The conflict between forest department and tribals over Podu cultivation has claimed the life of an award-winning forest range officer in Telangana.
Several clashes were reported in the state earlier too, with tribals resisting attempts of officials to reclaim the forest lands.
On Tuesday, Ch Srinivasa Rao (42), a FRO in Kothagudem Division of Bhadradri Kothagudem district, bordering Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh, was hacked with sharp weapons by the Gutti Koya tribe people.
The brutal attack took place when Rao went on inspection of a forest plantation in Bendalapadu area of Chandrugonda range, where some locals were reportedly removing the saplings planted by the department. Even as Rao was trying to prevent them, a few tribals lunged at him with axe, sickles.
Though Rao was rushed to a hospital, he succumbed to severe injuries on neck and other parts of his body.
The Indian Forest Service Association, Telangana chapter, forest range officers body has strongly condemned “the brutal attack causing death of a bright young officer.”
Rao was the recipient of KVS Babu state gold medal, for forest protection in his range, in 2021 .
The inhumane killing of their colleague has devastated the forest officers and other staff, who are demanding the K Chandrasekhar Rao government to provide “adequate protection to the front-line field officers discharging the duty of protecting Telangana’s forest wealth.”
Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao expressed deep shock, sorrow over the FRO’s death and conveyed deepest condolences to the bereaved family.
Rao is reportedly survived by wife, son and daughter.
The CM ordered DGP Mahender Reddy to take a legal course of action to ensure the culprits are punished stringently.
KCR announced an ex-Gratia of Rs 50 lakh to the deceased FRO’s family while instructing officials to extend full salary, as per the rules and regulations, till Rao’s actual retirement time. Rao’s last rites would be conducted with full state honours, the CM said.
Podu, a form of shifting cultivation, as practiced by various tribal groups in forest areas has for long been an economical survival versus environmental sustenance issue.