Mizoram shows why centre’s palm-oil plans will be disastrous for farmers, environment

An oil palm plantation near Dampa Tiger Reserve, in Mizoram’s Mamit district. Mizoram’s experiment with oil palm cultivation has led to a host of impoverished farmers, and unaccountable companies. TR Shankar Raman / Wikimedia Commons
28 September, 2021

On 15 August 2021, marking India’s 75th Independence Day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed a crowd-packed Red Fort. “Just as we are making sure that no person or no class should be left behind in the development journey of society, similarly no part of the country, no corner of the country, should be left behind,” he told the crowd. “Development should be all-round, development should be all-pervasive, development should be all-inclusive.” Speaking of possible initiatives, he said, “There is a huge potential in the fields of tourism, adventure sports, organic farming, herbal medicine, and oil palm in the North East. We have to fully harness this potential and make it a part of the development journey of the country.”

Three days later, a national scheme on palm oils was approved by the union cabinet. Palm oil is an edible oil derived from the fruits of oil palms, that are native to west Africa, and are widely grown across Southeast Asia. Modi announced the decision in a tweet: “Today’s Cabinet decision on National Mission on Edible Oils-Oil Palm will be a game-changer when it comes to helping oil palm farmers and creating an Atma Nirbhar Bharat”—referring to a plan to make India economically self-reliant. “The Northeast, and Andaman and Nicobar Islands will specially benefit from this.” Later, in a press briefing, Narendra Singh Tomar, the union minister of agriculture and farmers’ welfare, said the cabinet had approved Rs 11,040 crore for the National Mission on Edible Oils—Oil Palm. The scheme aims to increase cultivation of oil palm trees to one million hectares from the current 3,50,000 hectares, and to achieve an oil-production rate of 2.8 million tonnes by 2030.

On 31 August, Tomar alongside G Kishan Reddy, the minister for the development of the north east region, held a meeting with the chief ministers of the Northeast states. In it, Reddy mentioned that the states have an important role to play in the success of the National Mission on Edible Oils, or NMEO-OP, and that Mizoram has had a successful journey in the cultivation of oil palm, which could set an example for the other states.

Both oil palm farmers and environmentalists from Mizoram told me that, unlike the positive picture Reddy painted, the state’s experiment with oil palm has been a failure for everyone both farmers and companies. Several farmers told me that oil palm, which is an incredibly nutrient and water intensive crop, has left fields and the surrounding forests infertile. Many farmers said they made absolutely no profit in the decade and a half since the crop was first planted, most often because companies that were legally required to buy their produce did not, often because of poor road access. The farmers also accused the companies of failing to pay the compensation stipulated by Mizoram’s laws. Mizoram’s experiment with oil palm cultivation has led to a host of impoverished farmers, and unaccountable companies. Environmental activists and farmers told me that they feared the NMEO-OP would yield the same results, albeit at a much larger scale.

In 2004, Mizoram had started an oil palm development program with the same enthusiasm that Modi currently showed this project. That year, the union ministry of agriculture issued the administrative approval for oil palm cultivation under the Integrated Scheme of Oil Seeds, Pulses, Oil palm and Maize. The programme was implemented with its costs being shared between the union and state governments. That December, the state assembly passed the Mizoram Oil Palm (Regulation of Production and Processing) Act. Oil palm plantations have since been operational in seven districts—Aizawl, Kolasib, Mamit, Serchhip, Lunglei, Lawngtlai and Siaha.

According to data collected by the state’s agriculture department, the potential area for oil palm cultivation is 66,791 hectares, and the area currently covered is only 26,679 hectares. The state currently has the largest area under oil palm cultivation in the Northeast, but the effects it has had on farmers has been far from positive. Ten farmers told me that they had given up on oil palm cultivation because of consistent losses and a complete lack of transportation or markets for their harvest. More alarmingly, several farmers told me about the dangerous environmental impact that oil palm cultivation had had on their fields and the surrounding region. 

Around twelve kilometres from Aizawl city, you will find a sprawling farm that 82-year-old H Tlanglawma purchased in 1971. An ardent farmer, he often left the comfort of his home to spend his time in a temporary thatched hut built in the middle of his farm. When the government introduced the oil palm development program, Tlanglawma thought it would be a good opportunity and acquired seeds for his farm. He planted 300 seedlings in 2008. Today, he has sold the land after getting zero profits from the plantation for nearly a decade. “In the first year, after it bore fruit, I sold it and got income of Rs 7,000. But the next year, the company that the government had said would buy our fruit withdrew. I was forced to sell my land.”

