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Minister’s idea of tribal welfare

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 moha flowers. Pachpute feels it could be a source of livelihood for tribals. Sayli Udas Mankikar examines...

mumbai Updated: Nov 18, 2009 01:51 IST
Sayli Udas Mankikar

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 moha flowers. Pachpute feels it could be a source of livelihood for tribals.

He seems to have forgotten that his own government, faced with the problem of rising alcoholism, is taking steps to wean people away from liquor.

Pachpute, outlining his ministry’s 100-day target plan, said, “We are in the primary discussion stage with tribals and manufacturers. We are getting information on how it can be done.”

The plan is to bring moha liquor manufacturing under one umbrella — to get involved right from providing nets to tribals to collecting flowers to selling bottled liquor.

The flowers of the moha or mahua tree (bassia latifolia) yield liquor and its fruit yields oil. The state has 3.45 crore moha trees which can produce 50,000 tonnes of moha flower and 20,000 seeds. Pachpute estimates that 1 kg of moha flowers can produce up to 350 ml of liquor and fill a 750ml standard bottle when diluted.

The estimates, however, do have not excited the Opposition. They feel Pachpute should ensure that existing funds and schemes set aside for tribals should be used effectively.

“We are also interested in tribal development,” said Shiv Sena spokesperson and Member of Legislative Council Neelam Gorhe. “There are better ways like giving tribals employment. Issues like education, malnutrition need attention.”

In 2004, then excise minister Ganesh Naik had said issuing country liquor shop licences to bootleggers would curb bootlegging.

“Our plans are different,” said Pachpute. “It will be a structured proposal that will be put up after considering several aspects of tribals’ livelihood.”

As forest minister in the previous governmentm Pachpute had initiated a similar plan.