Kendu leaf trade
BHAWANIPATNA: Gram Sabhas of Kalahandi district have demanded deregulation of kendu leaf trade. Six gram sabhas – Kalipur, Kanakpur, Kasturapadar, Jamjharan, Jamgudabahali and Khasiguda – of Golamunda block have community rights over forest under Forest Rights Act of 2006.
According to the deregulation scheme, Forest department or the Odisha Kendu Leaf Corporation will not control the kendu leaf trade. Instead, the gram sabha will issue transit permit for its trade and transportation.
Kendu leaf pluckers under these gram sabhas had recently tried to sell the leaves to Maharashtra-based company, Bhavanna Patta, which assured to procure them at Rs 7.50 for one bundle of 60 leaves.
It was decided that the gram sabhas would keep 50 paise and pay the rest Rs 7 to the pluckers and accordingly, an agreement was signed between the gram sabhas and the company. This arrangement was made in the wake of forest rights given to them and overlooked the Odisha Kendu Leaf Corporation that currently controls the kendu leaf trade in Kalahandi kendu leaf division.
Officials of the kendu leaf division came to know about the trade and directed the company to give an undertaking not to purchase kendu leaves from gram sabhas as the Odisha Kendu Leaf Corporation is the only authorised agency to procure, store and market kendu leaves in the State.
Protesting this, members of the six gram sabhas wrote a letter to the Chief Minister and Kalahandi Collector to allow them do business with private companies as they have forest rights and deregulate the trade. They also staged a dharna outside the Collector’s office and he assured to take up the matter with the government authorities concerned.
On Friday, the gram sabhas held a meeting where they demanded that the State Government should deregulate the trade and under the Forest Rights Act of 2006, allow the forest rights holders to undertake kendu leaf business and gram sabhas to issue transit permit for its trade.
Forest rights activist Sudhanshu Deo said the private firm from Maharastra is willing to pay Rs 7.50 per bundle of 60 kendu leaves as against Rs 2.40 paid by the Kendu Leaf Corporation. However, unlike the State Government, the private traders will not provide any other benefits like bonus and insurance to the pluckers. By not allowing the gram sabhas to do business of their choice, their forest rights are being violated, he alleged.
DFO (kendu leaf division) Bijaya Kumar Parida said the kendu leaf division is authorised by the Government to purchase and process kendu leaves and unless there is a deregulation through Government notification, no private trader will be allowed to purchase from pluckers in the division. Currently, kendu leaf trade has been deregulated in Nabarangpur and Malkangiri.