His son, H Vanlalruata elaborated. “We planted 300 trees, they bore fruit but when we harvested it, no one wanted to buy it even though it was very cheap,” he told me. “The agriculture department provided us the seeds and the government had assured us that they would provide a market and that they would purchase the fresh fruit bunches”—commonly called FFB—“even if it meant that they had to discard it, but it did not happen. My aged father was very discouraged.”

Tlanglawma and his son had had to make major changes to their farm to grow oil palms. “It needed a huge area of land, so we lost many of our crops and cut down our fruit trees,” Vanlalruata said. “On top of that it is very hard to uproot the palm trees even if we want to plant something else. With much struggle, we uprooted around four to five trees. Even if the government plans to extend palm-tree plantations, everyone is already discouraged. We had to sell the land because we had lost the profitable trees that used to be there.”

He told me that farmers in other districts did not lose their farms, but were equally disenchanted with oil palm. “In Mamit and Kolasib, farmers have converted their palm tree plantations to betel nut plantations because the present and previous governments have not acted as per their promise,” he said. “This mission has failed.”

Zohmingmawii Sailo, a doctoral researcher on the adoption of oil palm in Kolasib district, told me that Vanlalruata’s experience is common. “I do not think it is a good idea to have any more plantations than what we have currently,” she told me. “I think from all those who have palm plantations, maybe 20 percent might be successful. I travelled to eight villages and the people who live near the palm mill profit, with some of them getting 13 lakhs in a year, but in the other villages, there is very little profit. The government was not able to fulfill its goal of making this project a success.”

Chawngthanmawia, a 48-year-old farmer from Mamit district, has faced the same problems as Vanlalruata. He told me that the topography of Mizoram, and much of the hills in the Northeast, were adverse to oil palm cultivation. “In 2006, I was one of the first ones to plant palm tree seedlings in my farm when the government introduced it,” he said. “We even went for training but now, the majority of us have given up. I planted around 1,000 trees. Initially subsidies were provided for the plantation, which included funds for terraces and tanks, so a lot of people cleared areas for plantations in steep places.”

“But the fruits cannot be easily harvested or transported in such places,” he told me. “If there are plans to extend the palm oil plantations now, there is no use of doing it unless it is done in plain areas. In steep places, when people try to harvest the fruits, it rolls down the hill. In a land like Mizoram, there are very few places that are suitable for palm trees. Ideally it should be in the plains where tractors can enter the place and easily transport the fruit bunches.” Chawngthanmawia said that in Mizoram, the only farmers who saw large profits were those in the plains, or those who had converted rice paddies into oil palm groves. Sailo told me that topographic factors were a major constraint faced by most of the farmers she studied. “This slope condition not only created havoc to the farmers during land preparation, but also during the management and harvesting of the crops,” she said. “Site selection is one of the biggest constraints.”

“I was very excited and believed that it would get me a good profit,” Chawngthanmawia said. “The FFB harvest came to around 30 quintals the first time the trees bore fruit. But when I calculated the expenditure, the transport, the hired labour fees, I found that after adding up the amount it had taken to transport it to the collection centre, there was zero profit, the expenses were equal with the cash inflow. I regret that I did it. Till today, we have not seen any profit.”

When I asked government officials about the geographical untenability of oil palm cultivation in the hills, they largely blamed farmers. “Oil palm cannot be planted in any place that is higher than 900 metres above sea level,” R Vanlalchhuanga, the deputy director of Mizoram’s agriculture department, told me. “Even in the beginning the department advised the farmers to plant it in areas that are easily accessible, as transportation may be a problem, but there were many who like to follow their own way. So, some farmers planted it in far corners hoping for good results which resulted in transportation problems. The plantations are scattered so we cannot reach all the plantations.” Several farmers said that this argument was absurd because it was the government that had first encouraged the growth of oil palms, and given them subsidies to continue cultivation—even in inaccessible regions—with assurances that their produce would be bought.

