Karnataka worst in distributing land deeds to forest dwellers: Data | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Karnataka worst in distributing land deeds to forest dwellers: Data

BySharan Poovana
Aug 21, 2021 12:19 AM IST

Out of the 275,446 applications received till end of 2020, only 14,667 titles have been distributed, according to the ministry of environment, forest and climate change in a response to the Lok Sabha.

Bengaluru Karnataka fares among the poorest in terms of distribution of land deeds to forest dwellers and tribals who have inhabited these lands for generations when compared to its counterparts in southern India, data shows, indicating how issues pertaining to non-dominant caste groups are rarely a priority for the state and its political dispensation.

A total of 19,20,507 individual titles over an extent of 4,182,274 acres of forest land in the country, including Maharashtra, have been distributed till December 31, 2020 to the Scheduled Tribes and other traditional forest dwellers.
A total of 19,20,507 individual titles over an extent of 4,182,274 acres of forest land in the country, including Maharashtra, have been distributed till December 31, 2020 to the Scheduled Tribes and other traditional forest dwellers.

Out of the 275,446 applications received till end of 2020, only 14,667 titles have been distributed, according to the ministry of environment, forest and climate change in a response to the Lok Sabha.

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This amounts to 20,813.51 acres of forest land to dwellers who have been demanding proper titles for them to remain in their natural and traditional habitat without being under the sword of eviction.

In comparison, Kerala has distributed 26,398 titles as against total requests of 43,331, data shows.

Andhra Pradesh has distributed 96,675 titles, amounting to 239,554 acres out of the total 177,466 claims. Tamil Nadu has just 33,755 claims but has distributed 8,144 land titles, amounting to 9,626.44 acres.

Telangana has processed and distributed 93,639 deeds, amounting to 300,284 acres as against 183,252 claims, data shows, indicating that Karnataka is lowest in distribution of land title deeds among the five large southern states.

“There is a committee at taluk, gram and district level which decides these matters and the forest department is a part of it. If all criteria are met then the process moves forward,” said one senior government official from Karnataka, requesting not to be named.

The official said that the social welfare department is the nodal office for such claims.

However, the long delays in processing such claims and ensuring protection for vulnerable tribals forced the new government under chief minister Basvaraj Bommai to set up a separate portfolio of Scheduled Tribe (ST) welfare and B. Sriramulu has been made its first minister.

But the political climate in the state, especially with ministers unhappy with their respective portfolios, including Sriramulu, the newly set up secretariat has barely taken off the ground, those aware of the developments said.

At least five senior officials from Karnataka’s tribal welfare department could not be reached for comment including its minister, Sriramulu.

Karnataka has a strong dominant caste-centric political reality with successive governments prioritising requests and demands from communities like Lingayats, Vokkaligas and Kurbas among others, leaving most of the other groups almost voiceless and without adequate representation or benefits.

Sriramulu himself is from the dominant Valmiki community, classified as ST, who have been seeking better reservation opportunities.

A total of 19,20,507 individual titles over an extent of 4,182,274 acres (1.69 million ha) of forest land in the country, including Maharashtra, have been distributed till December 31,2020 to the Scheduled Tribes and other traditional forest dwellers.

“The first thing we need to understand is that it’s not about giving land but about recognizing the fact that somebody was cultivating land before a certain date and that they were there for the right and not wrong reasons,” said Dr. Sharachchandra Lele, distinguished fellow in Environmental Policy & Governance at Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE), a non-profit organisation. “It is about a recognition of a right they (tribals and forest dwellers) had,” he added.

He said that there is no data on how many people are actually claimants of such lands as the number of applications does not provide the true picture.

Hundreds and thousands of people are displaced from their homes due to development works and declaring of forests as national reserves which, he said, was earlier dealt with by giving monetary compensation but provided no hope for resettlement for those who have been moved out.

A significant section of these communities is moved to the edges of forests where only a small section get homes but with no source of livelihoods. In the case of adivasis, experts said that governments (including the British before independence) recognized the dwellers’ right to land, water and worship but not the right to cultivate or hunt that rendered such people without a source of livelihood.

Data shows that Karnataka has the third highest forest land under encroachment in the country. With more than 83,000 hectares under encroachment out of the total 1.33 million hectares in the country, Karnataka stands third nationally, data shows.

Officials said that some of these encroachments include those by people occupying and living on forest land and rules prevent authorities from evicting those with less than three acres without proper rehabilitation.

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