We have been celebrating Vanmahotsav from 1950 onwards and we are in the 67th year of that great every-year-national event. Originally it was a weeklong tree planting programme carried out between 1st to 7th July every year in different parts of all the states in our country. Reports from every state proclaimed plantation of lakhs of saplings by the people during Vanamahotsav every year besides plantation of trees by forest department in lakhs of hectares every year. But the percentage of forest cover in our country remains more or less same- around 20 per cent (18-22%). What is really happening during Vanmahotsav? This write up is an attempt to analyze the present day patterns of yearly Vanmahotsav observance.
I remember well the early years of Vanmahotsav when people used to give more importance to the actual planting of saplings or seedlings of trees. People used to raise thousands of seedlings in their own nurseries, months ahead of Vanmahotsav. Today no such local nursery preparations or the practice of tree plantation and it is almost replaced with nationwide cultural and literary celebrations of various kinds: Vanities of Vanmahotsav and Invisible Injustices. Let us see briefly the detail of such Vanities of Vanmahotsav.
Vanmahotsav gatherings: On Independence and Republic days it is usual for people come together and have meetings in which some eminent people will be invited to give a speech on the significance and importance of the day followed by social and cultural programmes. Such gatherings are done at the levels of educational institutions like schools and colleges, organizations like NGOs and Non-NGOs, commercial associations or institutions, political circles or affiliations, gender or caste based organizations. Vanmahotsav has become like one such national celebration. Unlike the earlier days, when a lot of saplings were planted by a large number of people, in the present Vanmahotsav days one or two saplings are planted by the VIPs in the gathering. It is more of ritualistic action than realistic; in such yearly ritualistic ceremonies there is no planned effort to increase the forest cover in our country. Following are some of the other varieties (vanities) of Vanmahotsav celebrations in different parts our country.
Vanamahotsava slogans: In India people have a knack for coining slogans as they have been trained in political slogan shouting during the electioneering for their candidates at the national, state, district and panchayat levels. Usually a procession is taken out around a designated area shouting slogans in the pretext of creating awareness. This ritual of awareness creation is repeated every year during Vanmahotsav days with hardly any action programme of actual tree plantation. Some time such slogan shouting may end with a symbolic planting of a sapling or two by a VIP at a place there should not have been a tree. The programme usually ends with distribution of tea and sweets to the participants (to replenish their energy they spent in slogan shouting). They seem to be hardly aware that any amount of slogan shouting will not bring up a tree unless it is carefully planted and looked after it like small child. Slogan shouting is one of the vanities of Vanamahotsav: Invisible Injustice.
Vanamahotsava posters: Just type “Vanamahotsava posters” in Google: you can get 61500 posters in 0.71 seconds. It is worth seeing some of the posters- very creative; but a million such posters cannot bring up even one sapling on earth. There is something people do not pay attention to many of the awareness building programmes. There are hundred audio-visuals on atrocities against women; laws have been promulgated; that did not stop violence against women. So much has been talked about Ganga cleaning up, but Ganga is dirtier than before. Every liquor bottle has a print on its label: “Alcohol is injurious to health” but no one seems to pay any attention to that warning. On every cigarette packet it is printed, “Smoking is injurious to health”; but that did not change the smoking habit of people. Audio-visuals for social change have art value but not action value for changing human behaviour. An artistic power-point presentation is visually appealing but not for real learning. Have a look at the following two posters “Van Mahotsava Day” and “Van Mahotsav- join hands to make change today”. They are really beautiful and their art value is very high, but at the achievement level have only zero value. Posters are another type of Vanmahotsav Vanity: Invisible Injustice.
All over the country millions of man hours were spent collectively during the Vanmahotsav weeks in creating such posters as in competitions throughout most of the past 67 years. If those hours were spent in actual plantation and care of saplings then we would have had lakhs of hectares of land under forest: Vanities are not realities.
