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Tendu leaves – How Maoist-Govt Cabal loot Adivasis

June 13, 2011 3 comments
The Maoists-Naxals are fighting the Government for rights to extract from the adivasi. The adivasis have a choice. Pay protection money to the Government or to Maoists-Naxals. (Cartoon by Morparia; courtesy - development-dialogues.blogspot.com). Click for larger image.

The Maoists-Naxals are fighting the Government for rights to 'exploit' the adivasi. The adivasis have a choice. Pay protection money to the Government or to Maoists-Naxals. Right now they are paying both - the State and the Maoist Naxal. (Cartoon by Morparia; courtesy - development-dialogues.blogspot.com). Click for larger image.

Dried tendu leaf used fo rolling bidis.

Dried tendu leaf used fo rolling bidis.

Governments and tobacco

Globally four major companies and government monopolies control a US$400 billion trade in cigarettes. These cigarette monopolies, directly or indirectly controlled by governments, take away US$1 from every  US$175 that people earn. China and USA are leaders in this extortion game.

Tobacco – India Govt.’s ‘innovation’

The Indian State also, on a much smaller scale,  replicates this same mechanism. Since Indians consume tobacco in a traditional, non-industrial manner, the Indian State changes the method of extortion. Apart from tobacco, the main ingredient of bidis, is tendu leaf. Tendu leaf is used to roll the tobacco in. While tobacco farmers are exempt from income tax, adivasis have to sell all their produce to the State. For which the State pays them wages. A newspaper reports

TENDU LEAVES, A major forest produce used for making bidis, is the main source of income for the tribal people in Chhattisgarh.  (Photo source and courtesy - hinduonnet.com).

TENDU LEAVES, A major forest produce used for making bidis, is the main source of income for the tribal people in Chhattisgarh. (Photo source and courtesy - hinduonnet.com).

Over the last two decades, the graph of tendu patta wages has shot up. This year, the Chhattisgarh government raised the wage rate from 70 paise to 80 paise per bundle of 50 leaves. But collectors like Bargu earned higher wages (Rs 1.05 paise) courtesy the Maoists. As the parallel authority in large parts of Bastar, they fix wages and even a system of wage payment.

For instance, officially, the state government’s minor forest produce federation auctions each lot of tendu leaves. Traders or contractors pay a sale price to the federation. A portion is sent to the federation’s field managers, who are supposed to disburse it as wages to the adivasis. But, in reality, the managers simply hand the money back to the contractor, who adds an extra wage amount fixed by the Maoists and sends his own staff to pay off the collectors.

“In our areas, we bargain with the contractor every year, and get a higher price for the adivasis,” says Gudsa Usendi, Maoist spokesperson. ”Last year, it was Re 1. This year it’s between Re 1.05 to Re 1.20. This way, we have stopped the exploitation of adivasis.”

That’s not an empty boast — but it’s only partially true. The Maoists have wrangled higher wages for the adivasis and expanded their support base, but they have also obtained higher levies for themselves. Most traders refused to divulge exact amounts, some reluctantly offered a rough range: 5-10% of the sale price. For one Rs 1 crore, that works out to Rs 5-10 lakh.

“The market of tendu leaves is not less than Rs 2,000 crore,” says K Sadavijaya Kumar, of the Association of Beedi leaf traders. Given that at least a quarter of the tendu growing areas appears to be under Maoist control, the amount of levies could run into crores.

By maintaining a monopoly over the ownership and sale of leaves, the state earns revenue. In 2009, Chhattisgarh Minor Forest Produce Federation made Rs 256 crore from tendu leaves. Rs 189 crore was paid to the collectors, and Rs 66 crore retained by the federation. (via Tendu leaves little hope for tribals – The Times of India).

Tendu leaves

Tendu leaves

And the Maoist- Naxalites are fighting with the State for ‘exploitation-of-adivasis‘ rights. From being owners of India’s forests, under भारत-तंत्र Bharat-tantra, the adivasis have become wage earners. By this one single action, the State has impoverished crores of adivasis. Such are the reasons for Indian poverty – The Indian State.

And the Maoist- Naxalites are fighting with the State for ‘exploitation-of-adivasis‘ rights.

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