The state’s tribal development minister Babanrao Pachpute has come up with a brainwave to make tribals ‘self reliant’.
He has initiated the idea of helping tribals manufacture ‘herbal liquor’ from the Moha flower. This could serve as a source of livelihood for the tribals, Pachpute feels.
Pachpute seems to have forgotten that his own government, faced with the problem of rising alcoholism, is taking steps to wean people away from alcohol.
Pachpute, outlining his ministry’s 100-day target plan, said, “We are in the primary discussion stage with tribals and manufacturers on this. We are gathering information on how this can be done.”
The plan is to bring moha liquor manufacturing under one umbrella -- to get involved right from providing nets to tribals to collect the flowers to selling bottled liquor.
The flowers of the Moha or Mahua tree [Bassia latifolia] yield liquor and its fruit yields oil. Maharashtra has 3.45 crore Moha trees which can produce 50,000 tonnes of Moha flower and 20,000 seeds. Pachpute estimates that 1kg of Moha flowers can produce up to 350 ml of liquor and fill a 750ml standard bottle when diluted.
These estimates, however, do not excite the opposition. They feel the minister should ensure that the existing funds and schemes set aside for tribals should be used effectively.
“We are also interested in tribal development, but how it should be done is something that has to be well thought of,” said Shiv Sena spokesperson and Member of Legislative Council (MLC) Neelam Gorhe. “There are better ways like giving tribals employment. Issues like education and malnutrition also need urgent attention.”
Pachpute is not the first minister to come up with a controversial proposal. In 2004, then excise minister Ganesh Naik had announced licenses for bootleggers. He had said issuing country liquor shop licenses to bootleggers would curb bootlegging and curtail manufacturing of illicit liquor.
“Our plans are different,” said Pachpute. “It will be structured proposal that will be put forward after considering several aspects of the livelihood of tribals.”
Pachpute had initiated a similar plan when he was forest minister in the previous government.