Koraput (Odisha): Thousands of kendu leaf pluckers under Jeypore kendu leaf division are yet to receive their bonus announced by Odisha Government in 2014 as they have no bank accounts.
Officials said they were unable to pay the bonus of 30 paise per kerry (40 leaves) to 24,163 pluckers as they did not hold bank accounts.
"According to the government guidelines, the bonus amount has to be paid to the pluckers through bank accounts," said Ganeswar Behera, Divisional Forest Officer (kendu leaf division), Jeypore.
"We asked the pluckers several times to open bank accounts, but to no avail," he said.
According to officials, the state government has allocated Rs 3.92 crore for 77,946 pluckers under the division. While the department has disbursed Rs 2.38 crore bonus among 53,783 pluckers, the remaining Rs 1.45 crore of 24,163 pluckers are lying with the department for a year.
"We do not have any bank at our village for which we are unable to open an account. To open a bank account we have to travel around 40 km to reach Kalimela. Apart from the travel cost, it is time consuming. Hence, the government should pay our bonus in cash," said Sukra Madkami, a kendu leaf plucker of Malkangiri.
Officials said the kendu leaf pluckers under the division were being engaged for a month between April and May for plucking leaves of plants spread over 510 villages in Koraput, Malakangiri and Rayagada districts.
"Despite our repeated reminders, around 24,000 pluckers are not opening bank accounts. So we have decided to seek permission from the state government to allow us distribute the bonus through cash among the beneficiaries," Behera said.
Officials admitted that for not having bank accounts, the number of pluckers in 2015 declined in comparison to the previous year. While in 2014 as many as 77,946 pluckers were engaged, it came down to 66,381 in 2015.
However, kendu leaf collection under the division has increased from 40,000 quintal in 2014 to 45,000 quintal in 2015. "We have surpassed our target by 14 per cent. This is the highest production for Jeypore division since 1972," Behera said.