17:34 GMT06 May 2021
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    New Delhi (Sputnik): The tribals in the interiors of India’s central Chhattisgarh state earn their livelihood by plucking leaves from the government-owned plantation of tendu trees, a flowering tree widely used in India to wrap hand-rolled cigarettes. However, those who live in the remote villages complain about middlemen and not getting paid.

    Armed with bows and arrows and carrying idols of deities and peacock feathers, thousands of tribals from India’s Chhattisgarh clashed with armed forces on Tuesday to press for their demand for a better life, fair produce prices and cash payments, as they lack bank accounts.

    Tension had been simmering in the Maoist rebel-hit area over the issue of payments being made via bank transfers instead of cash.

    Army was deployed and district headquarters in Bijapur was sealed when the tribals began a 50km-long march with their belongings.

    The tribals were trying to reach the collector's office to hold three-day sit-in protest when they were stopped by security forces. In response, the tribals clashed with the forces, moving forward.

    “The administration is telling us to open bank accounts, which we don’t have because we are poor and live in the interior. Secondly, people who have bank accounts have to walk 40 km to reach banks. We are demanding that the tendu-patta procurement money should be given in cash,” a protester outside the collector's office told the media.

    The villagers complained that while some of them have bank accounts others are incapable of making the trek to the nearest bank.

    According to Hindustan Times daily, the state government has agreed to make the payments in cash to leaf collectors after the protest, which was launched by tribals in the Sukma, Dantewada and Bijapur districts. 

    Tendu leaf collection and related work is a major source of income for millions of tribals in Indian states which have a lot of forest cover, like Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. Each year over 1.5 million bags of tendu leaves are collected, employing 1,253,000 forest dwellers in Chhattisgarh alone.



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