No Money for Collectors of Green Gold

The Kendu leaf is one of India's most lucrative forest produce. Called "green gold", they are used to make beedis. Over two and a half crore leaf pickers from Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Odisha form the backbone of this industry. This backbone, is perhaps one of the most exploited group of workers in the country. Community Correspondent Dasharati Behera reports from Deogarh District, Odisha on the plight of leaf pickers like Raibaru Banichula. Of her 64 years, Raibaru has spent at least 50 amidst the bright green of the tendu leaves. Waking up before dawn and working into the midday sun, tending the leaves, packing them up in batches, carrying sacks- that's what her daily routine is. She is paid less than minimum wage for her efforts. Tendu leaves are a nationalised product. This means that the government acquires the leaves from the pickers to sell them off further to traders. Of the approximately 1,100 Crore earned by the sale of tendu on the market, barely 40-50% goes to the ones doing the heavy lifting. Dashrathi asks you to make a call that could mean that the future generation of leaf pickers could lead a life free of financial uncertainty. Call to Action: Please call Baikunth Mishra, the District Forest Officer on 06641226444 and ask him to ensure that workers get fair wages.

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