By P.T. Bopanna
Is the Kodagu district administration in Karnataka riding roughshod over planters, particularly ex-servicemen, to evict them from their land to make way for rehabilitating the Diddahalli tribals?
The Virajpet tashildar Mahadevaswamy recently landed up with a JCB machine without any notice to uproot the plantation of two ex-servicemen on the charge they had occupied government paisari land.
Lt Col Pattada Karumbaiah and Capt. Pattada Cariappa, ex-servicemen, had been residing at Puliyeri near Ammathi. There was a paisari land adjoining their private land. This 10.2 acre block was reportedly granted to the family in 1957. A consideration of Rs 2004 was paid to the government treasury towards the purchase and the family was in possession of the challan number for this.
When the revenue officials visited the estate, the ex-servicemen allowed them access to conduct a survey and do the markings (see picture), but refused access to the JCB to uproot the plants, whereupon the tashildar is said to have filed an FIR with the police who booked cases under various sections of the IPC.
Asked if any notices were issued to the land owners before the JCB was taken to the said property, the tahsildar was quoted as saying: “Notices were not issued. I had spoken to the land owners personally and they too were aware of the issue.”
The highhandedness of the revenue officials sparked a protest by hundreds of coffee growers who held a meeting in front of Ammathi Naad Kacheri demanding immediate withdrawal of criminal cases filed against the retired army personnel.
Kodagu district Ex-servicemen’s Association president Major General (retd) B. A. Cariappa has called for withdrawing criminal cases filed against the two ex-servicemen.
He said, “We will intensify our protest if any attempt is made to trouble ex-servicemen. Encroachment of land by companies should be reclaimed and traditional dwellers should not face any inconvenience.”
Meanwhile, the Karnataka High Court has stayed the Kodagu district administration from going ahead with the eviction process from the paisari land against the ex-servicemen.
EDITORIAL: This portal fully supports the efforts of the Karnataka government to rehabilitate the tribals evicted from Diddahalli forest. They are the sons-of-the-soil and they should be given priority in the allotment of government land.
However, the government has to first identify the genuine tribals who have been living in the area, prior to their eviction. There are reports that many from Kerala, including Naxal sympathisers have infiltrated into the forests. There are also reports that some of the tribals from outside the district have been brought in by the timber mafia to enable them to carry on their nefarious activities and loot the forest.
Further, the government should first evict corporate bodies who have encroached large tracts of government land in Kodagu. Besides, politicians and the land mafia from outside have also occupied government land.
The government should follow the due process of law before carrying out eviction of encroachers. Action should be initiated against the Virajpet tashildar for arbitrary exercise of power. The government should immediately withdraw the criminal cases filed against the ex-servicemen.