New Delhi: "Procurement of Minor Forest Produce items has been initiated in 17 States with total procurement worth Rs 835 Cr through Central Government and State funds and almost Rs 1200 Cr through private trade (through sales at Mandis/haat bazaars) since April 2020. This takes the total procurement for the year to Rs 2000 crore and provides a direct benefit transfer to tribal people in lieu of their Minor forest produces" said TRIFED Managing Director Pravir Krishna (IAS) in a webinar titled 'MSP for MFP takes roots in Tribal India' meant for the press on Thursday.
"The tribal start-ups scheme Van DhanYojana, an initiative of the Ministry of Tribal Affairs, has proved to be successful within a year of its implementation, with the establishment of 1205 Tribal Enterprises and providing employment opportunities to 3.6 lakh tribal gatherers and 18000 Self-help groups in 22 States. This successful implementation has also acted as a catalyst in helping the Minimum Support Price for Minimum Forest Produce Scheme take roots across the country" Krishna said. Elaborating upon how the provides a legitimate fair deal for the tribals in the trade of Minor Forest Produce (MFP) he said that the scheme was limited to two states to begin with, but has now been expanded to 17 States. (which include Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Manipur, Nagaland, Odisha, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Tripura, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal).
The silent revolution
The unprecedented circumstances caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic threw up challenges and resulted in a severe crisis among the tribal population. Unemployment among youth, reverse migration of tribals threatened to throw the entire tribal economy off track. It is in such a scenario that the MSP for MFP presented an opportunity to all the States. With the months of April-June being the peak in terms of the collection of Minor Forest Produce, it was evident that without government intervention and procurement, it would have been disastrous for the tribals especially in the circumstances created by COVID-19. In this regard, to promote and safeguard the tribal livelihoods and safety during these times of distress, several meetings (via video conferencing) were conducted to draft a joint strategy between the States and the Ministry of Tribal Affairs. To provide a fillip to the sagging tribal economy, a revised MSP for MFP guidelines were issued on May 1, 2020, which increased the MSP prices of the MFPs by up to 90% and thus helped in providing higher incomes for the tribal gatherers.
The Tribal Ministry also recommended the addition of 23 new items under the MSP for MFP list. These items include agricultural and horticultural produce collected by tribal gatherers.
Stop COVID, not work
Krishna explained how State and national level webinars were conducted along with UNICEF, WHO and Ministry of Tribal Affairs in April to create awareness among the tribal gatherers for following social distancing measures and maintaining necessary hygiene required for carrying out their operations. The motto was to STOP COVID and NOT WORK! This message was disseminated through advertisements, campaigns in states and social media. After summing up these phenomenal efforts during the times of crisis, Shri Krishna informed the audience as to how this scheme is not a flash in the pan, a one-time effort. With the Covid-19 Relief Plan under Article 275 (1) under which assistance would be provided to States for expanding the collection, procurement, harvesting and processing of MFPs; establishment of Van DhanKendras and promoting tribal entrepreneurship; establishing Tribal Producer Companies and Common Facility Centers (CFCs); tribal food and nutrition security and food & non-food assistance to tribal gatherers; and preventive healthcare and strengthening of tribal health care systems, this MSP for MFP scheme would get a Rs 1300 crore boost.
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