When the nationwide lockdown claimed the livelihood of a large chunk of the population, villagers of Jharkhand found out a new way to earn their livelihood. They collect leaves from the forests and sell them to the forest department.Also Read - From Jharkhand To Bengal, States Impose Fresh Restrictions To Contain Covid Spread | Latest Guidelines Here

Urmila Devi of Bozhi village of Borrio block of Sahibganj district in Jharkhand along with members of her family and other villagers walks for nearly two and a half kilometres to the forest to collect leaves of the Palash tree. They make packets of the leaves and sell them to the forest department at Rs 8 per packet. Also Read - Jharkhand Lockdown: State Relaxes Restrictions; Bars, Restaurants, Multiplexes To Open With 50% Capacity | Full List of Guidelines Here

Phoolmani Soren, a resident of Tetulia village, said the forest department makes plates out of these leaves with the help of the machines available with them. Also Read - Jharkhand on HIGH ALERT After Expert Warning on Possible 3rd Covid Wave. What You Should Know

She said, “We are working for the forest department. This work has given employment to almost 20 people in this crisis. In the last three weeks, we have earned Rs 2,500-Rs 3,000 from this work.”

Women of Sakhi Mandal, a Jharkhand State Livelihood Promotion Society working under the Rural Development Department, serve food in the plates made of leaves of the Palash and Banyan trees at ‘Chief Minister Didi Kitchen’ centres. This is a unique initiative by the rural women.

Like Sahibganj, food is served in the plates made from leaves in every Chief Minister Didi Kitchen of all 194 panchayats and 10 blocks of Deoghar district.

Deputy Commissioner of Deoghar Nancy Sahay told IANS that while the work of making the plates is good for the environment, it is also providing employment.

She said, “Leaf plates are very useful in Didi Kitchen and Dal-Bhat centres in the district. So, we are making plates out of the leaves selected by the unemployed women in rural areas and using them in Didi Kitchen and Dal-Bhat centres. This is benefiting everyone. Our goal is to empower women financially.”

Sonali Modi of Radhakrishna Aajeevika Sakhi Mandal of Masanjor Panchayat of Palojori block told IANS, “Initially they started serving food in a plastic plate due to which a lot of waste was getting piled up in the village which might increase the risk of virus spread. So we thought, why shouldn’t we make leaf plates and serve food in it.”

“The plastic or thermocol plates used to cost Rs 300-Rs 400 per day. We could easily save this expense because the leaves of Palash, Banana and Banyan trees are available in the village itself,” she said.

Around 20 families in Sahibganj district come under Particulary Vulnerable Tribal Group (PVTG). The forest department makes leaf plates here for Chief Minister Didi Kitchen and around 20 PVTG families of three villages of Borrio and Mandaro blocks are helping the department in this by providing them the leaves.

In the last 25 days, every family has provided almost 250 to 300 packets of leaves to the forest department for which they have been paid Rs 8 per packet.

The leaf plates made by the forest department are sold to 301 Chief Minister Didi Kitchen in Sahibganj at 40 paise per plate.

Each family of Banjhi, Tetulia, Roldih villages involved in this work has earned Rs 2,500-Rs 3,000 in the last month.