Mumbai: The Maharashtra government is mulling to tie up with Yoga Guru Baba Ramdev, and sell off the excessive products derived from materials available in forests to Patanjali.
This is likely to be done in a bid to further expand the market of goods sold through the 'Van Dhan Jan Dhan' scheme.
The move has not gone down well with the opposition Congress, which claimed that products derived from forests are a national asset and that an intention to sell them to Ramdev is an indication that the government is returning Ramdev's "pre-election favours".
"We want to increase production for our 'Van Dhan Jan Dhan' scheme. A part of the goods is already being sold through retail shops. But, we do not want to let go of the chance to sell excessive products in a bulk quantity. Thus, the intention to sell them as raw products to Baba Ramdev. He has given us a buy back quantity which nobody else does," Maharashtra Forest Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar told PTI.
"For instance honey and certain medicines derived exclusively from certain trees can be sold to Baba Ramdev since these products can be manufactured on a large scale there is no market for it," he added.
Mungantiwar said he will hold a meet with Ramdev tomorrow and discuss future tie-up possibilities in the regard.
Congress spokesperson Sachin Sawant alleged that if Ramdev is brought into the picture, tribals will be exploited to benefit people who helped Prime Minister Narendra Modi cometo power (at the Centre).
"Modi government had to help Ramdev after it came to power. Intending to sell 'Van Dhan Jan Dhan' products is only a part of it. Tribals will be exploited to benefit people who helped Modi ji come to power," Sawant alleged. "Products derived from forests are a national asset and have immense potential. These products, if marketed properly, can fetch much better returns than what any Baba can give," he added.
Meanwhile, an official from the Forest department said that the total area under forests in the state is 61,579 sq km and covers around 20 per cent of Maharashtra's geographical area.
"There are 5,250 plant species available in the state, out of which 2242 are known for their medicinal properties.
Besides, we have 24 rare and threatened endangered species of plants available with us," he said.
According to the official, there are 15,500 villages in forest areas of the state and 12,517 Joint Forest Management Committees.