Bonus on forest produce to boost biz in Chhattisgarh's Naxal-infested areas

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Chhattisgarh government’s decision to give bonus to collectors of minor forest produces (MFP) will strengthen the rural economy in the Naxal-infested areas.

The state government has announced a bonus of Rs 1 per kilogram for sal seed and Rs 7 per kilogram of tamarind. While the bonus on other MFPs ranges between 10 to 20 per cent, the government has announced 40 per cent bonus for tamarind collectors.  With the bonus, sal seed and tamarind collectors will get Rs 13 and Rs 25 per kilogram, respectively.

The annual trade of non-specified MFP in the state is estimated to be Rs 12 billion (Rs 1,200 crore). Most of the MFPs are produced in the tribal areas, especially Bastar, which is infamous for deadly Naxal violence.

“The decision of the state government is aimed to provide best returns to the collectors engaged in MFPs collection,” state’s forest minister Mahesh Gagda said. The state-run Minor Forest Produce Corporation procures the produce at minimum support price through primary cooperative societies.

Over 1.2 million collectors, mostly tribals in Bastar, will be the beneficiaries of the sop that is likely to give political mileage to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Chhattisgarh, which goes to polls in November this year. In tribal pockets, BJP’s performance was disappointing in the last election.

A senior official of the corporation said MFPs in Chhattisgarh were open to the market and the collectors were not bound to sell the produce only to state-run societies. “But the MSP and bonus have increased the price that traders will be forced to pay to the collectors who will be the beneficiaries,” he added.

Bastar’s tamarind is famous across the world and the local mandi transacted a business of over Rs 450 million (Rs 45 crore) in the last financial year. According to the practice, tribals collect the produces and sell it in the weekly market.

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