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Chhattisgarh News
Chhattisgarh maintains strong forest-dweller relation

RAIPUR: Chhattisgarh is blessed with rich forest wealth. Besides creating an excellent environment, these forests have made the state culturally rich also. The effort made by Chhattisgarh government for the management, protection and augmentation of forests has drawn appreciation across the nation.

Chhattisgarh’s 44 per cent i.e. 59,772 square kilometre of the total geographical area of 1.35 lakh square kilometre is covered by forests. The state stands third after Madhya Pradesh and Arunachal Pradesh as far as forest cover is concerned. The lush green forest, priceless forest produce and hard-working forest dwellers have significant contribution in the economic system of the country. Encouraging result of the efforts made under the leadership of chief minister Dr Raman Singh for the protection and development of forests of the state along with making it the main source of income of forest dwellers has come to the fore.

Sufficient quantity of about 160 verities of small forest produce is available in Chhattisgarh forests. Yearly, an estimated Rs 850 crore trade is done through small forest produce. It is the main source of livelihood of the forest dwellers and the poor families. Keeping it in mind, the state government has made well-founded arrangement for its purchase, trade and processing in the interest of its original collectors.

The government has handed the responsibility of procurement and trade of forest produce to Chhattisgarh State Small Forest Produce Cooperative Federation, hence, on the one hand the role of mediators in the business has ended, on the other, feeling of responsibility has been developed towards its trade and management in the tribal and forest dwellers. Honouring the labour of collectors, the state government has increased the purchase rate of small forest produce several times during the last 10 years. Mainly tendupatta, saal seed, harra, behada, gond, chironji, aonla, honey and other small forest produce are available in the forests.

To provide rightful price to tendupatta collection, the state government, in the year 2013, has increased its collection price from Rs 1,100 to Rs 1,200 per standard bag. As a result, 13.76 lakh families have collected over 14.92 lakh standard bag good quality tendupatta in 2014. Rs 180 crore has been distributed as wages. Rs 310 crore has been given as dividend for the last collection year 2012 and Rs 82 crore bonus was distributed to the collectors in the year 2013.

To provide better education to the children of tendupatta collector families, the state government, in the year 2011, has started Shiksha Protsahan Yojana. Under this scheme, along with scholarship, Rs 25,000 additional amount has been given to the children for study in professional courses like medical, engineering, law and nursing. From this year, the state government has decided to give scholarship up to Rs 12,000 to the children of tendupatta collector families for non-professional graduate level studies. With the cooperation of Life Insurance Corporation, insurance of 13.5 lakh tendupatta collecting families has been done.

Saal seed is the second major forest produce. The tribal people earn additional income through the collection of this seeds in the season. This year, the state government has increased its collection cost from Rs 5 to Rs 10 per kg. About 1.25 lakh quintal saal seeds have been collected and Rs 12.56 crore has been paid to the collectors this year. Similarly, about 50,000 quintal Harra and 1,500 quintal gond is collected every year from the forests of the state.

Lac cultivation has become one of the main additional sources of income for the forest dwellers of Chhattisgarh. Through worm-keeping on Palash, Kosam and Ber trees, 3,500 metric tonne lac was produced during 2012-13. The state stands second in the country for the third time in lac production. Chhattisgarh produces 26 per cent of the total lac production of the country. The total market price of the lac produced here is Rs 114 crore. To promote this business, the state government has formed a state level Lac Cell in Raipur.

Chhattisgarh produces large quantity of Mahua (Madhuca longifolia). Earlier its leaves have been sold to other states. But, in order to provide job to local villagers, the state government has installed 20 Mahua processing units in the state. In these units, self help groups, after treatment, produce dona-pattal on the machines. Last year about Rs 25 lakh dona-pattal has been produced.

The forest dwellers collect huge quantity of honey from the forests of the state. To provide them proper price, the state government directly collects honey from the collectors. For the processing and bottling of the collected honey, the government has installed four honey processing centres in Bilaspur, Jashpur, Bhanupratappur and Kawardha. The processed honey is sold in the market in the brand name of “Chhattisgarh Herbal Brand Shahad.”

The state government has prepared a joint forest management policy for the protection of forests. Under this policy, 7,887 forest management committees have been formed in the 11,000 forest villages of the state. Over 27 lakh villagers are members of these committees.