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Clash over ‘Green Gold’

  • Published
    11th Jun, 2022
Context

Tribal residents of 50 villages in Chhattisgarh’s Rajnandgaon and Kanker districts have decided to file an FIR against an official of the state forest department after he confiscated the tendu leaves that they had collected.

About
  • There is tension over tendu leaf collection between the forest department and tribals.
  • The villagers have claimed that the Gram Sabhas of 13 villages had passed a proposal to collect and sell tendu leaves on their own earlier this year.
  • Advance notice was also given to all the concerned government bodies and departments in this regard.
  • Despite this, the forest range officer seized 250 sacks of tendu leaves.
  • Documents related to the confiscation of these goods have not been handed over to the tribals.
  • The villagers have consequently decided to lodge an FIR against the officer.

What is dispute?

  • Tendu (Diospirus melanocaylon) is also called ‘green gold’ and is a prominent minor forest produce in India.
  • In 1964, the trade in tendu leaves was nationalised in then-undivided Madhya Pradesh. Until then, people were free to sell tendu leaves in markets across the country.
  • Maharashtra adopted the same system in 1969, undivided Andhra Pradesh in 1971, Odisha in 1973, Gujarat in 1979, Rajasthan in 1974 and Chhattisgarh in 2000.
  • Under this arrangement, the state forest department collects tendu leaves, allows their transportation and sells them to traders.
  • The dispute is essentially about who has the right to sell the leaves. State governments say only they can do so due to nationalisation.
  • On the other hand, tendu leaf collectors cite The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 and the 2013 Supreme Court verdict in the much-touted Niyamgiri case to say private collectors can sell them on their own.

About Tendu (Diospirus melanocaylon):

  • Leaves of tree species Diospyros melanoxyion are used as wrappers of tobacco to produce bidi.
  • This tree is commonly known as "tendu," but also called "abnus" in Andhra Pradesh, "kendu" in Orissa and West Bengal, "tembru" in Gujarat, "kari" in Kerala, "tembhurni" in Maharahstra, and "bali tupra" in Tamil Nadu.
  • Leaf is considered the most suitable wrapper on account of the ease with which it can be rolled and its wide availability.
  • The species is abundant in Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, and West Bengal.
  • It generally grows in dry mixed deciduous forests, occurring alongside Shorea robusta and Tectona grandis.
  • Tendu leaf is an important NTFP and provides seasonal employment to millions of tendu leaf collectors every year.

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