Launched in 2018, the Van Dhan Vikas Yojana (VDKY) entailed marketing of minor forest produce (MFP) by tribal communities of India and promotion of value addition for raising their income standards. The programme is being implemented through the Tribal Cooperative Marketing Development Federation of India Limited (TRIFED) which provides end-to-end solutions to tribal MFP collection centers.

The Van Dhan Vikas Kendra includes 20 members & 15 Kendras form 1 cluster. By the beginning of April 2021, thousands of Van Dhan Vikas Kendra Clusters have come up with estimated 6,67,200 members. The visionary programme has earned credible success in implementation, especially in the North- Eastern states. The basic purpose of the programme is to support the livelihood of the tribal indigenous people of India while promoting entrepreneurship. TRIFED will act as the buffer between market and tribal clusters while simultaneously encouraging greater direct market linkages.

To keep up the encouraging results, TRIFED has launched “Sankalp se Siddhi” – Village & Digital Connect Drive which is a 100-day initiative where 150 teams including State implementation bodies will identify suitable Van Dhan Kendras for more clusters. TRIFED aims to achieve 200 crore Sales in the coming year through this setup. To make these clusters more commercial and productive, TRIFED is aligning the scheme through multi-department cooperation for integration with national and state production hubs and rural development initiatives.

VDKY is a massive grassroot program which holds the potential to transform India’s tribal zones and usher in a revolution. Value addition through market access and skilling to market MFPs hold the potential to triple or quadruple the incomes of tribal collectors. India has a massive tribal population spread out in almost all states constituting around 8.6% of its total population according to the 2011 census. The scheme is being implemented in 27 states of India.

The benefits of the scheme have wide-ranging implications starting from augmenting human development indicators to reducing the income disparity. Since independence, India has adopted various affirmative actions to raise the standard of livelihood for its indigenous people.
The crux of India’s tribal policy was laid down by the five principles for policy regarding Tribes given by its first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. One of the principles was that “teams of tribal should be trained in the work of administration and development.” Nehru was the founding member of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), which has played an important role in shaping the geopolitical approach of the Global South countries. NAM has discussed the issues of the indigenous people and empowerment of the backward tribes since many countries in the Global South have significant tribal communities at various stages of development. This calls for a relook at the importance of India’s brilliant effort to integrate its forest-dwelling tribes into modern economy in the context of NAM countries.

Multilateral cooperation has been the hallmark of India’s relations with the world. It has never shied away from broad interlinking its objectives with requirements of the world. India should propose the Van Dhan Vikas Scheme (Forest Wealth Development Programme) as a model for the NAM countries to develop their indigenous people. The learning from other such programmes in various NAM countries coupled with Indian experience can prove to be beneficial for the society at large.

The NAM countries host the primary tribal populations of human civilization. It constitutes almost the entire African continent which in itself is a miraculous diversity of almost 3000 tribes. The most significant impact of the success of the Indian VDKY will be on the adoption of similar programmes by African countries. When it comes to formulating socio-economic policies, India forms the perfect case-study. Like Africa, India has 645 tribes with 75 particularly vulnerable tribal groups. India has tribal societies living at various stages of development ranging from Stone Age Sentinelese people to modern integrated tribes in Northern India. The complexity in designing a flexible and adaptable policy to champion the cause of indigenous population is huge and NAM countries should focus on cooperation to meet the challenges. After all, the founding member of NAM, Nehru said “We should not over administer these areas or overwhelm them with a multiplicity of schemes. We should rather work through, and not in rivalry to, their own social and cultural institutions”.

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