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Naveen Patnaik Plants a Tree and Reflects on Environment: These Remind Gandhi's Vision on Tree Culture 

By Satya Narayana Sahu | PUBLISHED: 08, Jun 2021, 15:09 pm IST | UPDATED: 08, Jun 2021, 20:20 pm IST

Naveen Patnaik Plants a Tree and Reflects on Environment: These Remind Gandhi's Vision on Tree Culture 
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. 
 
Naveen Patnaik
@Naveen_Odisha
“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. ଜନନୀ ଜନ୍ମଭୂମିଶ୍ଚ ସ୍ଵର୍ଗାଦପୀ ଗରିୟସୀ”
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.