‘Podu’ Land Issue

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    In News 

    • Recently, the Telangana government has decided to move landless, non-tribal farmers engaged in shifting cultivation (‘Podu’ ) inside forests to peripheral areas as it looks to combat deforestation. 

    About the ‘Podu’ Land Issue

    • Podu lands are the lands tilled by tribal people in forests.
    • Telangana government has red-flagged encroachment of forests by non-tribals, who are indulging in the practice of shifting agriculture (podu)
    • Several political leaders have raised the issues of shifting agriculture and deforestation wherein encroachers clear a portion of land to raise crops one season and move to a different location next season, thereby clearing large areas of forests. 

    Shifting Cultivation

    • It is a form of agriculture or a cultivation system, in which, at any particular point in time, a minority of ‘fields’ are in cultivation and a majority are in various stages of natural re-growth.
    • Over time, fields are cultivated for a relatively short time, and allowed to recover, or are fallowed, for a relatively long time.
    • Eventually, a previously cultivated field will be cleared of the natural vegetation and planted in crops again.
    • Fields in established and stable shifting cultivation systems are cultivated and fallowed cyclically.
    • This type of farming is also called jhumming in India.

    Implications 

    • For the tribals:
      • Tribal farmers who have been traditionally cultivating for decades will not be affected by this drive against illegal encroachers
      • The government has, in fact, given land ownership titles to tribals.
        • More than 3 lakh acres have been allocated to tribal farmers across the state.
    • For the non-tribal farmers:
      • These farmers can apply to the state government to allocate them land outside the forests. 
        • Those who are shifted out of the forests will be given land ownership certificates, power supply facility, water, and Rythu Bandhu benefits (welfare program to support farmer’s investment for two crops a year by Telangana government), and farmer insurance schemes would be extended to them. 

    Way Forward 

    • The officials should take all protective measures so that even an inch of forest land was not encroached upon and there should be an end to land grabbing in the forest areas. 
    • If required an all-party meeting would be convened as part of finding a solution to the podu land issue 
    • The meetings should be held with all district collectors and required orders should be issued. 
    • Sarpanches and other elected representatives are encouraged to take the protection of forest lands as a responsibility.

    Source: IE