Tribal residents of 50 villages in Chhattisgarh have filed an FIR against an official of the state forest department after he confiscated the tendu leaves that they had collected.
Tendu(Diospirus melanocaylon) is also called ‘green gold’.
It is a prominent minor forest producein India.
The tendu tree is commonly known as “abnus” in Andhra Pradesh, “kendu” in Orissa and West Bengal, “tembru” in Gujarat, “kari” in Kerala, “tembhurni” in Maharahstra, and “bali tupra” in Tamil Nadu.
Uses– Tendu leaves are used as wrappers of tobacco to produce bidi.
The wide-scale use of tendu leaves in Bidi industry is mainly based on their wide availability, enormous production, agreeable flavour, flexibility, its resistance to decay and capacity to retain fires.
Off-cuts of leaves are burned and the ash is used in tooth powder.
Sale of tendu– Before 1964, people were free to sell tendu leaves in markets across the country.
In 1964, the trade in tendu leaves was nationalisedin then-undivided Madhya Pradesh.
Later, this system was adopted by Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh.
Under this arrangement, the state forest department collects tendu leaves from the collection centres or phads through the state minor forest produce federation.
Then, the state forest department allows the transportation and sale of these tendu leaves to the traders.
Dispute– There is dispute about who has the right to sell the leaves.
The State governments say only they can do so due to nationalisation.
On the other hand, tendu leaf collectors cite the following to say private collectors can sell them on their own,
- The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 and
- The 2013 Supreme Court verdict in the Niyamgiri case.
The tribals, after having obtained forest rights leasesunder the FRA 2006, now want to sell tendu leaves on their own, with the permission of Gram Sabhas and make good profits.
Other minor forest produces that are collected and sold by tribals are Mahua, Salbeej or the seeds of the Sal tree (Shorea robusta) and Chironji or Almondette kernels (Buchanania lanzan).