A DAY after Forest Range Officer (FRO) C Anita was assaulted by a group, allegedly including TRS MLA Koneru Konappa’s brother Koneru Krishna Rao, during a plantation drive in Komaram Bheem Asifabad district, over 700 forest department personnel marked their protest by conducting an afforestation drive at the same spot on Monday.
Meanwhile, Anita, who suffered a hairline fracture on her wrist, has been shifted to the Krishna Institute of Medical Sciences (KIMS) in Hyderabad. “I am feeling good now, I was able to eat and talk to my family. I was scared and shocked at the violence unleashed on me and my colleagues. My head and hands, which are swollen, still hurt. I should be fine in a couple of days, and I want to join duty as soon as possible,’’ she said.
Anita and other forest officials were assaulted when they went to Sarasala village, which falls under MLA Konappa’s Sirpur constituency, to plant saplings on a reserve forest land identified on the outskirts of the village, as part of the Telangana government’s ‘Haritha Haaram’ plantation drive. Some villagers claimed it was their land and attacked them. Some of them called up Rao, who arrived with his supporters.
Protesting against the attack, forest department personnel, including FROs, district forest officers and forest beat guards from the neighbouring districts of Adilabad, Mancherial, Warangal, Sircilla, Karimnagar, and Peddapalli, joined their counterparts in Komaram Bheem Asifabad district on Monday to plant saplings in the area. The forest officials, who wore black badges, were accompanied by over 200 police personnel.
“The field and surrounding area belongs to the government. No one can prevent the forest department from taking up afforestation there,’’ said Asifabad District Collector Rajiv Gandhi Hanamanthu.
Warangal Range IG Y Nagi Reddy, who is camping in Sirpur-Kagaznagar since Sunday’s incident, mobilised policemen from the neighbouring areas for the security of the forest officials.
Before starting the afforestation drive, the forest officials staged a demonstration outside the forest department office at Asifabad. Protests were also held in several other parts of the state.
What ‘Haritha Haaram’ entails
Telangana’s afforestation drive — ‘Haritha Haaram’ — has been taken up on 20 hectares of forest land. The drive in Sirpur-Kagaznagar — the 20 hectares there is located in Sirpur mandal of the district — is part of compensatory afforestation under the Rs 85,000-crore Kaleshwaram multi-purpose irrigation project. Thousands of acres of empty government land has been earmarked for afforestation as part of the project to compensate for any loss of green cover due to the gigantic project.
The state government has suspended DSP (Kagaznagar) P Sambaiah and Circle Inspector K Venkateshwarlu.
Principal Chief Conservator of Forests P K Jha has told police that forest officials are regularly harassed by elected representatives and villagers when they undertake afforestation activities or forest land conservation programmes. It has been decided that police protection will be provided to forest officials during such drives in disputed areas.