Identity crisis

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STATUS: Generates 10 million jobs currently

POTENTIAL: Can generate 8.6 million additional jobs if bamboo plantations are undertaken and high value artisanal and other products marketed

HURDLE: Remains a monopoly of forest departments. Has to be given agriculture status to cultivate, harvest and sell

Sandni, a village in Rajasthan's Chittorgarh district, has been waging a decade-old battle with the forest department to resolve a peculiar question: is bamboo a grass or a tree? The answer is crucial for the 400 residents because it means the difference between becoming rich and staying poor.

The villagers protect the nearby forest under the Joint Forest Management (JFM) programme. The forest, because of their labour, has a rich cover of bamboo but JFM gives them full legal rights to collect only grass. Botanists classify bamboo as a grass species, but the Forest Conservation Act, 1980 does not. So the villagers are prohibited from harvesting any bamboo, which could be a renewable source of livelihood for the villagers and fetch about Rs 80,000 a year to the village, every year.

Bamboo could be a crucial employer. It has exceptional versatility