MSP for MFP Scheme Odisha
The Census of India helps in the detection and registration of tribes in the various Indian states. The percentage of tribal people is rather high in the state of Odisha. These people mainly live in the areas that border the forests. Their lifestyles and livelihood is largely depending on the forest. Niyamgiri in Odisha boasts of a huge tribal population. The Odisha government has launched several schemes for the betterment of these people. However, the Coronavirus pandemic spelled disaster for the simple folks.
About the MSP for MFP Scheme
As mentioned, the tribal people earn their livelihood by collecting and selling forest products. An official reports highlights that this activity amounts to as much as Rs. 2 trillion on a yearly basis. The forest products, sold by the tribal people can be classified under various categories. The state government has tried to help the people of the tribal communities by fixing the Minimum Selling Price or MSP of the Minor Forest Produce or the MFP. The scheme will ensure that the tribal people can get a significant sum, by selling the forest products. The Chif Minister of Odisha, Naveen Patnaik had officially introduced the MSP for MFP Scheme in 2013. The implementation was carried out in 2014.
Reason behind the financial troubles of the forest dwellers
The Finance Department of the state mentioned that the sale of forest products can generate revenue of Rs. 5,000 crore each year. However, the revenue generation has not been utilized for the betterment of the tribal communities in Niyamgiri. Experts opine that it is due to the faulty record keeping techniques, used by the respective state government department. The officials have failed to gather and compile the details of the forest dwelling people. Thus, it makes it rather challenging for the state government to implement the MSP scheme.
Apart from this, the Coronavirus pandemic has also paved the path for the financial distress of the tribal people. The central and state governments have been compelled to order a complete lockdown, with the intent to arrest the spread of this deadly disease. It means that the tribal people will no longer be able to venture in the forests to collect the products. Even if they manage to do so, the local markets are no longer functioning. Thus, they will not be able to sell the items, and earn money.
Forest products that sustain the tribal people
Odisha Tribal Development Department sated that there are as many as 75 vulnerable tribal communities. One such community is the Dongria Kondhs. Most members of this community reside in the Kalahandi and Rayagada regions. These people are in grave financial danger as the ‘haats’ or the local markets are closed.
Most women are associated with the collection of Kendu leaves and fruits. They highlight that special precautions must be taken to ensure that the quality of the forest products are maintained. The females get up during the wee hours in the morning and venture into the forest to collect kendu leaves. These leaves are used in the beedi manufacturing industry. Apart from this, the fruit of the Kendu plant is also sold in the markets. The tribal people also collect other forest products like chahar fruit, mahua leaves and fruits, and seeds. There is a high demand for these forest products in the market. However, the lockdown has brought down an axe on the livelihood of these tribal people.
Financial crisis for the tribal communities
All the forest products, mentioned above, come under the Minor Forest Produce list. As the haats are non-operational, these individuals cannot sell these items and earn money. The tribal people say that these fruits and seeds are perishable. If these items are not processes in time, these become useless. A kendu leaf and fruit collector earns anything between Rs. 4,000 and Rs. 5,000 every month. Due to the lockdown, the procurement of these forest products has gone down drastically.
Earlier, the traders in this area used to pay anything between Rs. 35 and Rs. 40 for every kilogram of mahua flowers. But these traders are taking advantage of the lockdown, and forcing the tribal people to sell the items at half the price. Most of these traders do not possess the license to procure the forest products from these people. The government registered buyers, operating through the haats offered minimum support prices that has been fixed by the Odisha government.
The closure of these registered market places have made thing difficult for the tribal people. They have to sell the forest products to the unregistered buyers at rather low rates. It is the only source of income for the poor and helpless people. The members of the tribal communities generally depend on the sale of these items, for the span that stretches from March and June.
The state government, along with the rest of the nation declared the commencement of lockdown from mid-March. There are very slim chances that the lockdown will be called off anytime soon. Thus, the poor tribal people cannot earn money from the other means of employment.
Lack of liquid cash has paved the path for impoverishment. The financial status of the people has gone down drastically. Less procurement of the uncultivated forest products has increased the demand for these items as well. The tribal people need to provide food for their families. Lack of income has forced them to take loans from the local money lenders at high interest rates. As all these things are 5taking place simultaneously, it can lead these people towards abject poverty.
Improving the status of the tribal people
It is the responsibility of the state government to take necessary measures, which safeguards the lives of tribal people. Specialists also opine that tribal people miss the opportunity to gain a better price for the forest products as they do not have access to storage facilities. Keeping the forest products in these storage facilities can maintain the freshness for an extended span.
Apart from this, the state government must organize classes for the tribal people, where they will learn ways of clean, grade, pack and brand these items. Streamlining the procurement process, through registered buyers, will put a stopper to the financial exploitation of the forest dwellers.
It has been mentioned in the Constitution of the nation that every state government must take constructive measures to provide financial support to weak sections of the society. The people, belonging to the tribes will come under this protection. The Odisha government has capped the minimum selling price of these items. Thus, the buyers cannot force the tribal people to sell any forest product at a lower price. If they do so, the law will take strict measures against the perpetrator.
Though the MSP for MFP Scheme was launched in 2014, the Odisha authority has failed to use around 90% of the allocated budget. The Chief Minister of the state has implemented a number of measures to provide financial and food security to the needy people, during Coronavirus pandemic. MSP and other schemes, targeted towards the tribal communities can guarantee their survival.