Telangana Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader Mallu Bhatti Vikramarka alleged that the BRS Government was conspiring to hand over the forest land to the timber mafia by displacing the native tribal communities.
He was addressing a press conference at Kerameri village in the Asifabad Assembly constituency on the sidelines of People’s March, Haath Se Haath Jodo Yatra which entered its 6th day on Tuesday. The padayatra started from Jamney in Jainoor Mandal and reached Kerimeri village via Rasimatta, Bhusimatta and Bhusimatta camp covering a distance of nearly 18 kilometres.
Bhatti Vikramarka strongly condemned the BRS government’s policies towards the tribal communities. “The KCR Govt is attempting to evict tribals from their homes in the forest and hand over the land to the timber mafia. Forests are the natural habitat of tribals, and they have always protected them,” he said while warning the government that any attempt to disturb the tribals’ way of life could lead to another movement, similar to the one that secured Telangana’s statehood. He said that the Congress party would not remain silent if Tribals’ self-respect was violated.
The CLP leader said that the previous Congress regime introduced SC, and ST Sub-Plans through proper legislation to ensure 100% spending of budget allocation and focussed development of Dalits and Tribals. However, the present government, headed by Chief Minister K. Chandrashekhar Rao, was not implementing the Sub-Plans and the funds meant for the welfare of SCs and STs were being diverted. He said that the BRS Govt has weakened the ITDA causing chaos in the lives of tribals, weakening them, and depriving them of their forest rights.
He said even during the British and Nizam eras, there was not such a dictatorial rule over the tribals.
The CLP leader said that he visited the Bhushimatta camp area as part of the padayatra. This is the same place where Kommoram Bheem launched the ‘Jal, Jungle, Zameen’ movement. “While our padayatra was moving from Jamni village in Jainoor Mandal to Kerameri, the tribals of Bismita camp met me. They invited me to their huts. They’ve shown me their old patta passbooks and told me that they were not given new passbooks due o the Dharani portal launched by BRS Govt. They complained that their lands were not included in the Dharani portal’s records. Although we are alive, the government records are treating us like dead,” he said.
Bhatti Vikarmarka said that the tribals got financial support under the Rythu Bandhu scheme only once. But it was stopped later as the Tribals’ patta lands were not included in the online records. Similarly, they are being deprived of benefits of crop loan waiver scheme, Rythu Bandhu or the Rythu Bima, he said.
“These Tribals enjoyed all the benefits including crop loan waiver and crop insurance when the Congress party was in power till 2014. However, they are only facing suppression ever since the BRS party came to power,” he alleged.
The Tribals also complained of harassment by the bank officials for clearing the loans which the KCR Govt had promised to waive off. They said forest officials were not allowing them to collect nuts, fruits, honey or other forest products.
The CLP leader highlighted the tribals’ complaints that they were given inferior-quality rice on their ration cards whose consumption is causing stomach pain and other diseases. They also complained of not having access to an ambulance or medical treatment in the case of an emergency. “The Tribals told me that they have nothing to eat except for the inferior quality ration rice. They recalled that the previous Congress Govt used to give nine items in a package,” he said.
On one side, the BJP Govt at the Centre has been increasing the prices of cooking gas and on the other, the State Government is not allowing them to cook with wood from the forest due to restrictions on its use. The educated Tribals, including those having a PG degree, are not having employment. In these circumstances, the Tribals are asking how they should cook and what they should eat. With no food, safe drinking water, power supply or even bathrooms, the Triabls are forced to live in inhuman conditions with neither the Central nor State Govt coming to their rescue, he said.
Bhatti Vikarmarka assured the Tribals that all their grievances would be addressed once the Congress party returns to power. He reiterated that the Tribals have the first right over forests and no one could snatch it away from them.
Meanwhile, the tribal women of Bhusimatta camp cooked some food which Bhatti Vikarmarka and Tribals ate together.