VELLORE: Tribals dwelling atop Palampattu hills in Vellore district have alleged excesses by the Forest department personnel and accused them of torching huts in a bid to evict them from farm land. They have also sought the top authorities of the government in the district to take appropriate action and necessary steps for providing them patta under the Forest Rights Act (FRA).
Since the applications for patta submitted by 34 tribes men living in Chinnoor atop Palampattu hills were rejected, the Forest department personnel belonging to Amirthi Range visited the hamlet recently and cautioned the men not to farm without patta.
“The Forest personnel visited the village and warned the men against taking up cultivation of crops. They also issued notices,” said B Sivaraj, district secretary of Tamil Nadu Tribal People Welfare Association. He alleged, “They also torched huts raised by the tribesmen in the land to force eviction.”
Former MLA and president of the Association G Latha led the affected farmers in representing their cause to the top authorities, including the District collector and the Divisional Forest Officer (DFO). She blamed certain Forest department personnel of acting in a ‘highhanded’ manner. “The officials should hold an inquiry into the issue of highhandedness and take proper action in this issue. Moreover, a committee of Forest and Revenue department authorities must be constituted to hold survey and initiate steps for providing patta for the hill dwellers as they have been doing farming for generations,” she urged.
Amirthi Forest Range Officer Murugan denied the allegations of torching of huts. “Our men went to the hamlet to issue notices against taking up farming activities on land, for which, they have no patta, as per instructions of our DFO and ACF. And there was no need for us to burn the huts,” he said.
In the hills, falling under Amirthi Forest Range, patta under FRA was distributed to 106 persons while 526 applications were rejected. About11 were issued patta in Palampattu where 52 applications were rejected, officials informed.
When queried about the issue, DFO Bhargav Teja said, “Those who do not have the patta were asked not to carry out farming activity. And for reconsideration, they have to approach the tribal welfare department and file appeal against rejection of applications. Proper inquiry will be held on the matter.” He denied any misdeeds by the personnel regarding torching of huts; however, promised to look into the issue.