In a first, the Forest Department in Rajasthan’s Banswara district has utilised the funds available under the joint forest management’s entry point activities (EPA) for distributing free dry ration kits to over 2,000 poor and needy families living in 74 villages around remote forest areas during the COVID-19 lockdown.
The tribal-dominated Banswara district, situated at the trijunction of Rajasthan, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh, has a rich forest cover and abundant natural resources. The forest protection and management committees have been helping out the forest authorities in restoration of degraded forests and joined the afforestation drive.
Participation of locals
The EPA, which mainly envisages creation of the community assets, has ensured participation of local communities in the forestry programmes and generated faith among them for the Forest Department. The concept has been institutionalised in forest management after the formation of the Forest Development Agencies.
The Forest Department has taken up sanitation, drinking water supply and construction of hand pumps and toilets in the villages as part of the EPA initiatives for motivating the tribal population in the district to join the efforts for sustainable development of forest resources.
Lending a helping hand to the tribal villagers who were finding it difficult to survive during the lockdown, the Forest Department had decided to utilise the EPA funds to provide ration kits to them, Banswara Deputy Conservator of Forests Sugna Ram Jat told The Hindu on Monday. The initiative has generated an immense goodwill for forest officials in the remote areas.
Mr. Jat said the beneficiaries included widows and differently abled persons residing near forests as well as the landless labourers who had returned to the villages from the towns in Gujarat and Maharashtra where they migrate every year in search of work. “Having returned home after the lockdown was enforced, they had nothing to eat,” he said.
The Forest Department has distributed 2,147 ration kits to the villagers, who were also members of the forest protection and management committees, in Ghatol, Talwara, Bagidora and Kushalgarh panchayat samitis during the last one week. Priced at ₹460, each kit contained rice, wheat flour, lentils, salt, sugar, red chilli powder, turmeric powder, oil, tea leaves and soaps.
Mr. Jat said an expenditure of ₹10 lakh had so far been undertaken on the distribution of ration materials. “The initiative has taken the EPA concept one step forward and inculcated strength among the tribal villagers to fight the COVID-19 epidemic,” he said.