Lorry containing amla seized recently
The recent seizure of a lorry carrying bags of Indian gooseberry (nellikai or amla) by Yelandur police within the limits of BRT Wildlife Sanctuary has provided credence to allegations by Adivasi leaders that minor forest produce (MFP), especially gooseberry, is being illegally transported from wildlife sanctuaries in the region.
Police officials confiscated a few bags of the produce on December 23.
Tribal people in Mysore region have alleged that despite stringent laws prohibiting transportation of MFP, the activity was still going on.
According to the convener of the Bharatiya Girijana Shikshana Samsthe (BGSS), Prabhu, border areas of Kodagu, Mysore and Chamarajanagar districts are havens for illegal transportation of MFP, especially honey and gooseberry.
Alleging a nexus between forest officials and merchants, he said, “Although it looks like a minor issue, it will snowball into a major crisis that is detrimental to the tribal people and for sustainable harnessing of MFP.”
Adivasis have the right to collect forest produce for their own use, but they cannot exercise this right for commercial purposes without securing proper permission.
It has been alleged that merchants from Kerala are persuading them to collect gooseberry from Moolehole zone and Balle at Nagarahole.
“This results in a shortage of food for animals, including deer, monkeys and squirrels,” said Mr. Prabhu.
According to sources, the Adivasis get a meagre Rs. 4 a kg when they sell gooseberry to merchants at BRT sanctuary, and Rs. 5 to Rs. 7 a kg at Moolehole and Nagarahole. However, the merchants get a lucrative price of Rs. 40 a kg for it.
There is high demand for the produce in Kerala because it is considered a wonder berry by ayurvedic practitioners. It is rich in vitamin C and is considered to offer a range of benefits.
However, forest officials denied the allegation that gooseberry is being collected and illegally transported to Kerala. Speaking to The Hindu, Divisional Forest Officer, Bandipur, Hanumanthappa said all steps had been taken to contain illegal transportation of MFP.
A strict direction in this regard had also been issued to large-sized multipurpose cooperative societies (LAMPS) against allowing transportation of MFP, he added.
While admitting that a lorry carrying gooseberry had been seized, Deputy Conservator of Forests, BRT Wildlife Sanctuary, Ravishankar, said it carried only a few bags.
It was a one-off incident as strict vigil had been maintained at check-posts, he added.