Centre taps corporates to adopt tribal districts with CSR funds
Adopt a tribal district – this is the call Modi government has given to the corporate sector. With an eye on crucial assembly elections in tribal-dominated states of Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan, the government is wooing private players and public sector undertakings to adopt districts and train forest dwelling tribals on how to collect minor forest produce (MFP) and augment their sources of income.
The ministry of tribal affairs is looking for private partners who could use their corporate social responsibility (CSR) funds to adopt a district or an entire tribal-dominated state.
Adopting a district would mean setting up or organising a self-help group (SHGs) of 30 tribals, training them in how to gather minor forest produce, do basic processing at home and store it and then sell it in bulk at the local market.
This would be a basic intervention which would cost ₹6 lakh per self-help group and ₹5 crore for an entire district.
The initial call from the government has elicited response from Baba Ramdev’s Patanjali group and companies neighbouring tribal areas, including Mahanadi Coalfields Ltd and Goa Shipyard Ltd.
The government is keen on secondary-level partnership, which would involve setting up of value addition centres where the tribals would be employed and taught to process raw minor forest produce
Tribal Cooperative Marketing Development Federation of India (TRIFED), which manages the scheme, has estimated that the investment required would be ₹2 crore and five such centres would be adequate to cover an entire district.
“Nearly 30% of minor forest produce collected by tribals gets lost because of poor logistics and storage,” TRIFED managing director Pravir Krishna said. “This makes the ageold activity unremunerative to the tribals. But just a small investment could see him adding value to his produce and getting a good price.”
Once value is added, the tribals organised in a self-help group would be able to store it longer and then sell it in bulk in the market. “With private participation, headloads (of minor forest produce) can be turned into bulkloads,” said Krishna. Under Congress-led UPA government, the ministry had rolled out the scheme of ensuring minimum support price (MSP) for minor forest produce.
The scheme involved acquiring minor forest produce directly from the tribals at village haats and ensuring they get fair price. The scheme, which had been conceived as the next Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) and a welfare programme to cover 100 million tribals, has remained a non-starter. The Modi government now hopes to resurrect it with the private sector intervention.