HYDERABAD: Farmers’ rights organisations claim that for the past few years, Haritha Haram has become an excuse for forest officials to harass tribals, creating a situation where clashes have been reported between forest-dwellers and forest officials across the agency areas of the State.
“The government is using members of the Vanasamrakshana Samithi in agency areas to use community rights as an excuse to plant saplings as part of Haritha Haram, which is being exploited by the Forest Department to dispossess forest-dwellers of their lands. They have submitted as many as 721 community rights applications to carry forward Haritha Haram plantations in 4,54,000 acres across the State,” said Sriram Naik, general secretary, Telangana Girijana Sangham.
S Malla Reddy, vice-president, All-India Kisan Sabha, informed Express that out of the 60 lakh acres of forest land in Telangana, only 20 lakh acres had a green cover. He wondered why the State government did not take up the plantation programme in the remaining 40 lakh acres and was hell-bent upon using the forest land being cultivated by tribals and forest-dwellers to plant saplings.
“If they want to increase the green cover in forests, and prevent animals from entering the villages in plain areas, they should plant not only teak, but also other native species including minor fruit saplings on a large scale,” he opined.
Though Haritha Haram during the monsoons may just be a tipping point for clashes between tribals and forest officials, the root cause lies in the non-issuance of Records of Forest Rights (ROFR) pattas to the forest-dwellers. According to Naik, 600 pattas were lying in the Narsampet’s RDO office without being signed by the Forest Department, rendering them useless.
P Venkatramulu from the Vyavasaya Karmika Sangham told Express that in Jalalpur village of Varni mandal in Nizamabad district, 20 forest-dwellers got pattas back in 2008 for around 40 acres, but forest officials were not allowing them to cultivate their lands by claiming they were trying to extend their area of cultivation. However, non-tribals cultivating up to 50 acres in agency areas were being allowed to carry on, claimed the activists.