Agartala, Dec 21 (ANI): Rashyabari is a picturesque hilly area in Tripurs's Dhalai district surrounded by forests and mainly occupied by tribals.
Chelephu Mog, a landless tribal living in a remote village is not a worried man today. Mog is not only earning a living from his own rubber garden but is also giving employment to few locals with the help of the Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council (TTAADC).
"I use to work in others fields and sometime in jhum (burn and trash method of cultivation) and had a small hut on khas (government land) land to live. Throughout the year we faced poverty and food scarcity. But those are past days. Now I work in my own rubber garden and get wages from the tribal council," says Mog.
"I am a very happy man now. I earn around rupees 5000 to 7000 per month, and will also provide employment to at least 10 youths in coming days", he added.
Balaram Reang, a retired schoolteacher, who went on to become State Jail Minister in 1998, is now busy taking care of rubber plants in his ancestral place of Muhuripur in south Tripura.
Three years from now Reang set an example by taking up rubber plantation, an activity that now fetches him over rupees 7,000 a month.
There are several other tribal success economic stories, all thanks to rubber cultivation.
"The TTAADC under the central aided Jhmia Resettlement Scheme is motivating the hill people to settle down in rubber cultivation.
The council has provided each family one hectare of land and paying wages at the rate of Rs 87 per day for developing the garden which would continue for seven years," claims executive member Radhacharan Debbarma,
The smile is returning on the faces of many in insurgency-ravaged Tripura, with an increasing number taking to rubber plantation.
But the scene was not always like this - infact there was a time when people protested against plantation of rubber tress and hundreds of hectors of rubber plantations were destroyed as they apprehended that rubber shall turn their into desert, a believe which does not have any scientific explanation.
The history of rubber plantation in Tripura dates back to the year 1963, when the state forest department initiated rubber plantation as a soil conservation method.
With the agro-climatic suitability of the plantations and their potential for producing high volumes of quality latex made the administration to further extend the effort throughout the state.
Gradually with the potential of rubber in degraded forests and the scope for permanently settling the semi-nomadic tribal jhum cultivators, as well as generation of employment for rural poor, the state government set up the Tripura Forest Department and Plantation Corporation (TFDPC) in 1976 with equity participation from the Union Environment and Forests Ministry.
Later in 1983 the Tripura Rehabilitation Plantation Corporation (TRPC) Limited was also formed in 1983, to rehabilitate tribal families.
By 2004, the TFDPC had raised rubber in 7550 hectares of land. Additionally, 2762 hectares of rubber plantation have been raised for rehabilitation of tribal shifting cultivators, scheduled castes (SC) and other backward castes (OBC).
It has also provided permanent employment for around 6500 families.
Till date TFDPC has rehabilitated 5000 tribal families. These families have a monthly earning between Rs.10,000 to 15,000 from a hectare of rubber plantation.
Again, the TRPC has raised 5094 hectares of rubber plantation rehabilitating an additional 3977 tribal families permanently.
StateTribal Welfare Minister Jitendra Choudhury said : "We are launching new schemes to draw people away from slash-and-burn practices and rubber cultivation has been the most successful one."
Meanwhile, adding to all these efforts the Rubber Board also set up its regional office in Agartala in 1979, and introduced cash subsidies for new plantations in 1980.
Originally set at Rs.10,000 for the gestation period earlier, this has been increased to Rs.50,000 per family by now.
In January 2006, with the primary objective of capacity building of various stakeholders to achieve the targeted expansion of rubber in the state "The Tripura Rubber Mission"was formed following the recommendations of former TFDPC Managing Director, V K Bahuguna.
Under the Mission around 85,000 hectares of land have been identified for rubber plantation, as the state pursues its target of 100,000 acres for the crop.
The project aims at generation of 41,200 permanent jobs through TFDPC and TRPC and another 35,000 jobs in private sectors. It also aims at permanent settlement of 30,000 tribal families on rubber.
Today Tripura, is the second largest rubber producer in the country after Kerala with 41,000 hectares of land so far brought under rubber cultivation and the northeastern state is now producing 23,000 tones rubber latex per year, is fast becoming an industrial hub in the northeast.
A rubber wood factory plant was recently set up in Tripura's Anandanagar area, which is the first in the northeast and the second largest unit in the country.
Again the county's second biggest heat resistant rubber thread manufacturing plant has been commissioned in Tripura. With an installed capacity of 5000 tonne per annum the project cost was nearly Rs 80 crore. Around 80 per cent of the total manpower needed at the unit is locals.
Locals visualize both business and employment opportunities from these new industries; moreover, hundreds of small rubber wood based factories are mushrooming throughout the state.
Addressing the media here, recently, Rubber Board chairman, Sajen Peter had said : "Rubber is a thrust sector and so area under rubber cultivation in the north-eastern region and particularly in Tripura would be doubled to make India the number one natural rubber growing country in the world."
"Future expansion and growth of natural rubber in India lies in the north-east, which is agro-climatically most suitable for rubber cultivation with an estimate of total 72,000 ectares are under rubber cultivation in the seven north-eastern states Tripura accounting for 46,600 hectares and Assam for 19,000 hectares," he added.
Natural Rubber based activities have already been declared as "Thrust Sector" because of its special significance for the state. Added benefits under the Tripura Incentive Scheme are being provided for setting up of natural rubber based industries.
The State Government is setting up one Rubber Park with technical support of Rubber Board. All common facilities would be created in that park for rubber based industries. by Pinaki Das (ANI)