The ministry of tribal affairs has asked all tribal-dominated Schedule V area states to resurrect an old scheme ensuring minimum support price (MSP) for their forest produce.
New Delhi: In the middle of Covid-19 outbreak, the Centre is trying to reach out to 5 million forest-dwelling tribals living in small hamlets and are not covered under any welfare measures rolled out so far.
The biggest challenge before the government is not only to educate these tribals about social distancing measures as prescribed under Covid-19 protocols but to also ensure that they get the right price for minor forest produce (MFP) collected in March and April and sold at the local haats, or weekly markets. The ministry of tribal affairs has asked all tribal-dominated Schedule V area states to resurrect an old scheme ensuring minimum support price (MSP) for their forest produce.
Tribal Cooperative Marketing Development Federation of India (Trifed) managing director Pravir Krishna said, “The pandemic has struck at a time when it is gathering time for MFP. The tribals depend heavily on it. All state governments have closed haats to avoid crowding. We fear that tribals may depend on middlemen to sell their produce and not get optimal price.”
As per Trifed’s estimates about ?600 crore of central funds for acquiring minor forest produce is lying unutilised with 11state governments. “We are now asking the states to implement MSP scheme especially over the next two months,” said a senior official. “This would ensure minimum price to tribals especially at the time when they will be deprived of basic necessities.”
According to sources, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka and Rajasthan would be better equipped to implement the scheme even during lockdown.
So far, the government’s focus was on opening value-addition centres called Van Dhan Vikas Kendras (VDVKs) to refine the minor forest produce and fetch better rates for the tribals. With social distancing norms and lockdown in place, the state governments would find it difficult to open these value-addition centres.