No politics over ‘podu’ lands, warn forest officials

HYDERABAD: Officials of the Telangana state forest department on Wednesday put all political parties on notice declaring that it will no longer be acceptable to them if any party makes promises on regularization of forest encroachments. Representatives of different forest officers’ associations, in a meeting with Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Head of Forest Force) R.M. Dobriyal at Aranya Bhavan in the city, also made it clear that clear cut guidelines and a road map must be issued by the PCCF with regard to dealing with RoFR (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act.

Dobriyal in turn, assured the representatives that he will take the associations’ concerns to the government. Immediately after the meeting, he met with director general of police M. Mahendar Reddy and requested police support for forest staff in the field. According to a release from the forest department, the DGP assured of police assistance in sensitive areas, and that instructions will be issued to implement this assurance.

Earlier in the meeting at Aranya Bhavan, attended by representatives of the Junior Forest Officers, Forest Range Officers, State Forest Officers, and IFS Officers associations, the PCCF was asked to ensure distribution of firearms to Forest Ranger Officers and above ranked staff, evict all Gutti Koyas from Telangana’s forests as they are not eligible for any forest rights lands, and called on the government to amend the Forest Act of 1967 to make all forest land encroachment instances as non-bailable offences with a punishment of 7 to 10 years.

The Retired IFS Officers Association, meanwhile, strongly condemned the FRO’s killing and demanded that all political parties refrain from making claims on the podu issue. It also sought strict action from the government against the killers.

They also sought clarity from the government on its current policy on encroachment of forest land, extend support to the department, and  undertake  a comprehensive survey of forest lands to demarcate forest boundaries in Telangana.

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