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Challenges of Restricted Rights :

Forests and NTFPs as a natural resources was never meant to seen as a livelihood factors for the tribal people and other forest dependent communities in pre and post independence era. In India, forests are state property and all forest products are legally owned by the state. Exploitation of forest products was once one of the core management functions of the forestry sector and the forest policy had framed management practices to intensify extraction of products, including dozens of MFPs. State Forest Corporations and Cooperatives were set up to generate revenues for the state exchequer which was a guiding principle of forest management until the late 1980s.

The National Forest Policy 1988 and Joint Forest Management (JFM) Resolution 1990 acknowledged the rights and authority of the local community. But in reality within the framework of JFM, They were indeed the privileges and concessions complementing for the protection of forests within the same discriminatory regime of the forest department.

In Odisha, the trade of MFPs has been in the clutches of private traders/enterprises since independence. Long term leases were given to private agencies for procurement of forest products from the primary gatherers. This systems have ultimately led to the exploitations of the primary gatherers whose sole source of livelihood are derived from NTFPs and pushed them to penury. The price of MFPs is most often determined by the traders than by demand/supply (excluding the nationalized MFP) and the primary gatherers have hardly any role in this process. The situation was that the local collectors and extractors are merely compensated by way of labor or even worse off. In reality, the systems and arrangements of , the government interventions exacerbated poverty rather than alleviated it. At the policy level, the role of forest and forest products in poverty alleviation and in sustaining livelihoods continues to be ignored.

Major MFPs like Kendu Leaves, Bamboo and Sal Seed were made available to private traders and industries on long term lease basis. The MFP trade is controlled by Orissa Forest Produce (Trade Control) Act, 1981, that empowers the Govt. to declare MFP at different time as selective and have the monopoly. As per the Odisha Forest Act 1972, State has the monopoly on MFP in private and common land. 1n 1991, Mohua was also nationalized for one years and subsequently it was handed over to Gram Panchayat in 2000. It is still controlled by the Odisha Bihar Excise Act 1915. There are other few rules that influences MFP trade are; The Schedule of Rate of Forest Produce in Orissa Rules 1977, The Orissa Timber and other Forest Produce Transit Rules 1980, Supply of Bamboos to Artisans Including Co-operative Societies (Orissa) Rules, 1980, etc.

Although the declared objective of the state monopoly in trading of forest products was to provide a minimum procurement price and to protect collectors’ interests, the reality of the leasing system was that it was beneficial for industrial houses and meant that most, if not all, revenues accrued to the state, which undermined the social welfare principle of forest use. Several studies have shown that trade monopoly or price controls imposed by state agencies restrict the bargaining powers of local extractors and are often disadvantageous to poor community producers predominantly tribal.

Following the prescriptions of the Provisions of Panchayat (Extension to the Scheduled Area) Act of 1996 - a central legislation, which gives ownership rights to village councils over minor forest produces, the Government of Orissa handed over ownership of 68 MFP (now 69, Sal seed was the latest addition in 2006) in Odisha to Gram Panchayats (GPs) in March 2000. The remaining “other MFP items” were further sub-classified into (1) “nationalized produces” and (2) “lease bar produces”, whose control was kept with the government.

This step of the government, however, recognized the importance of MFP in the forest dweller’s life. This deregulation also led to the decentralization and bureaucratization of the trading arrangement to encourage primary gatherer’s group to trading at the local level. The recent historic Act named the Scheduled Tribe and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of forests) Rights Act, 2006 is a watershed governance in context of MFPs which clearly defines MFP under section 2 of (i) as “minor forest produces” includes all non-timber forest produce of plant origin including bamboo, brush woods, stumps, cane, tusser, cocoons, honey, wax, Lac, tendu or kendu leaves, medicinal plants and herbs, roots, tubers and the like. Again the Act vested powers to the Gram Sabha under section 3 of (c) on rights of ownership, access to collect; use and dispose of minor forest produce which has been traditionally collected within or outside village boundaries. The Forest Right Act Amendment Rules 2012 further clarifies on right to sell as well as individual or collective processing, storage, value addition, and transportation within and outside forest area through appropriate means of transport for use of such produce or Sale by gatherers or their co-operatives or associations or federations for livelihood. Transit permit in relation to transportation of minor forest produce given by the committee constituted under clause (e) of sub-rule (1) of rule 4 or the person authorized by the Gram sabha. Gram sabha shall approve all decisions of the committee pertaining to issue of transit permits, use of income from Sale of produce or modification of management plans. This procedural requirement of transit permit in no way shall restrict or abridge the right to disposal of minor forest produce. The collection of minor forest produce shall be free of all royalties or fees or any other charges

The policy shift was seen as major change in the objective of MFP management from revenue maximization to that of sustainable rural livelihoods. It was implied that by doing away monopoly trading rights the de facto and de jure ownership in favour of MFP gatherers could be established (Vasundhara, 2005), and free trade would stimulate local processing and create income and employment (Saxena, 2003).


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