Bhubaneswar: At a time when most of the marginalized sections of the society are hit by the COVID-19 crisis and loss of income, the SC and ST Development department has stopped procurement of sal seed from the tribal community at minimum support price (MSP).
The Tribal Development Co-operative Corporation of Orissa Ltd (TDCCOL) has now issued a notification and asked the district collectors of 11 tribal-dominated districts to close procurement of the minor forest produce (MFP) under the MSP scheme of the government.
“TDCCOL is implementing MSP scheme for MFP in the state through its branches spread across 13 tribal districts of the state. The procurement of MFPs under MSP for the year 2020-21 is in progress and major MFP items such as sal seeds and seeded tamarind have been procured as per the procurement plan of the state,” the department said.
It also added that since the collection season of these items is nearing its end and monsoon has set in, procurement process of these items calls for immediate closure.
“I would, therefore, request you to kindly take a suitable decision regarding closure of procurement process of seeded tamarind, sal seeds and other MFP items in your district paying due regard to factors relevant in your district context,” the letter to the collectors said.
Tribal livelihood experts are however fumed with the sudden halting of the procurement process of the government. Many claim that the decision may lead to distress sale of the forest produce by the poor tribal communities and other traditional forest dwellers (OTFDs).
“At a time when income is hitting a low and livelihood and wages largely affected due to lockdown and COVID-19, the state government has added to the woes of the poor tribal communities and OTFDs by depriving them of their rights of selling products at MSP. TDCCOL was the only hope for sales at MSP which has now been threatened,” said Chitta Ranjan Pani, a tribal livelihood expert from the city.
Pani also said that many private traders are eying to procure the MFPs at lowest possible rate and deprive the tribal communities from the MSP. The union Ministry of Tribal Affairs has fixed the rate of MSP for sal seeds at Rs 20 per kilogram, but Pani said that private traders want to exploit the time and procure it to as low as Rs 8 per kilogram.
According to most of the tribal livelihood experts, the government must not stop the MSP procurement at this time as it is getting all possible financial support from the tribal ministry to procure the MFP at MSPs. If it is stopped, experts said that many scheduled tribes and OTFDs will be left with no option but to go for distress sales.