India has an age old tradition of planting trees and seeing divinity in nature, the splendour of which is manifested in diverse realms including the marvellously varied species of plants which are indispensable for the survival of humans and sustenance of nature itself. Planting of trees has , therefore, been celebrated as a righteous act. Lay people and dignitaries alike have been closely associated with the sacred act of planting saplings and rearing and nourishing them. There are very few instances when people, after planting trees put down in words their thoughts, feelings and humbling experiences of what they did in response to their perennial obligation to nature.
The contents Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s tweet dated 6th June 2021 were persuasive. Those words expressing his empowering thoughts flowed from his noble act of planting a tree.
“Planting a tree is invigorating experience for me. One day birds will nest & sing, bees will populate its flowers, many will enjoy its fruits & bask in its shade. It's closest one gets to be with nature in complete gratitude for her blessings. à¬œà¬¨à¬¨à€ à¬œà¬¨àà¬®à¬à‚à¬®à¬¿à¬¶àà¬š à¬¸àà¬µà¬°àà¬—à¬¾à¬¦à¬ªà€ à¬—à¬°à¬¿àŸà¬¸à€”
The above tweet of Naveen Patnaik brought out his wholesome imagined future. It is full of life and goes beyond human centered existence. In the context of COVID pandemic and huge loss of life caused by lack of access of infected patients to oxygen, the plantation of a tree and life nourishing thoughts associated with it constitutes a positive message. Naveen Patnaik nurtures fond hope that the sapling he planted would grow up as a tree and become a nesting place for birds whose chirpings and songs would resonate all around; its flowers would attract bees; its shadow would provide resting place to many and its fruits would be used for their food value and nutrition. For him the act of planting a tree meant coming closest to nature and reaffirming his gratitude for its countless blessings .
Gandhi Talked about Culture of Tree Planting in 1925
Such uplifting words of Naveen Patnaik emanating from his action of planting a tree speaks volumes for his finer sensibilities. It is instructive that Mahatma Gandhi made some observations after planting some trees in Kutch in November 1925 on the invitation of Jaykrishna Indrajit, a lover of plant life and forest officer of the region. He dedicated himself to the cause of planting as many trees as possible and educated people to do so to protect Kutch from being denuded of vegetation. Gandhiji proceeded to Kutch not only to plant some trees but also to inaugurate a tree planting and protection society. While stationed there he observed that “Rainfall can be almost regulated by deforestation or afforestation” and stated, “Kutch needs conservation of every tree and every shrub”. It was in that context Gandhiji described his experience of planting trees as “the most pleasant function he was required to perform”.
He talked about large scale plantation of trees not only in Kutch but also in Kathiawar, another contiguous princely State, and stressed on pooling of resources for devising a policy which would benefit all. He noted, “ The conservation of forests, systematic plantation of trees, irrigation and many other things cannot be properly done without a common policy”. He cautioned that a “water famine” of huge magnitude would hit the region and make life impossible and in that context he urged the local rulers to make a study of practical botany compulsory in all schools and encourage in every possible way the habit of planting and rearing trees.
It is instructive to note that as early as November 1925 Gandhi wrote on the necessity of establishing a society to protect trees and “paying attention to tree culture” for fostering the values of planting more trees to expand vegetation cover and increase rainfall.
At a time when the forest cover is getting reduced and there is mass extinction of species we need to pay heed to what Gandhi wrote 1925 about the cultivation of tree culture and compulsory study of practical botany in schools for training the younger generation and making them understand the merits of tree plantation. Such profound ideas written and reflected by him ninety six years ago assume tremendous relevance for the twenty first century India and world confronting the twin challenges of global warming and climate change.
Dignitaries planting trees and very sensitively writing about such activities in the context of problems and challenges we face should inspire people to follow their examples. Odisha Chief Minister’s tweet after he planted a tree and his heartfelt observations depicting the larger cause of environment certainly constitute a shining example for the country to follow . By juxtaposing those observations with Mahatma Gandhi’s reflections of 1925 we deeply understand the significance of Naveen Patnaik’s action of planting a tree in the historical context of our freedom struggle under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi.
#The author served as Officer on Special Duty and Press Secretary to President of India late Shri K R Narayanan and had a tenure in Prime Minister’s Office and Joint Secretary in Rajya Sabha Secretariat. Views expressed in the article are in his personal capacity.