Nirvana: Viagra, plus a glass of bubbly

 ….traditional herbs…huge industry worth Rs 9,000 crore..Naxal- ridden district of Bastar in
Chhattisgarh…..champagne and a local form of Viagra….
after you eat it for three or four months, that your wrinkles have
lifted…..Tribals have lived longer and
better ….using the abundant herbs and
roots to stay vital and virile.
…..

………
Here is (hopefully) a bright idea. Grant safe passage and visiting fellowships to Maoists crouching in the jungles of Bastar (and other parts of central India) to travel to Mecca (China) and see for themselves how/why it is “glorious to be rich.” 
………….


Cheap talk you say. How can the poor tribals ever hope to get rich. Here is another bright idea- by selling herbal Viagra to the Chinese!!!
………


In turn, the Maoists can persuade the Chinese to not destroy all the tigers and rhinos and other wildlife in the search for the perfect penile care solution. What a win-win-win situation will that be. 
…….
And the best part of all this is that we have a wise, witch-doctor to show us the way, a Tripathi Brahmin no less (one who has memorized three Vedas). Long time back the denizens of the Hindu Rashtra had shown us the divine path of the Kamasutra, now with natural Viagra (plus a glass of Bastar Champagne) will surely come un-natural bliss. Jai, Raja-ram ji ki Jai!!!
………………….
Mythologised, problematised, proselytised, traditional herbs are a
national (and international) obsession and a huge industry worth around
Rs 9,000 crore, according to National Medicinal Plant Board of India
estimates. From the verdant, Naxal- ridden district of Bastar in
Chhattisgarh where Bastar champagne (a rare beverage made from the sulfi
tree) and tasty fruits called kurlu are found, a
much-publicised local form of Viagra (a rare indigenous variety of safed
musli) has made a name for itself—through a man who has been
translating the bounties of the jungle for more than a decade.



….
“They call me ‘The Father of Safed Musli’,” says 50-year-old Rajaram
Tripathi, a strapping figure in kurta and jeans, pale and
Brahminical-looking in publicity shots from a couple of decades ago, now
tanned and very much a son of the soil. “It combats diabetes, and
rejuvenates your entire system, reverses metabolism.

….
People will slowly
say, after you eat it for three or four months, that your wrinkles have
lifted.” Big talk? Local Tribals are said to have lived longer and
better on traditional health practices, using the abundant herbs and
roots at their disposal to stay vital and virile.




“I felt like Alice in Wonderland,” Tripathi says of his first
experience with the jungle’s potent flora, when we meet him on one of
his 10 farms. We walk through long, vertiginous rows of trees in his
ethno-medico forest, stopping to pluck some sarpagandha (Rauvolfia serpentina,
used to create blood pressure drugs) off the plant; look at a velvety-
leaved plant which cures stomach problems; identify annatto (Bixa orellena), richest source of vitamin E. He rattles off Latin names like they are actresses’ names or stock market darlings.




Tripathi, a bank worker turned agricultural entrepreneur and Bastar
boy born and raised, has turned a cottage industry with one farm into a
10 acre, Rs 40-crore-a-year (Rs 10 crore domestic) herbal empire in
Kondagaon district: the aptly named Maa Danteshwari Herbal Products
(MDHP), extending as far as Ethiopia, Gulf countries and the
Netherlands. (The Tribal nature goddess Danteshwari is worshipped in the
area.) Functioning as a collective, MDHP employs 300 Tribal families
and works with around 22,000 farmers over 1,000 acres.



….
It all began with a rare variety of safed musli (Chlorophytum borivilianum),
a herb with lanceolate leaves found in natural forests from east Assam
to Gujarat and abundant here, its roots used medicinally as a source of
virility (through the saponins and alkaloids they contain), setting him
on a path of 17 years of “organic herbal medicinal and aromatic
farming”.



….
“The biodiversity of this place is so great, endangered species thrive here. There are 60 varieties of safed musli,
of which one endangered species grows here [MDB-13 and 14]. I only work
with this one,” says the entrepreneur, who has taken bare land back
into the folds of the jungle. “I got organic certification from Germany,
and Japanese agriculture [authorities] gave me certification that
Ecocert [an inspection and certification body established in France in
1991] was not providing at that time.” The products rely on natural pest
controls like neem and spiders, and feature ‘gold’ varieties.