Other oil palm farmers told me the crop had reduced the fertility of their fields and depleted water resources at a frightening rate. A 27-year-old farmer from Kolasib district, who wished to remain anonymous, told me he was one of the first ones to join the oil palm development program. “We planted around 1000 saplings,” he said. “We faced so much difficulty with water and oil palm requires a lot of space, at least 30 feet in spacing. It spoils the soil fertility. I am from an agriculture background, so I don’t suggest anybody grows it. In our hometown, I could count maybe two or three people who profited from their palm tree plantations. It is not good because it needs a lot of water, it would extinguish our water resources which we need for seasonal crops.”

A 31-year-old who comes from a farming family in Lawngtlai district, who wished to remain anonymous, told me that oil palm cultivation had disastrous consequences on his farm. In 2010, his family had planted over 200 seedlings on their two hectare farm in Lawngtlai district, “It has destroyed our land and has damaged our other crops,” he said. “Around six years after we planted the trees, the nearby fruit trees and crops such as pineapple and lemon cannot produce fruit anymore. There is nowhere for us to sell these palm oil fruits, and the tree is growing rapidly. We are currently thinking of ways to get rid of the trees but even doing that is quite hard as the trees are very big. Even if we burn it, it does not die.”

C Zohmingsangi, a research scholar from the department of environmental science at Mizoram University, explained why the 31-year-old’s trees could have stopped bearing fruits. “Oil palms are a nutrient exhaustive heavy feeder,” she said. “Soil fertility degrades after ten years of growing it. Since most farmers here use fertilisers to compensate, we are approaching environmental-pollution risk, especially on soil and water. Many of the greatest impacts result from the initial process of land clearance and preparation, clearing of forest lands with fire kills seeds, flora and fauna inhabiting the area. Oil palm plantation as we know needs a much wider space than other crops, hence, forest cover of the state is declining drastically. It also leads to the loss of many vulnerable and endangered species.”

Rituraj Phukan, an environmental activist from Assam, told me that the environmental impact of oil palms was already clear from Southeast Asia where the tree is widely grown. “The environmental impacts of palm oil have been well documented. People have seen the devastating impacts on biodiversity across the Southeast Asian countries,” he said. “The loss of the habitat of orangutans and the dramatic decline in population goes alongside the rise of the palm oil production in these countries. Considering all that, and particularly in view of the commitment that India has itself made to increase the forest cover in line with the Paris Agreement, this is simply hypocritical. We promised to bring 30 percent of land as well as marine areas under protection, and they should be prioritising areas of biodiversity, like the Northeast.”

Despite activists raising concerns about the detrimental environmental impacts of oil palm cultivation, officials of the Mizoram government continue to maintain that it is actually beneficial to the environment. Vanlalchhuanga told me the focus of introducing palm plantations in the state was out of concern for the environment. “In Mizoram, there is large-scale jhumming,” he said, referring to a form of agriculture where portions of the forest are burnt every few years and used to grow crops. “This greatly destroys the environment impacting the rainfall and water retention capacity. So, from the agriculture department, to decrease the practise of slash and burn cultivation, we decided to introduce a long-term crop without the need to do jhumming. If they plant oil palm, they will clear the land in the first year and that is enough, they do not have to do it again in the next year.”

Ram Wangkheirakpam, the director of Indigenous Perspectives, an Imphal-based non-profit that works on environmental issues, told me that Vanlalchhuanga’s reasoning was not backed by research. “Has any government in the Northeast done any studies about jhumming?” he asked. “Since the British days, when these white people see people burning their fields, they think it’s bad. Without any real basis. This is completely uninformed, unscientific. You don’t support jhum, you don’t understand jhum, you haven’t studied jhum in that manner and you are saying jhum is bad. Is there a document that says jhum is bad? In fact, there are documents which can prove that monoculture is bad. Now they are saying that jhum land or fallow land of jhum is wasteland. Fallow land is not wasteland.” A study by Nature Conservation Foundation, a wildlife conservation NGO, and a researcher from Gauhati University has shown that forests that regrow after jhumming have a much higher biodiversity, in comparison to forests that grow over areas where oil palm cultivation took place, likely because of the nutrient requirement of palms.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses the nation from the ramparts of the Red Fort in Delhi on 15 August. Modi promised that oil palm cultivation in the Northeast and Andaman and Nicobar islands will benefit farmers in the region. The experience of Mizoram’s oil palm farmers tells a very different story. MONEY SHARMA / AFP / Getty Images

“Even if we plant in all the potential areas in the state, it will only take up 3.16 percent of the forest cover,” Vanlalchhuanga said. “In ginger plantations, during monsoon, there is soil erosion, the same goes for teak and betel nut. But oil palm actually prevents the chances of soil erosion, it repairs degraded land.” Activists, however, argue that oil palm plantations, or any similar form of mono-cropping, has severe effects on soil erosion.

