Earns 2.5 times more than what the highest rate received by the forest department last year
Mendha Lekha village in Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra has proved wrong the forest department’s stand that gram sabhas cannot manage forest produce.
The village has earned record rates on the sale of bamboo. It earned Rs 8,151 per notional tonne (weight of a 2,000-m end-to-end chain of green bamboo) for long bamboo. The rate is about 2.5 times more the highest rate received by the forest department last year, Rs 3,300, in Godalwahi village close to Mendha Lekha.
Having received transit passes for transporting bamboo from the hands of the Maharastra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan in April this year, Mendha Lekha had first felled its bamboo in the same month, earning, even then, a record rate of Rs 27 per long bamboo. This year’s per-bamboo rate is Rs 32.60, Rs 9.60 higher than last year’s rate.
In view of the fact that last year the forest department gave the transit passes book meant for contractors by department officials, and also made to shell out Rs 10,000 for 100 passes, the gram sabha has decided to print its own passes and get them stamped by the department this year.
The gram sabha has also decided to start bamboo felling early, and has floated a tender for this in August. The tender was opened on September 14 in the presence of all gram sabha members from the village, and the decision was taken collectively to award the felling contract to the highest bidder.
Mohan Hirabai Hiralal, formerly of the non-profit Vrikshamitra and now a resident of the village, says 1,200 notional tonnes of long-bamboo is likely to be produced this year, apart from 150 notional tonnes of industrial bamboo. The cost of the latter has been fixed at Rs 2,100. He says that the estimates have been made strictly according to the forest department’s working plan to avoid over-extraction.
Felling work will start in November after a training programme during which the people in the village will be trained in sustainable felling practices by silviculture experts. Forest officials have also been invited to participate in training the villagers, he says.
According to gram sabha estimates, the turnover this year is likely to be Rs 1.96 crore, and net profit to gram sabha after deduction of wages and costs is likely to be Rs 40 lakh. “Last year we had paid a wage of Rs 9 per long-bamboo, which was Rs 2 higher than the highest wage paid in the area,” says Devaji Tofa, gram sabha leader of Mendha Lekha, “This year we hope to pay an even better rate, but the details are yet to be finalised,” he adds.
M Karunakaran, chief conservator of forests, Gadchiroli says he has not received any communication to the effect that the gram sabha was planning to print its own transit passes. “If they do so it will be illegal,” he says.
We are a voice to you; you have been a support to us. Together we build journalism that is independent, credible and fearless. You can further help us by making a donation. This will mean a lot for our ability to bring you news, perspectives and analysis from the ground so that we can make change together.
Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.