Andhra Pradesh

Tribals raise voices against new districts, fear exploitation of forest

VISAKHAPATNAM/ RAJAMAHENDRAVARAM: The State government’s decision to create new districts failed to impress the tribals as they fear it would lead to exploitation of agency areas. AP Girijana Sangham state secretary Appala Narasa said injustice was done to the tribals even when mandals were created. Over 900 tribal villages, including 290 villages in Visakhapatnam, were included in non-schedule mandals and tribals lost their rights as enshrined in the fifth schedule of the Constitution. Tribals were demanding tribal autonomous councils to ensure development in the agency by protecting tribal rights.

The state has 25 Lok Sabha constituencies and each is supposed to be made a revenue district. However, with its size being too large and spread over many districts, the tribal-dominated Araku Lok Sabha constituency is being split into two new districts. The two new tribal districts will be Manyam, with headquarters in Parvathipuram, and Alluri Sitarama Raju, named after the legendary Telugu freedom fighter, with headquarters in Paderu.

Appala Narasa claimed that the creation of Alluri and Manyam districts will not benefit the tribals in any way. Besides, the decentralisation of administration will not be a reality as Chinturu ITDA in Rampachodavaram is over 250 km away from Paderu and it will take eight hours from there to reach the district headquarters.

Manyam district headquarters should be an agency mandal headquarters instead of Parvatipuram. He also said even ITDA PO or sub-collector of Paderu cannot visit all 11 agency mandals in the division at least once during their tenure. Now, it is almost impossible for a collector to cover all 27 mandals with the inclusion of Rampachodavaram along with eight merged mandals of Telangana, he pointed out.

The proposed agency districts will not have any industry and agriculture and this will lead to exploitation of forest wealth by allowing mining in the mineral-rich area, AP Adivasi JAC said. Speaking to TNIE, JAC district convener Rama Rao Dora said the survival of the tribals will be threatened as a large number of non-tribals will descend on the scheduled area if a new district is created. He said creation of districts on the basis of parliament constituencies was not feasible at least in agency mandals as special provisions are made in the constitution for protection of tribal rights in scheduled areas.

Besides, the 1/70 regulation act, PESA Act 1994 and forest rights act 2004 were in vogue. He said if formation of new districts was inevitable, ITDA should be taken as a unit for new districts. He said if the district with Paderu as headquarters is created, it would increase the distance to the district headquarters from Rampachodavaram (It is 283 km). “The move is nothing but a diversion tactic and it will not yield the desired results,” the JAC leaders argued.

Meanwhile, former union energy secretary EAS Sarma, in a letter addressed to Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy, said concerns of tribals should be addressed before finalising the new districts. He said there is a possibility of an influx of non-tribals and it will impact tribal culture. Tribal land will face encroachment. Reorganisation of the districts should have been done after holding grama sabhas in agency villages as per PESA act, he said. It should also take the opinion of tribal advisory Council and Girijana sanghams before taking any decision.

Sarma said the government should have first resolved the issues in tribal villages in non-schedules areas by sending the list of villages to the Centre as sought by it before creating new districts. He asked the government to consider the issues raised by tribals.

Merger plan opposed

Tribals in Rampachodavaram and Chintur have expressed their displeasure over the plan to merge the two ITDAs in East Godavari with the proposed Alluri Sitarama Raju district with headquarters in Paderu. Tribal associations are planning to launch a mass agitation to bring pressure on the State government to stop its plan to merge Rampachodavaram and Chintur ITDAs into the new district. They want Rampachodavaram as a separate district.

Speaking to reports, Bal Akkasa, convener of Rampachodavaram district Sadhana Samithi, said public representatives and people from all walks of life in the Rampachodavaram agency would meet soon to decide the future course of action. He is confident that they could convince the government to drop the proposal to merge the area with Alluri Sitarama Raju district. He said that the tribals would suffer on all fronts if it is merged with the district as its headquarters Paderu is about 250 km away.

People of Rampachodavaram Agency have been demanding creation of a new district with Rampachodavaram as the headquarters. If Pederu is made the district headquarters, it will take people of Rampa at least one day to reach there by road, they argued. Rampachodavaram, with a population of 3.5 lakh, has two ITDAs — Rampachodavaram and Chintur. The total voters are 2.6 lakh including 1.35 lakh women. He said the Papikondalu National park also falls under it.