Govt Destroys
Tribals’ Livelihood

Indiscriminate felling of trees by government robs poor tribals in India’s Chattisgarh of their sole livelihood: Collecting 'Tendu' leaves Plucking of Tendu leaves for making hand-rolled cigarette or 'Beedi' is the only way to survive for hundreds of landless and uneducated tribals in remote villages of Chattisgarh’s Rajnandgaon district. Bhan Sahu, the correspondent of this video, talks to several beedi makers in a village called Pangri who are facing a bleak future as the government forest department is felling tendu trees indiscriminately. The trees are felled to make profits for the government through selling of logs in the open market. While it is boosting government’s revenue collection, it is leading to non-availability of tendu leaves, forcing tribal beedi makers into hunger.

Officially, the state of Chattisgarh has 60% of total area under forest cover. But the inside story is that a lot of deforestation is happening in the state, all permitted by the government. This includes cutting of Tendu trees in thousands. There is no support plan for the tribals whose lives depend on collection of the tendu leaves.

How do the tendu leaves help the tribals earn a living? In the summer the tribals collect mature tendu leaves from the forests. The leaves are collected in bundles of 50 to 100 leaves, which are dried in sunlight for about a week. The dried leaves are sprinkled with water to soften them. These bundles are then sold to Beedi manufacturing factories for using as wrappers for Beedi. The factories usually pay the tribals per thousand bundles of tendu leaves. Bhan Sahu says that the money that they earn is not much (about Rs.2000 a month), but it helps the tribals stay in their own homeland instead of migrating to nearby towns to search work.

But now the state government is determined to wrestle the rights to all forest resources from the tribals. Felling of tendu trees and selling of logs of wood at high rate in the market is a visible sign of that.

Bhan Sahu, who has been regularly reporting on issues concerning the poor tribal communities from remote areas of Chattisgarh, wants the government to stop this anti-people drive, so that the tribals can continue to earn a livelihood from the forest, as they have done for centuries. To watch more of Bhan Sahu’s videos on Chattisgarh’s tribal communities, click here.

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