PESA lacks teeth to empower ST: BJP

RAIPUR: The main opposition, on Wednesday, questioned the PESA rules notified by the Bhupesh Baghel-led Congress government, saying that it lacked teeth to empower the scheduled tribes.
BJP spokesman Ajay Chandrakar told reporters that rights of collection of tendu patta, the only nationalised forest produce in the state, will remain under the control of the Chhattisgarh government. Due to the control of the government on tendu leaves, its collectors are running from pillar to post to get their four months-due amounting to crores, he said.
A gazette notification was published on Monday reading detailed information about the PESA law and the chief minister proudly announced the same during the world tribal day programme on Tuesday, but he did not tell the tribals that they can take decision only on non-nationalised forest produce.
According to the government data, about 13 lakh tribal families in the state are directly engaged in the work of collecting tendu leaves. In 2020, Chhattisgarh State Minor Forest Produce Co-operative Societies purchased 973000 standard bags of tendu leaves through various district societies. In 2021, the societies purchased 13,06,000 thousand standard bags of tendu leaves. In 2022, the organisation presented the data of purchasing 15,78000 standard bags of tendu leaves in Chhattisgarh.
Chandrakar said that 95 per cent of tendu leaves are collected by the tribal community. The Chhattisgarh government has its own data that in 2022 it has procured 21 per cent more tendu leaves for which it has to pay Rs 630 crore to the collectors.
Asia’s highest quality tendu leaves are in Sukma district, but the tribals here have been agitating since March 4 alleging scam in the tendu leaves collection. About Rs 3 crore worth of payment of the tendu leave collectors is due till date, he said. He said that the tendu patta scam in Sukma district has now become a challenge for the Sukma police. Out of 12 assembly constituencies of Bastar division, 11 are reserved for tribals. One of them is a minister in the Chhattisgarh government. Terming PESA as turning into a means to cheat tribals, Chandrakar said that its rules have been diluted so much in contravention to the spirit of original PESA law.

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