The road less travelled by road

The stay-at-home orders has deepened the issue of unemployment in the country. However, forest dwellers in Chhattisgarh are getting employment in gathering forest produce and providing forest cover. The new economic strategy of the state government involves bringing a big change in the life of the forest dwellers through forest produce. The state collects 15 lakh standard sacks of tendu leaves every year, through which 12 lakh 65 thousand collector families get employment. The value of tendu leaves have been increased to `4,000 per standard bag, giving them a direct benefit of `649 crore.
The state government has increased the number of forest products purchased through the minimum support price mechanism from seven to 25 now. The forest produce is being procured through 866 hot markets. Ten lakh man-days of employment are being created through wood art development, lac bangles manufacturing, dona-pattal making, drug processing, honey processing, bell metal, terracotta handicrafts work and much more. The Forest Development Corporation is giving 14,000 youngsters a job opportunity through construction of bamboo tree guards, bamboo furniture manufacturing, planting of medicinal plants through Vanaushadhi Board. Similarly, with the help of CFTRI Mysore, production of Mahua based energy bar, chocolate, pickle, sanitiser, amla-based dehydrated products, tamarind candy, jamun juice and bell marmalade, are being planned.
The income of forest dwellers is increasing continuously due to the collection of minor forest produce. Tea plantations in Jashpur and Surguja districts directly benefit the beneficiaries. One thousand women have got jobs of sewing 50 lakh masks. In the current year, about 12 thousand women have received an additional income of three crore 23 lakh from primary processing of tamarind. This year, the target is of planting 70 lakh plants on the own land of the forest dwellers. As part of efforts to promote lac production, 36 thousand main farmers have been selected in 164 production areas. Apart from this, other forest-based activities have also created large employment opportunities.

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