Monday, 30th October 2017

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Cong woos tribals with forest produce

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By OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
  • Published 4.11.13
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New Delhi, Nov. 3: No government in the past has done more for tribals than UPA II, the Congress has said, its sights trained on the substantial tribal population in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh that go to polls later this month.

Tribal affairs minister Kishore Chandra Deo last week described the Forest Rights Act as revolutionary and revealed that the Centre had now framed the rules and issued guidelines to states for its implementation.

The law grants ownership rights of non-timber forest produce to forest dwellers or tribals. Deo said bamboo and tendu leaves have been added to the list of forest produce that the tribals, individually or as a community, legally own if it falls within their respective patta in the forest area.

A scheme for marketing minor forest produce at a fair and remunerative price has also been introduced, Deo announced. Saying that over 100 million forest dwellers depend on minor forest produce for their livelihood and derive around 20 to 40 per cent of their annual income from this source, the minister said the scheme was designed as a social safety net for them.

Asked if the government had introduced the scheme to reap electoral dividends, Deo retorted: “We have not given any bonanza but recognised the genuine rights of the tribals. They were so far treated as encroachers, now they will be owners and also get good price. If the people get benefits I hope they will respond positively. No government has done so much for the tribals.”

The Congress is publicising the scheme now because by the time procurement begins early next year, elections in Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh would be over.

The party expects to do well in Chhattisgarh, particularly in the tribal seats of Bastar. It has been getting encouraging feedback from the ground and intends to intensify campaigning by both Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi. While Sonia will address two rallies on November 7, Rahul will be there the next day, and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on November 9. Sonia and Rahul will return for the second phase, making it clear they are taking Chhattisgarh seriously.