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Rebel bandh call for kendu price hike

Jamshedpur, April 12: Maoists have called a 48-hour bandh on Saturday in districts along the interstate borders of Jharkhand, Bengal and Odisha demanding a hike in prices of kendu leaves — a source of livelihood for tribals in summer.

The CPI(Maoist) bandh, to be effective from the midnight of April 15, is likely to impact East Singhbhum in the state, besides West Midnapore district of Bengal and Mayurbhanj in Odisha.

The Naxalite stronghold of Ghatshila sub-division in East Singhbhum shelters thousands of poor tribals who pluck kendu leaves from April to July, apart from working as seasonal farmers or wage earners.

The rebels are demanding a 20 per cent hike in the prices of kendu leaves, which are used for manufacturing bidi.

Two types of kendu leaves are sold — dry and raw.

At present, raw kendu leaves are priced at Rs 60 per bundle and the dry leaf at Rs 120. Each bundle contains 2,000 leaves.

Sources said the Naxalites were demanding that the government pay Rs 70 and Rs 140 respectively for every bundle of raw and dry kendu leaves.

East Singhbhum senior superintendent of police Akhilesh Kumar Jha said the police were aware of the Naxalite-sponsored interstate bandh call, adding they were taking steps to frustrate the attempts of the rebels to disrupt normal life.

“We will make necessary arrangements for ensuring that life in Ghatshila township as well as rural areas remain normal on April 15 and 16,” said the SSP, adding the police would deploy additional forces, if required.

According to forest officials, a tribal collects 5,000 kendu leaves on an average per day. The leaves are then sold to contractors authorised by the state forest department for collecting the bundles.

The season for collection of kendu leaf provides healthy earnings for tribals, especially the poorest among them, who do not have fixed sources of income throughout the year.

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