Malnutrition and hunger deaths are not new to Adivasis as they have been struggling with them for many decades now and none of the government’s welfare schemes could ever solve these problems. To add to the injury, the ever increasing degradation of the environment has a direct and telling effect on them. Adivasis of Betul and Harda districts have found a unique solution to both these problems. An operation “Guerrilla-Green”, a new kind of green revolution has been launched. Under the operation, they have resolved to plant a hundred thousand saplings of fruit bearing trees this year alone in any barren degraded land, be it Government, forest or private or Panchayat land. As the forest department doesn’t permit any kind of plantation of fruit bearing trees and other horticultural species on their land, hundreds of Adivasis in Bod, Pippalbarra, Kamtha, Gavajhadap, Dhumka, Chunhajuri villages of Betul district have been booked under various sections of the Indian Forest Act, 1927 and Wild Life Act, 1972. Some have as many as 5 cases registered against them for encroaching on forest land and destroying wild life by their act of plantation.
Undeterred by the repressive tactics of the forest department, under the banner of their local organisation, the Shramik Adivasi Sangathan, Adivasis have begun a month long Green-Campaign, a “Hariyali Yatra” from local Chirapatla market in Betul district, today. Daring heavy rains hundreds of adivaisis from the remote area of Betul and Harda districts walked for 20 kilometres to participate in the Yatra, with each one carrying a sapling of a fruit bearing tree in their hand. Adivasis have decided to celebrate the “Hari-Jiroti”, one of their biggest festivals which marks the beginning of their new agricultural season, as a month long Green-Campaign. Under the campaign they will organise “Hariyala-Yatra” in each of the local markets in Betul and Harda districts and march to various villages.
After being turned down by district authorities on their demand for saplings of fruit bearing trees every year, this year Adivasis had decided to develop their own nurseries. In three places of Betul district: Bod, Pippalbarra and Markadhana, they have developed nurseries in which around 15 thousand saplings of A0nla, Jam, Cheeku, and Jamun have been grown. The remaining 85 thousand saplings of the one hundred thousand required will be arranged by collecting naturally grown saplings by river banks, under the trees, and then replanted at the proper place. The Adivasis of Bod, Pippalbara, Kamtha and Gavajhdap in Sawaligadh Range of West Betul Forest Division, have cleaned
300 acres of land of all its weeds and harmful shrubs which don’t allow even grass to grow and have been planting fruit bearing trees on this land for the past 7-8 years only to be destroyed every year by the forest department. Their hutments have been burnt-down and the well dug to water the plants has been filled with stones.
Rajendra Gadhwal of the SAS said, the campaign is called operation ‘Guerrilla Green” as on the face of all the repression by forest department, the Adivasis are resolved to make all the barren and degraded forest land around them lush green with fruit bearing trees. While this will provide them with enough nutrition, they will also make money by selling the fruit. In so called environment improvement schemes, often, Adivasis are adversely affected. Whereas, ‘Guerrilla-Green”, will act as an Adivasi friendly solution to the growing problems of environmental degradation, soil erosion and bio-diversity loss. Anurag Modi of SAS said it is unlike the security operation ‘Green-Hunt’ being carried out by the State in some Adivasi areas which is actually aimed at destroying the forests and ridding them of two of their main occupants, i. e., the greenery and the Adivasis. While in their campaign of “Guerrilla Green”, the Adivasis have resolved to rejuvenate the forest with bio-rich fruit bearing trees. Mangalsingh, a leader of the Shramik Adivasi Sangathan said the amount spent by the government on their welfare and also on social-forestry, has neither improved their nutritional status nor rejuvenated the environment. He further said they are accustomed to making their living by collection of wild fruits. Whereas beginning with the British, the forest department has always been interested in commercial species only and cleared the forest of its natural bio-rich species, i.e., fruit bearing trees of Mahua, Chironji, Tendu etc and planted Teak and Sal trees.
According to Ministry of Environment and Forests' own data, till 1999, 31.21 million hectares of forest plantations had already been undertaken. Recently, the Government of India has launched an ambitious, “Green-India” mission under which they aim to cover 10 million hectares of land at a cost of Rs 40 thousand crores. The Government of MP has got more than 800 crore rupees under the compensatory plantation schemes from the MoEF. None of this money has been of any use for the Adivasis or the environment.