Araku Valley | People for the Planet
Updated: Sep 28, 2020
The indigenous tribal communities of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana are fighting to get an identity. This article is to throw light on the tribal people of Araku valley(famous tourist destination in Andhra Pradesh)who are facing problems from the rich people exploiting their resources for recreational purposes
Activist Uma Maheshwar of Girijan Sangham is fighting against illegal land dealings where"government officials gave a free hand to rich businessmen to open resorts and lodges in the valley, most of them involve illegal Benami land dealings." He also said "there was no trace of Forest Rights Act to distribute land to tribes in the last five years."As per Andhra Pradesh land regulation act 1 of 70 in the state's scheduled areas, transfer of tribal land to non-tribals is permissible only with accordance to the special status for tribal lands provided by the constitution.In the very own words of an Adivasi, Garala Deva from Chimidipalli village described the hardships faced by the them where rich upper cast garner huge profits by make unofficial land contracts with Adivasis. While the poor tribal people work as waiters,sanitation workers,cleaners get a minimum of Rs 300 per day.
Coming to their history, 30,000 Adivasis from Chhattisgarh's districts of Sukma,Bijapur and Dantewada fled to Andhra Pradesh in mid 2005. The displaced Adivasis, feared retribution if they returned home. Atleast 500 families settled in the area of Andhra forests that cleared. They applied for land titles for their houses and farms under Forest Rights Act. They are also relying on the special provisions meant to rehabilitate them.
According to FRA, claims for forest rights can be made on the land that claimants occupied before 13 December, 2005 but, major of the Adivasis took refuge in 2006. Experts believe that state has to come up with a new solution. But Andhra Pradesh and Telangana have so far no taken any steps to grant forest rights.
Settlements like Adama created by the Adivasis inside the forests are considered illegal under some forest laws. So, they are denied electricity, potable water and sanitation facilities.A survey of 11 settlements by the Bhadadri-Kothagudem district administration in 2018 found that 90 percent of the were severely anemic. Children are often born underweight, and at least five infants die every month. In addition to their hardships,Telangana chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao denounced the Chhattisgarh Adivasis for deforestation.The displaced Adivasis are also suspected to have links with Maoists.These Adivasis are asked to report to the police station every month to keep track of new migrants of or have anyone disappeared.
Given their plight, in February-March 2019,300 displaced Adivasis participated in a 300 km bicycle rally from Jagdalpur in Chhattisgarh to Raipur, the state capital. At the end of the rally,majority of the Adivasis expressed their interest to remain in their new settlements in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. Only 20 families from Maraiguda village in Sukma wanted to return as they wanted to benefit from the state's schemes, including reservations in schools.CGNet partnered non-profit Sitara Association in Chituru proposed to Adivasis who are demanding forest rights on the land they moved to in exchange for their land in Chhattisgarh that they obtain rehabilitation rights under FRA.
National Commission for Scheduled Tribes(NCST) called a meeting of the three state governments-Andhra Pradesh,Telangana and Chhattisgarh along with Union ministries of home and tribal affairs to facilitate the process of recognizing the land rights of displaced on request of an activist Choudhary. The governments of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh did not attend the meeting held in September, citing no reasons. Nand Kumar Sai, who chairs the NCST said it is upto the states to see whether they can give forest rights based on the availability of land. Central government cannot take any steps until state government conducts any surveys on this matter. No survey was conducted by any of the governments on the settlements in AP and Telangana until October, 2019.