“The monoculture plantations currently in Meghalaya—pine tree, broom stick and betel nut—show the dangers of what could happen with oil palm,” HH Mohrmen, an environmental activist from Meghalaya told me. “Areas which used to be rich forests, all that biodiversity is all of a sudden cleared, and in its place, we have plantations. If we look at this cultivation you will see that we hardly see birds or insects because there is no more biodiversity. The other impact is on the water retention. By removing the previously rich dense forests, the retention power of the land is decreasing so at the end, it dries up rivers downstream or downhill which used to be in our district. Downstream we used to have paddy plantations. All of a sudden there is no water to feed the paddy cultivation because of monoculture.” He added that according to his research, rainfall too had reduced following the growth of monoculture in Meghalaya.

Zohmingsangi said the effects of this were already visible in Mizoram. “Oil palm is a monoculture crop, only one crop standing alone cannot hold water in the soil and not enough to absorb the rain water,” she told me. “Soil compaction on land cleared for planting oil palm reduces the ground’s capacity to absorb rainwater. Groundwater recharge which is the main source of water for the locals at present is starting to decline. According to locals, the Dampa area in Mamit district is now experiencing shortage of water especially in drier seasons since oil palm cultivation began. Oil palm is extremely water intensive, requiring 280 to 350 millilitres of water per plant per day. With rising temperatures and improper precipitation, if proper and effective measures are not taken by the state to harvest rainfall, it is very likely that it is impossible to sustain water resources with regards to oil palm.”

Sailo’s research, too, pointed to water being a major limiting factor in oil palm cultivation. “The unavailability of water for irrigation had also caused problems at the initial stage of establishment of the plantation,” she said. “A majority of the respondents depend on rainfall as the source of water supply but this is not enough to meet the daily minimum requirement of 200 millilitres per day during winter or dry seasons.”

Wangkheirakpam told me that the union government advocating such water-intensive cash crops in the Northeast was akin to colonialism. “In Mizoram also there is less rainfall and no irrigation system,” he said. “It consumes about 300 millilitres a day for a tree. Where do you get that water from? Aizawl is already so thirsty for water and our streams and rivers are drying. Are you going to divert the water to feed those palm oil which will then feed the oil consumers? To me this is nothing but colonisation, a new colonisation. This is just a new colonial agenda of the mainland Indians.”

However, it is not environmental concerns or terrain alone that has dissuaded farmers away from oil palm cultivation. Most farmers I spoke to mentioned the lack of a stable market that they were promised as the primary reason they either stopped, or were trying to stop, oil palm cultivation. Between 2005 and 2006, three companies, Godrej Agrovet Private Limited, 3F Oil Palm Agrotech Private Limited and Ruchi Soya Industries Limited signed memorandums of understanding with the government of Mizoram. According to the MoU the three companies were assigned certain districts where they would have virtual monopsonies over FFB purchasing, and were expected to set up oil mills to process the material they bought. Godrej were given the districts of Mamit and Kolasib, 3F was allocated Aizawl, Serchhip and Siaha and Ruchi Soya was given Lunglei and Lawngtlai.

It is unclear how these three companies were given virtual monopsonies over much of the state’s oil palm production. When I asked Vanlalchhuanga if the government had conducted a tendering process or held auctions for various districts, he told me he did not know. Officials from Godrej and Ruchi Soya also did not answer questions about the legality of the process. Their answers however suggest that the region’s the companies controlled have changed since the mid-2000s. Lalruatkima, Godrej Agrovet’s executive officer told me, “Initially we had looked after Lunglei also, for a short period, but after that they had given it to Ruchi Soya. Now we are looking after Mamit and Kolasib district only. This is the best potential area, it is near Assam border, suitable climate is here.”

