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Published on: Oct. 19, 2020, 10:52 a.m.
Chhattisgarh gains highest MSP collection even during Covid-19
  • For tendu patta alone, Rs500 crore was disbursed as collection rate

By Lancelot Joseph. Executive Editor, Business India

Irrespective of Covid-19, nearly 75 per cent of the total minimum support price (MSP) collection from India has come from the Central Indian state of Chhattisgarh. “About Rs120 crore of minor forest produce (MFP) was purchased under MSP in Chhattisgarh during the Covid period,” says Sanjay Shukla, MD, Minor Forest Produce (Trading and Development) Co-operative Federation, Chhattisgarh, which plans to engage 150,000 tribal youth, under the state’s ‘friends of the forest’ scheme.

There are two ways in which the state government is trying to buy MFP – the first, through 5,000 women self-help groups, which involve nearly 50,000 women; and the second, through the collection of the produce of trees like mahua, tamarind and lac. It plans to spend approximately Rs500 crore that has been collected through this. “During the lockdown period, nearly Rs120 crore cash was distributed door to door by self-help groups in exchange for produce by tribals,” adds Shukla.

For tendu patta alone, Rs500 crore was disbursed as collection rate. Nearly Rs232 crore was disbursed as profit accrued after sale of tendu patta during the four months of Covid-19. MFP includes produce from various forest species in the form of fruits, seeds, leaves, barks, roots and flowers. Forests in Chhattisgarh are rich in MFP.

Under the ‘Right to Forest Act 2005’ the gram panchayat has the power to allot area to tribals who are supposed to protect trees and later sell their produce. “During the next seven or eight months we will facilitate the youth to work in small-scale industries associated with this produce,’’ explains Shukla.
 
Benefiting tribals

Meanwhile, the Chhattisgarh government has launched ‘Indira Van Mitan Yojana’ (IVMY), which will directly benefit forest dwellers. This scheme is likely to benefit nearly 1.9 million families and offer direct employment to more than 150,000 tribal youths in 85 developmental blocks of the state. Under IVMY, women self-help groups have been created to collect MFPs and sell them directly to the federation. They are in turn paid in accordance with the MSPs as decided by the Central government for MFP.

Launched on the occasion of World Tribal Day, Bhupesh Baghel, chief minister, Chhattisgarh, announced an endowment of Rs8.5 crore to be used to set up MFP processing units at the developmental blocks of the state. The cost of one unit would be about Rs10 lakh.

“These steps would open new avenues of self-employment and prosperity for forest dwellers,” said Baghel. “Procurement, processing and marketing of forest produce will be ensured through tribal youths’ self-help groups. The government will set up forest produce processing centres in every tribal development block of the state”. Speaking at the launch function, the chief minister claimed that, under this scheme, all forest-based economic activities will be conducted through these groups.

Shukla says that the government is committed to the welfare of the tribal and downtrodden sections of the state. According to him, each group will consist of 10-15 members leading the scheme, to benefit 1.9 million families from scheduled areas of the state. “Every effort is being made by the state government to improve the economy of the tribals and bring them into the mainstream of development,” says Baghel.

Chhattisgarh is the largest producer of MFPs and accounts for more than 90 per cent of the country’s non-timber forest produce. It is stated that the state’s annual MFP turnover is worth almost Rs1,200 crore. The state’s forest department has already set up its MFP procurement target of more than Rs200 crore this financial year. These schemes will also encourage afforestation and are likely to wean the youth away from taking the path of militancy/naxalism, as they would be gainfully employed.

The Ministry of Tribal Affairs has stated that the one bright spot in this turbulent and challenging year has been the record procurement of MFPs under the MSP for MFP scheme in 16 states. Data given by the ministry shows that on state-wise performance, Chhattisgarh has taken the lead, procuring 46,857 tonnes of MFP, with Odisha and Gujarat following with procurement of 14,391 tonnes of MFP.

“This is a visionary exercise and decision of the state government,” adds Shukla. “It will not only help strengthen the economy of the local tribals and forest dwellers, but also create a new market of minor forest produce in the state. This is because the focus is on the setting up of processing units at every block. All this will lead to immense value addition to the products at the source level resulting in the creation of a good market.”

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