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Tribals to earn more from forest products
NEW DELHI, Aug 29 (Agencies):
Published on 29 Aug. 2010 11:16 PM IST
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It’s a Rs. 50,000 crore annual business but those at the bottom of the supply chain -- mostly tribals -- make a mere Rs. 4,000 crore out of it. The extraction of non-timber forest produce -- tuburs, leaves, seeds, plants and roots, besides other products from forest -- could soon become a bigger money-spinner for tribals. The government has set up a committee, which in three months will recommend how to provide a minimum support price (MSP) for these extracts just as it does for wheat and paddy to farmers.
The committee has been set up by the panchayati raj ministry under the chairmanship of T Haque to review the entire trade, and provide ways to increase the earnings to tribals from the trade that is carried out across forests in the country.
The committee, which includes representatives from ministries of tribal affairs, environment and forests, rural development and home as well as the Planning Commission, will also look at how the ownership of Non-Timber Forest Produce (NTFP) can be controlled by gram sabhas. At present, the trade is largely controlled by the forest department as they regulate most forest produce and its transaction. There has been a growing sense in the government that this has kept the returns to tribals low while taking away their rights to earn a livelihood from the sources they have preserved.
The resultant resentment of tribals makes them susceptible to the appeal of the Maoist ideology.
A committee of secretaries, under home secretary G K Pillai, had earlier discussed this issue. Though the forest department had defended its turf, the panchayati raj ministry had pointed out that in the Fifth Schedule areas, which are dominated by tribals, the Panchayat (Extention to Scheduled Area) Act, that passes ownership over forest produce to village councils, has remained ineffective for all practical purposes.
The new committee will study the modalities and criteria for fixing MSP for NFTP. It will study the present institutional structure for collection and marketing of forest produce and suggest measures to ensure transparency.

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