Friends, we hand over the tree campaign to you
The Hitavada Impact: This is how the administration responded to the campaign by de-choking trees in front of MLAs’ Hostel in Civil Lines. Much work is yet to be done.
By Vijay Phanshikar
When great trees fall,
rocks on distant hills shudder,
lions hunker down
in tall grasses,
and even elephants
lumber after safety.
When great trees fall
small things recoil into silence,
eroded beyond fear.
When great souls die,
the air around us becomes
light, rare, sterile. ...
This is iconic poetess Maya Angelou in one of her very meaningful poems. She likens great trees to great souls, and paints the gloomy scenario when the great trees die -- rocks shudder, lions hunker down in tall grasses, elephants lumber after safety ... and when great souls pass away -- the air around us becomes light, rare, sterile ...! When we launched ‘The Hitavada Tree Campaign’ around a month ago, we had these images haunting us. As we examined the tree scenario in our beloved city, we realised how dangerously close the city was being pushed by a rigid, frigid, unthinking and incompetent civic administration that refused to budge even when it saw trees -- great and otherwise -- dying.
It -- the civic authority -- remained emotionless, as if afflicted by certain dementia (a psychic/organic disorder) that blocks its clear thinking on how the trees should be treated -- with care, caution and utmost respect. Throughout the campaign, in which the people of the city also joined with a sense of mission and passion, we realised how this wonderful city of ours was on the verge of losing ‘the second greenest city in the country’ tag in a few years from now, thanks to an administration whose members, as if, have never been taught in their homes and schools the importance of a city’s arboreal cover.
But even as we wish to thank the people for their voluntary participation in ‘The Hitavada Tree Campaign’, we cannot overlook the positive response of some people in the civic administration to the efforts of our Reporters and Photographers who roamed the city to record the evidence of the city’s collective callousness. We would fail in our duty if we do not acknowledge their positivism. At the other end of the spectrum, however, even when we thank the people for their cooperation in the campaign, we also cannot fail to state with sadness that a vast majority of the Nagpurian public has often ignored its trees; nay, it has played a “proactive role” in killing the city’s trees. Such is the mixed tree scenario of the city of Nagpur.
Thus, the invariable conclusion is: All of us -- the people and the civic administration -- have worked hard to ensure that our arboreal cover goes begging for mercy, albeit fruitlessly. This is a sad thought, no doubt. But this is also a thought that evokes and provokes bouts of anger in our heads and hearts. Even though we work in a newspaper, we also cannot ignore our roles as citizens. Thus, on both counts, we at ‘The Hitavada’ feel saddened and angered and wronged by the overall neglect the city has been meting out to its trees. In the past one month, we have presented an unassailable evidence of how the city has not spared a single effort to destroy its trees.
There is no need to repeat that pictorial and reportorial evidence here, for convinced as we are about the effectiveness of our hard and focused work over time. Of course, I must assert that we have been working in this area for decades, trying to alert the administration and the people about the catastrophic neglect of trees all of us have been indulging in. The current campaign only highlighted our traditional belief about what we -- as citizens and a newspaper -- must do. As we bring a formal curtain down on the campaign, we have a special appeal to make -- to the people of the country’s “second greenest city”: Please, please, wake up and take over the campaign on a perennial basis -- as a matter of lifelong passion to save our trees from our own and administration’s neglect and callousness. We urge the people of our historic city, Maharashtra’s Second Capital, to conduct a voluntary campaign to protect and preserve the trees in our city, and do not rest until the goal is reasonably achieved.
The people’s campaign can be a two-pronged activity: One, the people’s practical action to save trees; and two, their continuous effort to wake the administration up. In line with this, we will publish phone numbers of people in positions of power in the Government and the civic administration in tomorrow’s issue for the people to use whenever necessary. Please use your phones to call these ladies and gentlemen in positions of power and hanker after them to do the needful to save the trees. This is a people’s campaign by The People’s Paper. And now we wish to hand over the reins of the campaign to the People. But let us get back to Maya Angelou’s effort to liken great trees with great souls -- When great trees die, like great souls, the air around us will become “light, rare, sterile ...”! At ‘The Hitavada’, we are sure, none of us wants that happen. Cheers -- in favour of trees.