroached it.
“We’re assessing the details of each claim as there’s lots of duplication. We’ll be able to come to a final number only after that,” said Forest and Wildlife Principal Secretary A Jayathilak.
Department of SC/ST Development Principal Secretary Biswanath Sinha said measures would be taken to ensure that no genuine claimant belonging to the ST is evicted.
“We’ll be re-looking at the claims made by the people. If anyone is found illegally holding forest land in violation of the rules, we’ll recommend to evict him or her,” he said.
“Many have made claims over forest land without any basis. Eviction will only be in those cases where people are staying by staking claim despite the government’s rejection. We’re collecting those details from the field. We’ll look how many such cases are there,” said Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Forest Management) A K Dharni.