….
Winning the Royal Bank of Scotland Earth Hero Award in 2012 and
various national prizes such as the Desh Seva Ratna Award, Tripathi has
been honoured by former President Abdul Kalam and has met the BJP’s LK
Advani and Rajnath Singh, his self-devised PR package proclaims. Trained
in natural ingredients in Rotterdam and invited to speak at nature
expos in Dubai, participating in herbal trade conferences everywhere
from Jhansi to Japan, this single-minded businessman farmer is
constantly at work.



….
Officials and local media in Chhattisgarh’s capital Raipur applaud
Tripathi’s industry not just on its own merit, but because it offers an
option to Tribals trapped in India’s so-called ‘red corridor’, even if
they are critical of his PR. For, not much has changed in the way of
infrastructure for Tribals in the last decade or so; rampant Naxalite
guerilla warfare gathers many of the disaffected into its grip, seeking
control of their lands.



….
“Bastar has historically been an under- served area in terms of
health services. Kondagaon district contains some of the most remote and
forested areas in the district,” says Sulakshana Nandi, a healthcare
worker of the Jan Swasthya Abhiyan, the Indian circle of the People’s
Health Movement (a worldwide movement for health and equitable
development), who has worked for 12 years in this area. “People are poor
and are rapidly losing control of natural resources like forests that
they have depended upon for generations. This exacerbates the poor
status of health in that area.” Tripathi’s effort is one of the few to
bring Tribals together in a sustainable collective asserting their
connection to the land.




“Naxalites are the excuse for much that doesn’t happen in Bastar,” he
says, speaking to media coverage around violence in this region of
about 10,000 sq km. ‘This is the only sustainable solution for Bastar
and other [similar] regions,’ he says in his mission statement. It cites
the 6,000 to 7,000 Indian medicinal plants used in Ayurveda, Siddha,
Unani and Homoeopathy practices; about 960 species in trade, 178 of them
annually consumed in excess of 100 tonnes for an output of about Rs
10,000 crore, exports being upwards of Rs 1,000 crore. (World figures
are projected to reach trillions by 2050). Of course, violence is
reported daily and there are unexploded bombs people fear discovering,
but this doesn’t mean people shouldn’t visit this beautiful part of the
world, he opines, hinting at a resort in the works.


One of seven brothers, Tripathi and his extended family, 40 or so of
them, are all farmers. He was a State Bank of India (SBI) probationary
officer in 1989, a college professor in the past, he says. “I had lots
of jobs. After three years, a promotion was waiting for me at SBI. I was
a good officer, there were good career prospects. People said, ‘People
are committing suicide in agriculture and you are joining?’ But when I
was at the bank, I saw the economic viability of krishi
(agriculture). If you take the price of land, you have to classify this
as expenses. And if there is debit, there is credit.” He chose the
Grameen Bank model and studied 17 conventional crops, showing the
results to National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD).
Loans resulted, and steady if slow growth.




Every year, 20 million tonnes of produce is stored in various storage
sheds on Tripathi’s 10 farms; his processing unit is 100,000 sq ft.
Agriculture Information, an online and print agrarian resource, mentions
Tripathi’s work with varieties of lemon grass (MDL-14) and stevia (MDS-
13 and 14) as well, and boasts of Tripathi’s tie-ups with multinational
companies. 

His Ethiopia project is in its first phase: 14,000 acres for
high-value herbal farming, with the Lootah group of companies. Tie-ups
with American and European companies are in the works, he says.
A
guestbook is signed by visitors from the US, Japan and other countries,
not to mention countless visitors from all over India, usually in large
groups; the company provides consultancy services to corporate entities
that want to develop high value herbal farms.
A tissue culture lab
continues his experimental laboratory work; species like Guggul (Commifora wightii) and Vacha (Acorus calamus) were commercialised here.



