In the latest set of lockdown relaxations, the Ministry of Home Affairs has added the collection, harvesting and processing of minor forest produce to the list of activities that will be permitted.
The additional directives from the Home Ministry were issued on Thursday.
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Minor forest produce includes non-timber items such as bamboo and other grasses, edible or useful roots, seeds, fruits, flowers and plants. A number of people from scheduled tribes and other forest dwelling communities depend on the collection and sale of such items for their livelihood.
Reports from some forest areas show that police personnel have been preventing forest dwellers from leaving their homes to collect minor forest produce due to the restrictions.
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The new MHA guidelines have also expanded the types of plantations that will be permitted to resume activities with half their workforce from April 20 onwards. Earlier, tea, coffee and rubber plantations were given exemptions from the lockdown. Now, bamboo, cocoa, arecanut, and spices plantations — most of which are clustered in the southern States — will be added to the list, along with their harvesting, processing, packaging, sale and marketing.
Cooperative credit societies, which are crucial to provide crop loans to farmers, will be exempted. Non- banking financial institutions, including housing finance companies and microfinance institutions, will also be allowed to function with a bare minimum of staff, the guidelines said.
The Home Ministry also added to the list of construction activities in rural areas which will be exempted from the lockdown from April 20. They now include construction projects related to water supply and sanitation, as well as the installation of power transmission lines and telecom optic fibre and cable.