Over 150 years after a traditional right of poor tribals — to harvest bamboo — was snatched by the British government, it will be restored next Wednesday in a small tribal village in naxal-infested Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra.
Mendha Lekha village in the district will become first village in India where harvesting bamboo will be recognised as a community right of tribals and other forest dwellers.
Since 1857, bamboo has remained under the grip of India’s forest bureaucracy, which has refused to let go of this money-spinning forest product. It finally became a legal right for forest bureaucracy when the British enacted the Indian Forest Act in 1927, which categorised bamboo as a tree, thereby preventing local forest dwellers from harvesting them without requisite permission from the forest department. The regime had been followed in independent India.
The change became possible after environment minister Jairam Ramesh in March informed the state governments that bamboo will not be treated as a tree under Indian Forest Act anymore and will be considered a minor forest produce like tendu leaf.
Congress-ruled Maharashtra was the first state to leap on the opportunity provided by Ramesh, a Congress minister in the Centre. The right will be granted to Mendha Lekha village in presence of Maharashtra CM Prithviraj Chavan and Ramesh next Wednesday.