….
“There were 15 years of mistakes,” says Tripathi, who was born in
Kaknar, Jagdalpur, to a family which suffered the misfortunes farmers
are vulnerable to. “Tribals have one guru with 20 students; I had 20
gurus.” Abundantly educated— he has earned a BSc and an LLB in corporate
law, MAs in Economics, Hindi and History, an Ayurved Ratna from
Allahabad, an Ayurved Bhishgacharya from the World Academy of Ayurved
(WAA)—he seems endlessly ambitious. His small bedroom, in a humble yet
relatively affluent home decorated with Bastar’s ubiquitous wrought iron
work, is lined with books. “Those books I have read,” he says, pointing
to shelves of academic- looking botanical books in Hindi, “and those I
am going to read”—another section of faded covers.



….
“He was top in everything,” says wife Shipra, who had a “love cum
arranged” marriage with the man she met at university. A Tribal of the
Kamar community (Gonds are also populous here), she doesn’t call her
husband by name, like many here, though her children are studying in
Raipur and they have some of the trappings of modernity: computer,
phone, rough terrain car. Tripathi is saved as ‘Father ji’ on her phone.
Part of MDHP’s management, Shipra is secretary of Samagra Adivasi
Medicinal Plant Development Association (SAMPDA), a green NGO Tripathi
founded ‘for total herbal revolution’, and involved with local women’s
groups. Except for her features, her Tribal identity seems vestigial,
like with many here; only older women go without sari blouses and bear
tattoos.



….
Tripathi has raised several other commanders in his green army. He
says he employs five experts who have studied medicinal plants at the
doctorate level or are biotech engineers, 14 marketing experts and 10
managers. When more manpower is needed, all members pitch in to make up a
workforce of around 1,000 people. “We don’t have a fixed salary,” he
explains. “We distribute weekly or monthly honorariums to all our team
members, including me, as per our work and responsibilities; from Rs
6,000 to 10,000 monthly. ‘Employees’ is not a suitable word. We say
‘associate tribal families’; 1,500 people are getting their livelihood
from this farming.”



….
Dasmati Netam, from Keyoti 10 km away, leads a production team; an
ambitious 36-year-old woman, she is head of MDHP’s All Tribal Women
groups and President of SAMPDA. Unlike the other Tribals, known for
their reticence, she has studied outside the state and speaks up often
about her work, taking us home for rice wine. As the apparent leader of
her village, she exudes confidence. “I’d like to go outside again,” she
says, already seeming to have left its crude wooden fences behind.



……
What is Tripathi’s biggest challenge, aside from the need for more
land? “Marketing. In India, until Amitabh Bachchan or Aamir Khan eats
these things, people don’t.” Indeed, his main marketing platform is
Central Herbal Agro Marketing Federation of India (CHAMF-INDIA); a far
cry from Organic India domain. “And the next step is backward linkage,”
he continues. “Our fight is with middlemen. Now we have negotiation
power—ashwamgandha , for example, no one will sell less than
100 kg. If they do, we will blacklist them. 

We have to control the
market. If everyone grows safed musli, who will buy it?”

Tripathi is set to launch ‘certified organic food supplements’ in
select towns of Chhattisgarh before taking these to other parts of
India. He projects sales of Rs 6 crore for these ‘value-added’ products.
His teas and powders may look a little too rustic for the urbane
consumer, but they are tasty and seem to find takers among the believers
they are aimed at; the sales figure may well be realised.



….
With success, however, has come criticism. MDHP’s annual growth rate
may be upwards of 14 per cent, but there are rumours of loans that were
defaulted on, say sources in Chhattisgarh who feel he is encroaching on ‘jungle wala zameen’
(forest land); Tripathi refutes this, saying he paid the loan off two
months ago. Tribals who have farmed for many years can get patta
(legal registration papers), but he is not one, say others. Yet,
Tribals may have found their most viable leader in the bank worker who
put his hands to work on the land of his birth.



….
In his mission statement, Tripathi offers 10 acres for a pilot
conservation project across neighboring states. Will the rumble spread
through his jungle? Time may prove harsh, but for now he is effusive.
During our walk, he spots a long- tailed bird and we crouch till it
takes off, feathers streaming. He asks us to close our eyes for two
minutes, and while the gesture is stagey, the sound of green is
unadulterated. “Take two deep breaths,” he says, beaming.

……..

Link: http://www.openthemagazine.com/article/nation/lord-of-the-jungle-and-the-magic-potion

…….

regards

0