Tendu leaf collectors demand cash payments.(HT Photos)
Tendu leaf collectors demand cash payments.(HT Photos)

Tendu leaves collectors in Sukma, Dantewada and Bijapur to get cash payments: Chhattisgarh govt

Remote villagers of Maoist-hit Bijapur district reached district headquarters to start a three-day protest in front of the collector’s office demanding that money of tendu leaf procurement should be given in cash.
By Ritesh Mishra | Edited by: Meenakshi Ray | Hindustan Times, Raipur
PUBLISHED ON JUN 30, 2020 11:37 AM IST

The Chhattisgarh government has said it will make payments to tendu leaf collectors in cash after a protest by thousands of tribals in Bijapur district in Bastar region on Monday, saying bank transfers don’t help.

On Monday, thousands of tribals from remote villagers of Maoist-hit Bijapur district reached the district headquarters to start a three-day protest in front of the collector’s office demanding that the money of tendu leaf procurement should be given in cash as they face trouble reaching the banks and many of them don’t have accounts.

Most of these villagers were from Gangaloor, Cherlapal and other interior areas which are located south of the district. Some of these villages are 50km from district headquarters with no road connectivity.

The tribals also demanded that the bonus given on the paddy procurement should also be given in cash, the government should open schools and hospitals in their area and that police atrocity should stop.

Meanwhile, police sealed the district headquarters and deployed extra forces have been deployed in the city following the protest and talks between the tribal representatives and administration is going on.

Kawasi Lakhma, the industry minister, in the letter to chief minister Bhupesh Baghel on Monday, said that public representatives of Maoist-affected Sukma, Dantewada and Bijpaur have demanded to release the payments of tendu collectors in cash.

“In these three districts there is provision for payment through bank cheques but many tribals do not have Aadhaar, PAN card or bank accounts which causes unnecessary troubles. Some areas and about 70 to 80km from the district headquarters,” Lakhma wrote.

Bhupesh Baghel considered the demand and cancelled the order making the payments through bank mandatory and ordered that tendu leaves collectors in Sukma, Dantewada and Bijapur will receive cash payments, a government press release said.

Ritesh Agarwal, Bijapur’s collector said the district administration will provide every help to the tribals.

“Those people who have bank accounts their procurement money will be transferred in their accounts and we will pay them with help of bank sakhis (banking correspondents), who will reach their villages to pay them their money. We have 11 banking correspondents and recruiting about 30 others in next four days,” Agarwal said while speaking to reporters.

Tendu leaf is procured in Chhattisgarh at Rs 4,000 per sack from the tribals and this year about government procured the leaves worth about Rs 100 crore from Bijapur district only.

“The road connectively is till Gangaloor and most of these tribals are from more than a dozen of villages which are beyond Gangaloor. In 2018, just before the legislative assembly elections, the money was paid to them in cash because of non-connectivity and pressure of the then tribal minister Mahesh Gagda, who was from Bijapur,” said a senior government officer posted in the region.

“Since then the tribals of these areas are demanding that tendu patta procurement money should be given in cash,” the official said.

The officer added that their demand should be addressed.

“This is a fact that they are facing a problem. Some of them have to walk for more than 40km. Most of these tribals don’t have motorbikes and hence they rent a four-wheeler to reach bank but owing to lockdown the vehicles have also stopped. The government should recruit banking correspondents and send it to their villages or the government should arrange vehicles for them,” said the officer.

Activists believe tribals are facing problems during the coronavirus lockdown and the government is not paying any heed.

“There demands are genuine…Thousands of tribals have come from Gangaloor, Cherlapal and other villages in Bijapur have reached district headquarters after walking for a day.,” said Himanshu Kumar, a tribal rights activist working in Bastar.

“The tribals are demanding that they should be paid in cash for tendu patta procurement, which the government is paying through the banks. Bank branches are very less in tribal areas… For some tribals this distance is up to 50 and 60 kilometres,” Kumar said.

Kumar claimed that there is no bus or any other means of transport available for the tribals to reach these banks.

“Thousands of tribal families do not even have bank accounts due to which they are not getting paid. The tribals had told the collector a month ago that they should be paid in cash but they did not listen, therefore they have started this protest,” said Kumar.

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