Vanmahotsav poems: Search for poems on Vanmahotsav; you get 43000 entries in 0.7 seconds; open any of the poems and read it. You will have a collection of beautiful poems. Following are two sample poems.
Note that the poems are also in the form of posters; a billion such poems will not germinate even one seed of a forest tree to produce a sapling.
Vanmahotsav drawings: On the Vanmahotsav days thousands of places drawing competitions were conducted every year; indeed they were very creative and beautiful. Two such examples are given below. There is an added advantage in projecting the same thing interchangeably as posters, poems and drawings as you may have already noticed. Most of them are artistically superb but realistically resultless as millions of hectares of land is waiting to be reforested. Besides cutting of the trees from the already existing forests goes on unabated ever since Vanmahotsav was promulgated in 1950 by Dr. Munshi the first agricultural minister at the centre. Following are two examples of drawings done on a Vanmahotsav day (drawing tree and trees in blotches).
Vanmahotsav for show: Let us analyze the pictures given below. In one, ten children are posing between two lady teachers by the side of their school. There are ten small posters and one big at the back of the children depicting, “Vana Mahotsava Go Green”. In the front row a child is planting a croton sapling which is not a tree at all. Often people do not know the difference between a tree sapling and a sapling of an ornamental plant (croton). Planting is shown at a convenient place for taking the photograph and uploading it into internet. Here neither the teachers nor the children seem to know what is a tree and an ornamental croton plant. In the second picture about 15 children are made to stand in a row with potted ornamental plants at the edge of a water body with their four teachers as guides. The whole patch of land behind them is a water logged area where planting of trees is not possible at all. Yet they are there for a show and uploading their picture into the internet: Vanities of Vanmahotsav: Invisible Injustice.
Other Vanities Vanmahotsav: tree poojas, holding competition to fill up questionnaires on forest and environment, fiery speeches, dramas, dances and other cultural and social activities are the most common expressions of Vanities of Vanmahotsav. In short people will do anything but the real and proper plantation of saplings or seedlings of trees and give false propaganda and publicity: Invisible Injustice.
In 1996 Swami Niranjanananda of Bihar School of Yoga introduced the tree pooja parampara, a ritual for all the residents, sannyasins and students of yoga (photograph below). All were asked to adopt a tree to do tree pooja and care for it during their stay in the ashram. According to him tree pooja is a way of connecting with nature, and through nature with the divine. But the irony is connecting mentally with a tree, nature or a divine being will not ensure the plantation and growth of a single tree. Pooja/prayer without practice is useless; but people in India are good at prayers to 33 crore gods but nil at practice: Hypocracy. One of the greatest of all Vanities of forestry involvement was the tree hugging event sponsored by a leading Malayalam TV channel in a botanical garden near Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, in March 2017 to create a World Record led by the Governor of Kerala (photograph below). They did create a new world Record: but not a single tree was added to the botanical garden. The channel received an international award for creating a world record in hugging highest number of trees: but not for planting record number of tree-saplings or for creating a forest area of minimum one hectare. Hugging a tree is much easier than raising a seedling, digging a pit, planting a sapling and taking care till grows big enough to survive by itself. Hugging a tree is emotional and appealing but least productive as far as plantation is concerned: Most ingenious Vanities of Vanmahotsav: Invisible Injustice.
Final word: the actual preparation for Vanmahotsav should start at least two or three years before; pits should be dug at least one year ahead; only one year old or one metre high seedlings/saplings of good vigor in grow should be planted in the field; in the case of fruit trees only budded or grafted saplings of at least one year growth should be planted; for that, preparation should begin at least two or three years ahead since one has to prepare the root stock one year prior to grafting or budding; then, another year to ensure proper growth of the grafted or budded portion. Then the seedling or sapling should be looked after till it is five years old. Next write up will be on “Planting and Caring of Saplings for Forestry.”
(The writer is retired Professor, Forestry Management Specialist at XIM Bhubaneswar, Email. firstname.lastname@example.org )
(Published on 20th November 2017, Volume XXIX, Issue 47)