GUWAHATI, Aug 21 - The ambitious Van Dhan Yojana, which seeks to increase the income of tribal people through value addition and boost economic development of tribal communities, will soon be launched in all districts across Assam.
The scheme will be implemented in association with The Tribal Cooperative Marketing Development Federation of India (TRIFED) and the project implementation and management will be done by the Assam Plain Tribes Development Corporation.
Dr M Angamuthu, Commissioner and Secretary (Welfare of Plain Tribes and Backward Classes), told The Assam Tribune that the scheme aims to promote livelihood generation among the tribals and transform them as tribal entrepreneurs.
�The initiative shall promote and leverage the collective strength of tribals to achieve a viable scale to take on the market forces in the areas where these are still prevalent and harness the wealth of the forest or Van Dhan,� said Dr Angamuthu.
It is noteworthy that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had launched the Van Dhan scheme of the Union Ministry of Tribal Affairs in April this year.
Among other things, the scheme proposes to set up community owned Non-Timber Forest Produce (NTFP) centric Van Dhan Vikas Kendras in predominantly tribal districts which could act as common facility centres for procurement-cum-value addition to locally available NTFPs and also for skill-based handicraft and marketing of such products.
�The programme aims to tap into traditional knowledge and skill set of tribals by adding technology and IT to upgrade it at each stage and to convert tribal wisdom into a viable economic activity. All funds shall be released and routed through TRIFED which will be tasked to develop a robust online monitoring system,� said Dr Angamuthu.
The plan is to set up 41 such Van Dhan Vikas Kendras in Assam during the ongoing 2018-19 fiscal and another 46 in 2019-20.
It is expected to generate livelihood to 26,100 tribal gatherers and artisans and transform them into tribal entrepreneurs.
All the Deputy Commissioners (DCs) and DFOs will be required to take a lead role and submit their proposals for launch of the scheme.
�The Van Dhan Vikas Kendras will be an important milestone in economic development of tribals by generating livelihood for collection and processing of Minor Forest Produces (MFPs) and through development of tribal handicrafts. That is why we are targeting roll out of the scheme at the earliest,� Dr Angamuthu added.
It will entail having procurement plans and infrastructure plans at the district and State levels, selection of district level project implementation agencies, identification of products district wise, finalisation of procurement centres, setting up of a web portal and an online market plan, identification and formation of producers� companies, setting up of advocacy groups from the villages to primary tribal markets, launch a Van Dhan App, among others things.
The Welfare of Plain Tribes and Backward Classes department is also focusing on the issue of minimum support price (MSP) for MFPs.
�Tribals derive 40-60 per cent of their annual income from MFPs on which they spend major portion of their time. This activity also has strong linkage to women�s financial empowerment as most of the MFPs are collected and used or sold by women. MSP for MFPs has potential to enhance livelihood of tribals substantially,� Dr Angamuthu said.
The Central government is also working on these lines and has already announced an ambitious scheme for marketing of MFPs through MSP and development of value chain for such products. Under it, the Central government provides funds to the State agencies for procuring MFPs in the ratio of 75:25.
Presently, a total of 27 MFPs are under the ambit of the Central scheme and plans are afoot to bring more items under it.
Dr Angamuthu said that the Assam Plain Tribes Development Corporation will prepare the proposal for revolving fund and infrastructure development and once the process is complete procurement of MFPs under the MSP scheme will commence in the State.