Forest Department official tells government; tribals prefer MGNREGS to leaf collection
The Forest Department has urged the government to suspend the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) to facilitate collection of beedi leaves. For the third year in a row, beedi leaf collection in Adilabad district has been affected by the MGNREGS as is evident from the tardy progress, pegged at 18 per cent now, though more than half the season has ended.
The seasonal activity generates wages amounting to nearly Rs. 10 crore for over 60,000 tribals in the district. The beedi leaf collectors will also get paid almost an equivalent amount in the shape of bonus as the government rechannels its profits from the activity.
“We hope the government suspends the MGNREGS works at least for three days every week so that tribals can collect the tuniki or tendu leaves,” says Adilabad Conservator of Forests Md. Ibrahim. “Collection of beedi leaves can be done only by the accustomed tribals,” he adds pointing out an aspect of the activity.
The Department has sold 82 units across the district of which 60 have been opened. Of the proposed 1,039 khalls or stock points, 537 have been opened.
So far only 21,975 standard bags of the tendu leaves have arrived at the stock points against a target of 1.22 lakh. This forms a comparatively slow rate of progress.
The wage for beedi leaf collection has been enhanced this year from Rs. 630 per standard bag of 1,000 kattas or bundles of 50 leaves each to Rs. 780. This could enable a tribal family of 4 or 5 members earn about Rs. 400 per day during the one-month-long season by producing about half a standard bag.
Tribals however seem to prefer the MGNREGS works that entails putting in work only in the mornings and evenings. They are not forced to work in the hot sun unlike in the activity in question.
Only 21,975 bags of tendu leaves arrive against a target of 1.22 lakh ‘Collection of beedi leaves can be done only by the accustomed tribals'
Only 21,975 bags of tendu leaves arrive against a target of 1.22 lakh
‘Collection of beedi leaves can be done only by the accustomed tribals'