The Telangana government had decided in October 2021 to move landless, non-tribal farmers engaged in shifting cultivation inside forests to peripheral areas in an effort to combat deforestation. The BJP has taken up the issue of cultivation rights of adivasis and tribals in forest areas in Telangana, and resolved to stage protests and take out motorcycle rallies in their support.
What is the ‘podu’ land issue?
- The Telangana government last year moved against the encroachment of forest lands by non-tribals, who it said were indulging in the practice of shifting agriculture (podu).
- Several political leaders have expressed concern over shifting agriculture — in which a portion of land is cleared to raise crops in a particular season before the cultivators move to another location the next season, and to a third area after that, thus progressively degrading large areas of the forest.
- To stop this deforestation, the government wants to move out cultivators from deep inside forests to the periphery by allotting them land for cultivation.
- Chief Minister Rao had assured the state Legislative Assembly last year that the government would launch a drive to protect the forests and remove the encroachers.
But what will happen to the tribals?
Tribal farmers who have been traditionally cultivating for decades would not be affected by this drive against illegal encroachers. In fact, land ownership titles have been given to tribals; officials said that more than 3 lakh acres have been allocated to tribal farmers statewide.
And what about non-tribal farmers?
- These farmers can apply to the state government to allocate them land outside the forests.
- Those who are moved out of the forests would be given land ownership certificates, power and water supplies, Rythu Bandhu benefits (a welfare programme launched by the state government to support farmers’ investment for two crops in a year), and farm insurance schemes.
- The government had said that a survey would be carried out to identify encroached lands and, once the encroaching farmers are moved out, forest protection committees would be set up to monitor the situation.