Mahua Mur­murs

CM hard- pressed to scotch ru­mours that the in­tox­i­cat­ing flower will be banned

India Today - - STATES - By Rahul Noronha

Amid all the talk of im­po­si­tion of pro­hi­bi­tion in the state ahead of the as­sem­bly polls in 2018, there’s been a grow­ing buzz that the tribal ar­eas will also lose their tra­di­tional rights to brew spirits at home. Well aware how such spec­u­la­tion can da­m­age the rul­ing BJP’s elec­toral prospects, CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan has been forced to hastily clar­ify.

Ru­mours had it that the gov­ern­ment planned to cut all the mahua trees to en­force pro­hi­bi­tion in the state. Tribal house­holds in Mad­hya Pradesh use the mahua flower to make flour, tra­di­tional medicines and kheer with milk. But it is most com­monly used to con­coct a pun­gent al­co­holic brew that is a sta­ple in the vil­lages. State laws that pro­scribe brew­ing or dis­till­ing al­co­hol at home have for the long­est time ex­empted such use of mahua by the tribal com­mu­ni­ties. So when Chouhan promised pro­hi­bi­tion dur­ing his on­go­ing Nar­mada ya­tra, he set off panic amid the tribal com­mu­ni­ties. The CM knew he had to scotch th­ese ru­mours, and fast. “It is not true,” he told crowds at a sub­se­quent leg of the Nar­mada Seva Ya­tra in tribal dis­trict Mandla in eastern MP. “I am, in fact, go­ing to plant more mahua trees. I know that you (tribal fam­i­lies) use the flow­ers to make lad­doo, kheer and medicines,” the CM told them, even promis­ing a Rs 30 per kg sup­port price for mahua flow­ers. Sig­nif­i­cantly, though, Chouhan chose to gloss over the more heady uses for it. The chief min­is­ter’s clar­i­fi­ca­tion has yet to trickle down to re­mote tribal vil­lages like Ranchha Dobha in Umaria dis­trict. “We hear that they will cut all the mahua trees, and that wor­ries us,” said tribal res­i­dent Sarju Baiga. Tribal com­mu­ni­ties are spread across sev­eral ar­eas in the state with a ma­jor­ity in western and eastern MP. In­deed, 47 of the 230 as­sem­bly seats in the state are re­served for trib­als. Is it any won­der, then, that Chouhan is con­cerned?

VIKRAM SHARMA

I DIDN’T SAY THAT CM Chouhan in Mandla dur­ing the Nar­mada Seva Ya­tra

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