KENDU LEAF TRADE: AN ECO-FRIENDLYWAY OF SUSTENANCE
Kendu Leaf (KL) plays a vital role in the economic life of tribal and rural poor of Orissa. The Botanical name of Kendu leaf is Diospyros Melanoxylon, popularly called “Suna patra” or green gold of Orissa. The valuable leaves are used for wrapping Bidis, popular smoke especially among poor natives. Kendu leaf plucking provides employment and means of livelihood to millions of families spread across the state. The trade of KL provides employment opportunities for tribals, harijans (dalits) and rural landless people during summer when there is no agricultural work or opportunities of wage earnings. In Orissa, Kendu leaf plucking is carried out in a spread out area of six lakh hectares in 23 districts. Orissa is the third largest producer of Kendu leaf next to Madhya Pradesh and Chhatisgarh. The Kendu leaf of the Bolangir district is treated as best Kendu leaf through out India. The uniqueness of Orissa’s Kendu leaf is in processed form whereas the rest of the states in India produce in Phal form. KL trade is a seasonal operation involving huge number of labourers (both skilled and non-skilled) during season of operation. Seasonal trained workers process the Kendu leaf and after processing of the KL the lots are formed and delivered to OFDC for marketing. The trade creates an estimated 15 million man-days of work in the state. After agriculture this trade accounts for largest number of employment generation. Thus, Kendu leaf collection is really a viable alternative for the families to maintain their livelihood in the lean agriculture season to supplement their income.
Kendu leaf trade has been nationalized in 1973 to reduce the exploitation of KL pluckers as well as to maximize the revenue to the state. But the conditions of KL pluckers and binders remained same as it was during early phase of nationalization. Till now much sounded demand of two paise per leaf has not been fulfilled. The collection price of KL in Orissa is the lowest in the region. Irregularity in bush cutting timings, inadequate maintenance and repair of phadi, improper transportations and storage of KL in central godowns are the bottlenecks hampering KL trade in Orissa. It is unfortunate that there are no effective administrative mechanisms in the state for interdepartmental coordination in achieving the broader goal of welfare of the tribal engaged in KL trade.
To improve the pathetic conditions of labourers and tribal involved in KL collection to Bidi making an interdepartmental study team may be set up for looking into problems of price fixation, coverage of bush cutting, quality of leaves, land fertility, private growers right, development of forestry etc. KL operations and trade should be officially been recognized as an industry. Moreover commercialization of KL trade should be encouraged not only to increase sale, profit and revenue to the state but also to profit the primary stakeholders like the bush cutters, pluckers and the binders.
Some suggestions that can greatly improve the conditions of the labourers engaged KL trade may be:
· Enormous profit made in KL trade can be shared with the tribals engaged in the trade.
· KL collection prices can be hiked and prices of KL be fixed on the basis of its quality.
· Bonus provisions for both seasonal and daily labourers.
· Group Insurance to KL workers.
· Welfare fund for seasonal KL workers.
· Rectifying the irregular and uncertainty payments to pluckers and labourers.
· Proper maintenance & management of KL phadis.
· KL trade related tribals and labourers should organize themselves into Self Help Groups and must be encouraged to save part of their income from KL plucking so that they can avoid taking credit from money lenders at a high interest.
Lastly, in a poverty stricken state like Orissa where large section of the rural population depend on forest resources, KL can prove to be a successful window for poverty alleviation. For this one needs to go beyond the traditional planning domain and look into new policies of bush cutting, plucking, binding, storage and a better negotiation skill for selling of kendu leaf to companies.
Dr. Murali Dhar Majhi,
At: - Mohanty Street, Po- Jeypore, Dist.- Koraput,
Orissa, Pin- 764001, Mob: 9437416622
E-mail: Varsa_ email@example.com