Occupation of collecting palm wine – Risking it all on the tree!!!

Occupation of collecting palm wine – Risking it all on the tree!!!

India is an agrarian economy Most people live in rural areas and depends on professions and artisanship based on agriculture and farming One such profession is Toddy Tapping Occupation of Collecting Palm Wine In the occupation, a toddy tapper risks it all on a tree which is atleast 50 to 60 ft

India is an agrarian economy. Most people live in rural areas and depends on professions and artisanship based on agriculture and farming. One such profession is “Toddy Tapping” (Occupation of Collecting Palm Wine). In the occupation, a toddy tapper risks it all on a tree which is atleast 50 to 60 ft. above groundand collects the palm wine to make his livelihood. “Toddy Tapping” is an occupation that feeds many families in India. Formany generations, this is a family source of income. Most newer generations and children of Toddy Tappers are venturing into professional careersslowly as they get better education. The risk is high in this profession and income to feed a family is going down in this traditional occupation. The employment generated from this very trade can be comparable to an industry sector. Tragedies to the sole bread winner in this occupation could make the whole family suffer long lasting consequences

Recently, a 42 year old manRampelliSambaiah from Gudur (Mahbubabad District, Telangana India)struck by tragedy on the morning of June 9th, 2018. While collecting palm wine on the tree he passed way due to cardiac arrest after a slip.The reason could be the drizzling rain on that day andalso the heavy rain for days before the incident happened.

This unfortunate incident was caused by slipping at the very top of the tree. His whole body turned upside down. There was a nearby mechanic shed near the tree where this happened.They heard him say “Amma” as it unfolded.By the time they could reach and help him he was already unconscious and dead. Talking to some people in the same profession I found that when people are upside down, it is nearly impossible to help them. Since toddy tappers carry very sharp knives on their back, the person helping could risk getting hurt themselves. These kinds of incidents happens more when it rains.

The profession itself is so laborious and intensive work that most people working in this job has less chance of having heart problems. However, in incidents like where slips and trips cancause body dangling upside down sends the body into shock and eventually leading to cardiac arrest.

Rains bring lot of festivities for every farmer. However, rain can bring havoc and death in case of the Toddy Tappers. In just the month of June 2018, three people diedin my district alone (Warangal, Telangana). In a year in Telangana,an estimated 250 people die due to the same reason. There is a lot that the government can do to support this traditional profession and also to provide protection to this employment generating profession. Recently, we saw a lot of great government measures from Telangana government to protect all farmers which includes remuneration of Rupees 4000 per acre, subsidy on agriculture machinery and free electricity to the farmers.

In a similar way, to help the toddy tapper families and the people in this profession, governmentcan make some measures like providing the same benefit that farmers get to the toddy tappers. Also, provide at least 10 acres land forevery village just for the sake of growing hybrid palm trees that are not too risky for toddy tappers to climb. These initiatives for Toddy Tappers will be in line with the initiatives to provide employment and protectionfor many.

In an another case, a 95 year old man is still climbing trees to collect palm wine to support himself as his children have abandoned him and not supporting him in this final years of his life. The only employment source that he knows to feed himself is this occupation which he did for years to get his until his three daughters got married who went on their own.

Recently, there are many new government initiatives for the revival of the traditional occupations like fisheries (Govt. allotted 1000 crores), shepherds (Govt. allotted 5000cr). The same way the Toddy Tapper community needs to have some benefits in support of this profession which is employment for 3 lakh families in Telangana.

Currently, there are some financial death benefits for people facing the death in this profession but unfortunately certain people are not covered under this scheme. For instance, a recently deceased toddy tapper will not get exgratia due to the Tribal act (1/17) which does not authorize toddy tappers to receive financial exgratia when climbing trees in the tribal areas. My humble request is to reconsider this act and consider this case as a special situation and provide death benefit to the family under humanitarian grounds until the act is changed and relooked at. In thisparticular case, I have taken a personal initiative to create a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for this familyto help the family of the deceased for livelihood for next years without disturbance in education and to provide financial stability. We collectively raised close to 2 lakhs using this campaign for helped the family however so many families need help. GofundMe is an online campaign to collect money for any cause.

Studies has shown that there are many benefits of palm wine and the fruit produced by palm trees. This occupation is only next to agriculture and should be considered as an agriculture business. The government needs to take up the research of the palm wine benefits just like any other agricultural product. Some of this resarch should be taken up under public-private partnership.

Most dangerous jobs pay well in the current world whereas in this profession pay is shrinking and risk stays the same which is very high risk. Every day is a new day and the toddy tapper wakes up, climbs palm trees and collects palm wine to put dinner on the plate for his family. This tradition continues until new generation opts out.

By- Avinash Puli

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