By Dr Palla Trinadha Rao
Available facts suggest that non-tribals are cornering tribal welfare fund in land compensation cases that tribals should have received it through economic support schemes in the State of Andhra Pradesh. In fact, they are successfully securing orders in their favour from courts due to indifferent attitude of officials in dealing with these cases. Peddavalasa village in Jiyyammavalasa Mandal in Vijayanagaram district is a classic example of such instances.
There are no tribal land protective laws in sub-plan areas, unlike the land transfer regulation 1 of 70 which prohibits transfer of land in favour of non-tribals in the Scheduled Areas of the State.This paved the way for non-tribals to gain access to tribals lands through clandestine transactions.
These violations sparked confrontations between tribals and non-tribals in 1990-1991, leading to law and order situations in Kurupam, GM Valasa mandals in Vijayanagaram District. Five tribals were killed in Khaspagadapavalasa village in Kurupam Mandal, and 4 of them belong to Peddavalasa village in Jiyyammavalasa Mandal. To pacify the tribals, the then district collector, Vijayanagaram district, Project officer, ITDA Parvathipuram, promised house sites to 34 tribal households in Peddavalasa village and took possession of 2.01 acres and distributed pattas to them.
Meanwhile, tribals occupied 16.19 acres situated in S Nos 24 to 34 and claimed right over it. There are no documents to show that the officials initiated land acquisition proceedings under the Land Acquisition Act nor sent proposals for land compensation to non-tribals under any of the land purchasing schemes for these 16.19 acres. No possession of land was taken by the government from the non-tribals to become eligible for any compensation. In fact, the only legal recourse left to non-tribals, if at all they have any claim to this land, was to seek eviction of tribals from the lands occupied by them through Civil Court.
However, in 2000, non-tribals filed a Writ Petition in the High Court of AP (WP No 13458 of 2000) seeking land compensation for 18.20 acres which have been in occupation o.f tribals.The compensation claimed from the government was Rs 90,000 per acre. The concerned officers did not file counter for 8 years and failed to place facts and counter the claims of non-tribals effectively.
This resulted in the non-tribals securing the order in their favour for land compensation of Rs 90,000 per acre with interest at 12 percent from the date of expiry of one year of taking possession of the land. The district officials later made a futile bid to reverse this order in the Writ Appeal in 2008 from the High Court. In fact, the market value of the land was Rs 22,000 per acre in 1990s and increased to only Rs 42,000 in 2000 as per the records of Sub Registrar’s office, Kurupam mandal. But non-tribals claimed and got more than double the prevailing market value. This has raised eyebrows of many.
Presently, non-tribals are claiming a total amount of Rs 68.95 lakh by way of cost of land of Rs 16.38 lakh for 18.20 acres and Rs 52.57 lakh only as interest on it. Non tribals are threatening the district officers with the contempt proceedings. Tribals who are in actual possession of these lands were not made parties to the case.
This case shows how funds meant for tribals are siphoned off due to the callous attitude of officials in opposing the fraudulent claims in the beginning of litigation. The tribals are beneficiaries of the tribal welfare funds and the Integrated Tribal Development Agencies (ITDAs) are the trustees to them.
In most of the land cases where the government officials are parties to the proceedings, their pleadings have been weak. This is not a stray case; there are several such Survey and Settlement land cases where non-tribals and only tahsildars are parties to the proceedings, whether or not the lands have been in occupation of tribals.
For instance, several non-tribals obtained settlement pattas over the AWD (Assessed Waste Dry) lands situated in the scheduled areas of West Godavari District against the provisions of AP Scheduled Area Land Transfer Regulations 1 of 59 as amended by 1 of 70 which strictly prohibits transfer of such lands in favour of non tribals.
Due to lack of strong objection from Tahsildars in land settlement cases, the settlement officers granted pattas to non tribals over thousands of acres of lands situated in the scheduled tracts. Non-tribals pocketed the land compensation amount under Polavaram Project on the basis of such erroneous pattas. There is no strong legal mechanism to nail down the wrongful claims of non tribals before the Administrative or Judicial courts in land cases. The weak, ineffective and lack of time bound pleadings on the government side is the cause for depriving land to tribals as well as lose of public money.