H Rammawi, who is currently the vice chairman of the state planning board, but was the state’s agriculture minister when the MoUs were signed, told me that they had chosen the companies in an ad-hoc manner, and hoped that competition would help the companies serve these regions better. “When the Indian Institute of Oil Palm Research invited me in 2004, I told them that we will not go ahead with it if we do not have buyback assurance from big companies in India,” said. “We need a big company that will be able to process it and they assured me that such companies will come. Godrej Agrovet was one of the biggest names and we interacted with them and a few other companies. They were very excited. I invited them to Mizoram. Companies started lining up. Godrej wanted to take over the whole state, but we discussed the matter and decided that if there was no competition it would not be good so we assigned Kolasib area for Godrej’s jurisdiction and factory. The government located and assigned the districts to the companies, the companies did not choose the districts. There were some other companies who approached us but they were not so reliable.” Neither Zoramthanga, Mizoram’s chief minister, nor C Lalrinsanga, the state’s agriculture minister, responded to questions emailed to them.

As of 2021, only Godrej has set up a mill, and 3F Oil Palm Agrotech Private Limited withdrew from its agreement in early August. When I spoke to Lalruatkima, he told me that his company was keen on further expansion in Mizoram. He told me that Godrej’s palm oil refinery was the largest factory in Mizoram, built at a cost of around 20 crore, and that the company were certain to make a profit in five or ten years. When I asked about how much their project had helped farmers, he was more circumscribe. “Frankly speaking, our farmer are not benefitting much,” he said. “The main reason why they are cultivating oil palm is that it is a sure market. Actually, there is no sure market for other crops either, where farmers can sell directly and where the rate is fixed.”

According to government guidelines introduced after the Mizoram Oil Palm Act, 2004, farmers are expected to harvest the FFB’s and transport it to the collection centre, from where the companies will collect it. The company is supposed to take note of what is purchased and credit money to the farmers within two weeks. According to the law, “In the event of failure on the part of the occupier of a factory to buy all the fresh fruit bunches from the growers in the factory zone declared in relation to a factory, without any valid reason, the occupier of the factory shall be liable to compensate the loss that may have been caused to the grower.” Despite this, all the farmers I spoke to said they had not been compensated when their FFB was not purchased.

Lalruatkima said that if any farmers did not have their produce bought, it was because the agriculture department had failed to build infrastructure. “Most of the farms are located two to five kilometres from the main road,” he told me. “If you see the agreement as per the company has to set up collection points on the main road, not on the village or the interior. So, some of the farmers could not bring up their products to the collection centre. Actually, the agriculture department is meant to repair and to maintaining the link roads of the farmers but that may not be done properly. I am not sure.”

The government, too, claims that Godrej and Ruchi Soya have bought all the FFB available. “There has been no situation where there is a need for compensation,” Vanlalchhuanga told me. “Before they set up a mill, companies like Godrej purchased the produce even if they had to discard it. Ruchi soya also purchases the FFB in Lawngtlai, and since they do not have a mill, they throw it. But they take some of it to Godrej mill. If the farmers can bring their produce to the collection centre, they buy it. If they cannot bring it to the mill, the farmers are given the money and they throw it.” Several farmers told me this was not true.

Vanlalchhuanga claimed instead that the Godrej factory did not have enough raw material and were working at a low efficiency. “The companies such as Godrej have not found a satisfactory amount to feed their mill,” he said. “Their mill capacity is five metric tonnes per hour. What is currently produced feeds only 30 percent of the capacity.” He added that mills, too, needed to transport its product for further processing. “Since there is no crude palm oil refinery in the Northeast, it is transported to Kolkata and sold there. So, for them they want more to produce in the mill and transport in bulk to Kolkata.”

While Ruchi Soya has not withdrawn, farmers from the district said they have only run in losses. An agriculture officer from Mizoram, said, “Ruchi Soya has not set up a mill because the production is not as they expected.” He continued, “The factory set up by Godrej is only fed 30 percent of its capacity as there is low production. They do purchase the fruits but the rate is low because they have not set up the factory. The production is not very low but it is not as expected because the company has not purchased enough. The main problem in Lawngtlai district is road transportation. The period of harvesting FFB is during the monsoon season and this is the season where there are maximum problems.”

When I spoke to Timothy Laldailova, Ruchi Soya’s in-charge for Mizoram, he assured me that they were buying FFB from every farmer in Lawngtlai district, as they were required to by law. “That was as per the agreement of the government of Mizoram,” he told me. When I told him I had spoken to farmers whose FFB had not been bought, he said, “We have procured all the FFBs from farmers as per the agreement only. Farmers also, whatever they say we cannot believe, because they all speak for themself also.” Laldailova told me that Ruchi Soya was unable to build a factory in Mizoram, as they were required to, because of poor infrastructure in the state and insufficient raw material being produced by farmers. Despite this, he was sure that following the announcement of the NMOE-OP, Ruchi Soya would expand plantations and even a possible factory in Mizoram.

