(Image: The Hindu)
As Telangana gets set for the December 7 Assembly elections, Bandarugudem villagers in Dummugudem Mandal, Badradri Kothagudem district, are skeptical if the new government will provide them with pattas (land titles) to the podu lands they have been cultivating for generations.
Podu cultivation is a form of shifting cultivation predominantly practiced by Adivasis on forest land.
About 100 families live in Bandarugudem village, and all of them are Adivasis belonging to the Koya community. One of them, 50-year-old Kunja Seethamma is a small farmer owning three acres of land. However, she has land titles (evidence of ownership) for only two acres.
“I’m waiting to get patta for my third acre which is a podu land,” Seethamma said. She said her husband died 20 years ago in an accident. “Since then I have been farming in these three acres of land and raised my two daughters,” she said, adding that she had filed a petition claiming the land title in the gram sabha held in her village in 2009, but the officials have not even looked into her claim.
According to Section 4(3) of the Scheduled Tribes and other traditional forest dwellers (recognition of forest rights) Act, 2006, (FRA), the tribes are entitled to receive land titles up to 4 hectares, if the forest land is under their occupation and was being cultivated before December 13, 2005.
Despite the law, instead of recognising forest rights, Adivasis are frequently being threatened for practicing podu cultivation across Dummugudem Mandal, said Ramana, former sarpanch of Bandarugudem village.