Livelihood, especially of the weaker sections of the society, remains one of the top priorities of the Naveen Patnaik-led Biju Janata Dal (BJD) government. During the COVID-19 epidemic, when lockdowns had to be enforced across the country several times, the Chief Minister had taken special care to ensure that daily wage earners did not suffer on account of the loss of jobs. Migrant workers returning to the state during the lockdown period were not only provided with proper food and healthcare facilities but also job opportunities matching their skills.
Although the COVID-19 situation has improved significantly across the country and things are almost back to normal in Odisha, the BJD government continues to focus on providing livelihood opportunities to the poor as they still need support. Among the many initiatives being planned on this front is the decision to implement the ‘Vanya Silk’ programme for engaging forest-dwelling communities in tasar sericulture activities.
A tripartite agreement was recently signed between Handlooms and Forest departments, and the Central Silk Board of the Ministry of Textiles in this regard. The partnership will pave the way for the implementation of ‘Odisha Tasar Silk Development Project’, under which tasar sericulture work will be taken up. Vanya (wild or non-mulberry) silk includes tasar, eri and muga silks. Odisha is one of the largest tasar growing states of the country after Bihar, Jharkhand, MP and Chhattisgarh.
Sources said that the five-year-long project will lead to livelihood creation for the members of Vana Surakhya Samitis (VSS) through sericulture and it will create a wider scope for sustainable development. Women, too, will benefit from this initiative.
Tasar worm rearing and cocoon production will be taken up by the forest department through VSS in 18 forest divisions of the state. The sericulture wing of Handlooms department will provide technical support for tasar favouring host tree plantation and take up the marketing of tasar cocoon through 59 primary tasar rearer cooperative societies (PTRCS). The Silk Board will support the programme with funds.
The initiative is just an example of how new livelihood opportunities can be created through the right kind of cooperation between the state and the Centre. There are several areas where the state has resources in the shape of raw material and also the necessary expertise and manpower support, but it cannot move forward due to a lack of funds. Central intervention in such areas can work wonders. With the Centre extending financial support to state projects, both sides can benefit while livelihood opportunities can be created for lakhs of people.
It is significant to note that forest dwellers have remained a neglected lot for a long time. There are hardly any schemes offering them livelihood support. It is good that the government led by Naveen Patnaik has taken upon itself the responsibility of providing them with livelihood by helping them learn new skills.