Ruchi Soya’s plans for growth were not Laldailova’s alone. In 2019, Ruchi Soya, which was already one of the largest producers of edible oils in India, declared bankruptcy, under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy code. As per the loan-repayment schedule, Ruchi Soya had to pay Rs 824 crore by 2025 and Rs 1553 crore by 2029. The same year, Patanjali, a multinational consumer packaged goods company founded by Ram Kisan Yadav—a yoga guru and vocal advocate of Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, popularly known as Baba Ramdev, acquired Ruchi Soya. Their Rs 4,350 crore acquisition was funded by the same banks that Ruchi Soya owed money to, including the State Bank of India.

On 2 August, Ramdev, in an interview with PTI, said, “We plan to set up palm oil plantations in the North East. We have completed our survey there. We have plans for Assam, Tripura, Meghalaya, Manipur among others.” A mere 13 days later, Modi made his announcement about increasing oil palm cultivation in the Northeast. Both farmers and environmentalists I spoke to told me that the government’s plans were a result of Ramdev’s new venture. “From how I see it, Baba Ramdev talked about oil plantations and a few days later, Modi announced this mission and the focus on Northeast,” the 27-year-old farmer from Kolasib, told me. “There is a lot going on behind the scene.” Wangkheirakpam too said, “This is crony capitalism as we understand it. We may not have the documents to prove it, but it’s all part of that game.”

Employees of Ruchi Soya I spoke to believed the union government’s plan was made on their behalf. “From what I have heard, though there is no written document, what is being implemented in the Northeast, the 11,000 crore scheme, was pushed by our head,” a Ruchi Soya employee, who wished to remain anonymous, told me. “It was a result of our initiative. If this is the case, then there will be a lot of improvement. If we are going to do anything on a large scale, there is nothing that will not affect the environment. While there are negatives, there are many positives too, but people tend to focus only on the negatives.”

State’s across the Northeast have already green flagged projects to expand oil palm cultivation in the region. Pema Kandu, the chief minister of Arunachal Pradesh, in the meeting with Tomar on 30 August said that his government intends to extend oil palm coverage up to 15,000 hectares in the first year after the NMEO-OP. Neiba Kronu, Nagaland’s minister for planning and parliamentary affairs, said the government is targeting to bring 15,000 hectares of wasteland under oil palm cultivation. Manipur’s chief minister, Birendra Singh, has already constituted a committee called  Oil Palm Manipur, for the project.

But many fear this new push for oil palm cultivation will have the same effects as Mizoram had, impoverished farmers and unaccountable companies. “The oil palm industry is a fast growing and profitable industry and it is also known that communities in certain regions have benefited a lot,” Amba Jamir, a policy analyst based in Nagaland, told me. “On the other hand, there are numerous cases of the corporatization of such plantations and how farmers have not benefited in an equitable manner. At the end of the day, it will be the big players who will benefit the most and that unfortunately will be at the cost of our land, our natural resources and the toils of our farmers.”

While the Mizoram government can claim that its experience with oil palm cultivation has only had a minimal impact on the environment, environmental activists told me this was because its scale was still minor. That is something that is bound to change with the NMEO-OP. “Even though people are aware about plastic, even though people are aware about tobacco, even though people are aware about gutkha, these continue to be sold,” Phukan told me. “Like with those products, the only way to protect the environment would be to not allow the scaling up of operations which would make palm oil cultivation economically viable.”

Mohrmen told me that the introduction of oil palm plantations will also have an impact on the culture of the Northeast. “We should not forget that the Northeast is a place where tribal people have their own unique culture and traditions,” he said. “We get everything from the forest, edible food, edible fruits, even herbs used as medicine comes from the forest. So, when you destroy our forests, you destroy the culture. Land is very important for the Tribals. This plan to grow oil palms reflects the kind of thinking they have in Delhi, that land is just land for production. For us land is not just land, there is a connection people have to their land. Land is our mother and we have even rivers we consider as deities. This is also an attempt to impose a foreign culture on us.”