September 26, 2011 12:52:08 am
A tribal village in Gadchiroli that has pioneered the community management of forest land and produce,this week added a new feather in its cap it became the first village in the country to earn a massive Rs 1-crore revenue from bamboo sales,carried out through a transparent and independent tendering process.
The revenue,according to the gram sabha of Mendha-Lekha village,is nearly 150 per cent more than what the forest department raised in a neighbouring village recently.
The gram sabha led by Devaji Tofa issued tender notices drafted by local activists Mohan Hirabai Hiralal and Subodh Kulkarni in two newspapers on August 26. Forms were priced at Rs 2,000,four times the normal forest department price,to discourage non-serious applicants, said Hiralal.
Nine forms were sold until September 14,the last date. Tenders were received from places in Madhya Pradesh,Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra, Hiralal said. An executive committee of the gram sabha,aided by Hiralal and Kulkarni,accepted four of the bids.
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On the day the bids were opened,bidders were welcomed to the village with plates of hot aloo bondas and tea. Villagers were sitting around the box containing the tenders… it was like a festival, Hiralal said.
The contract went to the highest bidder,V K Anand of Bhopal,who bid Rs 8,151 per notional tonne (weight of a 2,000-m end-to-end chain of green bamboo). This was much higher than the Rs 3,300 fetched by the forest department in the neighbouring Godalwahi village, Hiralal said. The village has also sold 150 notional tonnes of industrial (dry) bamboo at Rs 2,100 per tonne. The entire sale has earned the village over Rs 1 crore.
According to Hiralal,the villagers could get such a high price because there was no corruption in the tendering process. No greasing of palms was required,so bidders happily quoted high rates, Hiralal said.
The forest department was not involved in the process at any stage. Villagers said the department was too busy with the recruitment of forest guards to get involved. However,Gadchiroli Chief Conservator of Forests M Karunakaran said the forest department had stayed away simply because it was not invited.
It is not true that we didnt attend because we were preoccupied. They didnt invite us. It is their considered stand that they dont need our help and that they can do it all by themselves. It is a tricky issue about which we can do little,though they do need to keep us in the loop for all technical things,no matter that they have all the rights to their forest, Karunakaran said.
With the handsome revenue,the village plans to implement its ideas of integrated,all-round development soil and water conservation to increase bamboo productivity,strengthening roads,erecting barricades in the forest to regulate entry,and creating five natural watering holes for wildlife.
Mendha-Lekha was the first village in India to secure community rights over 1,800 hectares of forest surrounding it,and the right to sell bamboo as minor forest produce. It is also one of Indias first villages to draft its biodiversity register,complete with details of the entire flora and fauna in its forest.
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