Hyderabad, Nov (IANS) Employees of the Telangana Forest Department on Thursday boycotted the ongoing 'Podu' (forest) land survey as a mark of protest against the killing of a Forest Range Officer by Gutti Koya tribals two days ago.
The Telangana Forest Rangers Association, the Telangana Junior Forest Officers Association and other associations decided to abstain from the survey and gram sabhas being held to resolve the applications from 'podu' cultivators for pattas.
The survey work came to a halt in Bhadradri Kothagudem and Khammam districts.
Leaders of foresters' associations have planned massive rallies at the district headquarters in Khammam and Kothagudem in support of their demand to provide weapons to foresters for the protection of forests as well as their own safety.
The associations are demanding that the state government give them a specific assurance from the on the measures for the safety of field level foresters.
They are also planning a rally in Hyderabad. The leaders will meet Chief Secretary Somesh Kumar to submit a memorandum listing out their demands.
FRO Srinivasa Rao, 42, was hacked to death by Gutti koya tribesmen when he resisted their attempts to remove the saplings planted by the Forest Department in Bhadradri Kothagudem district on Tuesday.
The foresters are also demanding the government to drive out Gutti Koyas from the state.
Alleging that Gutti Koyas infiltrated into Telangana from other states and encroached forest land, forest officials demanded that the government take immediate steps to drive them out.
Podu lands are the forest lands under cultivation by tribals and non-tribal forest dwellers. There has been a rift between the cultivators and the Forest Department. In recent years, plantations undertaken by the Forest Department on such lands led to skirmishes between the two sides at various places in the state.
Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao last year announced a survey of 'podu' lands across the state and promised to provide pattas to those who have been cultivating these lands.
Currently a survey is on to identify all such lands. The government has received 4 lakh applications for pattas. According to Tribal Welfare Minister Satyavati Rathore, 68 per cent of the applicants are tribals and the rest non-tribals.
The government has directed officials to hold district level meetings to resolve the claims on 'podu' lands.