How Rajasthan forest department created jobs in tendu leaf collection during Covid-19 lockdown
Tendu leaf is used to wrap bidis. Leaves of many other plants are also used to as bidis in different parts of the country but traders said the texture, flavour and workability of tendu leaves are unmatchable.Updated: May 25, 2020 15:49 IST
Rajasthan forest department created jobs for local communities in Jhalawar as it sold 15 extra units for collection of tendu leaves to locals in open bidding during the coronavirus lockdown, officials said.
For the collection of tendu (Diospyros melanoxylon) leaves, forest areas are divided into units which are auctioned between December and January. Rajasthan has 167 units in 14 districts, including 45 in Jhalawar. Only 69 of them were sold during the bids. For the remaining, the divisional forest officers (DFOs) call for open bids. The state will earn Rs 7.5 crore as royalty from these units.
Tendu leaf is used to wrap bidis. Leaves of many other plants are also used to as bidis in different parts of the country but traders said the texture, flavour and workability of tendu leaves are unmatchable.
In Jhalawar forest areas, merchants from Tonk, Karauli, Madhya Pradesh, Maharasthra and Gujarat come for collection of leaves and bring specialised labour from their native places.
This time, due to the lockdown restrictions, this was not possible. Also, there was an objection from the local public representatives, who said labourers from outside may bring the virus with them and infect locals.
“We held dialogues with the representatives and merchants to find solutions. We got the merchants to give priority to local community in collection of leaves,” said Jhalawar DFO Hemant Singh.
“We also encouraged the local representative to take up the units as the collection was less in other states such as Chhatisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Odisha due to the lockdown and untimely showers,” he added.
In Jhalawar, 15 more units were sold in an open bidding during the lockdown. For the first time, more than 90% of people, labourers and supervisors, involved in collection in the district, were locals, including many first-timers.
“This will make the locals self-reliant and will be beneficial for the local economy,” the DFO said.
Singh said that more than 2,500 families from 240 villages are benefitting from these efforts which have led to the generation of extra 75,000 man days. About 50-60 labourers can work in one unit of an average size. They collect leaves from the forest in the morning and stack them in bundles of 50 each. These bundles are then given to the unit holders. Payment – one rupee per bundle – is made immediately and in cash. One family can make around 500 bundles in a day.
“For merchants from outside, our staff, especially rangers, helped them in coordination with the district administration in medical screening, arranging logistics and labourers. This encouraged more traders to come to Jhalawar who were initially reluctant because of the curbs,” Singh said.
The officer said that people in villages are happy as it’s like a small event for them every year and everyone is involved. “During this time there is no work in the fields. Unlike in MNREGS, here we get instant cash which can be used to buy seeds and preparing fields for Kharif crops,” said Ramlal, a small farmer in Mandawar.