Nayagarh: A project to grow rubber by Odisha Forest Development Corporation (OFDC) near Dhani reserve forest in Nakithana under Ranpur block in this district is on the wane due to lack of supervision and proper maintenance, a report said. Over 10,000 out of the 16,000 rubber trees planted have been destroyed while the remaining ones are awaiting the same fate. It is a matter of time before the area turns into a barren land. This has happened due to alleged connivance between the rubber mafia and some Forest department officials, sources said. They alleged that the mafia and unscrupulous officials are making money by collecting and selling rubber milk while the state government is losing lakhs of rupees every year.
Reports said in view of the sharp demand for rubber products in Odisha, the OFDC identified 64 hectare land near Dhani reserve forest for rubber plantation. The OFDC planted over 16,000 rubber saplings between 1985 and 1987 as part of the initiative. The saplings soon grew luxuriantly and the OFDC started collecting rubber milk from the plants in 1992. Initially, the OFDC was making handsome profits by selling the milk from the rubber trees.
However, bad days arrived after the OFDC floated a tender and assigned a contractor to collect rubber milk with a security deposit of Rs 10 lakh in 2006. The contractor started doing so from October 14, 2006. The OFDC and the contractor, however, fell out as it was alleged that the latter was not paying the revenue to the Odisha government. The OFDC directed the contractor to stop collecting the milk, but the latter did not pay heed and went on collecting it and thereby earned a lot of money.
Now, the situation has turned worse. Even though the contractor has left the project, the rubber mafia has taken over. They are rampantly looting the rubber milk and selling it allegedly with the help of some OFDC officials. Locals have demanded state government’s intervention in protecting the rubber forest.