Covid-19 lockdown affects over 50 lakh tribals dependent on forests, making Van Dhan Yojna more relevant

The current crisis situation due to Covid-19 has posed an unprecedented threat across the country. Almost all the States and UTs in India are affected by it, in varying degrees. The situation has also dealt a blow to the livelihoods of the poor and marginalized communities. The tribal gatherers can be one of the worst affected in these trying times since this is the peak season for harvesting Non-Timber Forest Produce (NTFP) in many regions.

“About 5 lakhs of tribal artisans make their living through handicraft & handlooms, engaged in Textile weaving, Metal Crafts, Home Décor, Jewellery, Block Printing, ornamental Painting etc. The biggest challenge for tribal artisans, however, is to market their products effectively and make more people aware of the top quality items they develop,” said Pravir Krishna, Managing Director of TRIFED, Ministry of Tribal Affairs.

“TRIFED (under Ministry of Tribal Affairs) has been playing an instrumental role in this regard by procuring tribal-made products and selling them to the masses in India and worldwide under the banner of TRIBES India. They have launched a #GoTribal campaign and are growing from strength to strength via opening up of over 120 permanent outlets across the country (including airports), ecommerce platforms, exhibitions, organizing grand ‘Aadi Mahotsavs; and entering into tie-ups for providing training to the artisans for further capacity building, quality improvement and market alignment,” he added.

over 50 lakhs tribals depend on forest produces, having inherent skills in forest produce harvesting. Tribal Forest produce gatherers usually collect about half to one tonne of Forest produce in a year.

Pravir Krishna

He was addressing a Webinar under ‘Know Your Scheme-Lecture Series’ on “Van Dhan Yojana : Learning For Post Covid-19” organized by the Department of Science and Technology, Government of Rajasthan in association with Trifed, Ministry of Tribal Affairs, Government of India on May 26.  Pravir Krishna, Managing Director of TRIFED, Ministry of Tribal Affairs was the Key Note Speaker detailing the learnings for post Covid-19 and the Webinar was moderated by Mugdha Sinha, Secretary, Science and Technology, Government of Rajasthan.

Further, Pravir Krishna disclosed that over 50 lakhs tribals depend on forest produces, having inherent skills in forest produce harvesting. Tribal Forest produce gatherers usually collect about half to one tonne of Forest produce in a year. Speaking about the immense potential tribals have owing to their inherent skills, Krishna said, “We just need to help them with their skills in Value addition and enabling them as Micro enterprises. Through Minimum Support Price, it is feasible to assure a revenue of Rs.20,000 to Rs.30,000 per person per year and through VanDhan Value addition Scheme,  two to three times of the same.”

“Until now, middlemen have been the key beneficiaries, and how the VanDhan Yojana aims at changing this scenario to increase the share of forest produce gatherers. Proven examples of the scheme were highlighted from Senapati District in Manipur and Longleng District, Nagaland, where tribal gatherers have been able to benefit tremendously under the Van Dhan Yojana,” Krishna described.

TRIFED is also going forward with ‘Tech for Tribals’ initiative by partnering with leading IITs and IIMs of the country along with the Ministry of MSME to form an Entrepreneurship Skill Development Program. Additionally, there is due focus on Digitization of dashboards, monitoring of VanDhan projects to streamline the flow of information, track progress and enable quick submission of proposals under the scheme.

“TRIFED has collaborated with the Art of Living Foundation’s #iStandWithHumanity Initiative through a Stand With Tribal Families component in providing much needed Ration Kits for survival of the tribal community. Ration Kits have already been distributed across various regions of Kashmir, Telangana, Maharashtra, Karnataka and distribution is being planned for other parts of the country as well,” said Krishna.

“TRIFED also initiated Van Dhan Samajik Doori Jagrookta Abhiyaan in association with UNICEF, under which tribals are being provided with crucial information regarding COVID-19 with several guidelines, nationwide and state-specific webinars and instructions on safety measures to be followed. The Ministry of Tribal Affairs has also revised the Minimum Support Prices of NTFP items to provide much needed relief to forest gatherers in these trying times,” he added.

Best practices adopted by states during pandemic

Describing Best Practices being followed under VanDhan, Krishna spoke about door to door procurement of NTFP items in Chhattisgarh, sale of Van Dhan products through mobile vans in Manipur, establishment of MFP Processing units (TRIFOOD) at Raigad, ‘Apni Dukan’ initiative in Madhya Pradesh, among others.

Van Dhan Tribal Enterprise stories from Sirohi, Rajasthan were also highlighted where Amla pickles, Jams, Murraba & other value added products are being processed and marketed effectively under the scheme. Speaking about the Way Forward for Rajasthan, Krishna discussed the potential of additional 145 VanDhan Vikas Kendras that can be sanctioned in Rajasthan and may be established as ‘Tribal Startups for Atmanirbhar Bharat’. The appointment of Aajeevika / Forest Department as second Implementing Agency under Van Dhan Yojana would further expand the coverage of Van Dhan to all Districts of Rajasthan, also increasing the coverage of super foods like Bajra, Jawar, millets, etc.

The Department of Science & Technology, Govt. of Rajasthan, expressed their keen interest in the VanDhan Yojana and discussed a partnership with TRIFED under VanDhan’s ‘Tech for Tribals’ initiative as a Knowledge Partner, along with their established institutional network comprised of IIM Udaipur, IIT Jodhpur, among others to take the scheme forward. — PIB