Forty-four village panchayats joined hands to auction tendu leaves in Deori taluka of Gondia district, resulting in a higher margin for the tribals engaged in the task of plucking leaves.
The collection and sale of tendu leaves, which are used to make bidis, forms a substantial part of income for many forest dwellers.
Secretaries of the villages said auction has led to higher margins for tendu leave pluckers who used to work under contractors and earn Rs 180.
"Earlier, tendu leaves pluckers used to work under contractors and earn Rs 180 and a bonus of Rs 50 in a day. Now they can easily get Rs 500 daily under the new system," said Sudam Bhoyar, secretary of one of the 44 villages.
Bhoyar said the increased income is also being used for the development of the village.
Nirmala Bai, who plucks tendu leaves, said they used to get less money from traders.
"I leave my home at 5 am daily to pluck tendu leaves in the nearby jungles. If I manage to pluck 100 leaves, I get Rs 500. We have been getting a good amount of money. The traders used to pay us less," she said.
Nirmala Bai also said they come across wild animals in the process of plucking tendu leaves.
Bidis are made with tobacco rolled inside tendu leaves. (ANI)