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Friday, July 11, 2008

Tribal youth gets award for social work

Chaitram Pawar made ecological conservation and self-sufficiency and cultural unity the buzzwords of his entire community in the tribal village of Baripada in Dhule district.

From encouraging tree plantation to roping in village elders as ‘watchmen’ to prevent tree felling, Pawar, who was the only youth from the village to have completed a post graduation in Commerce, made residents realise that their livelihood was linked to nature. And now, no tree is felled in Baripada's 1100 acres of forest land. At the Tilak Smarak Mandir on Tuesday, Pawar was presented with the Nila Dandekar award for social work.

“When I was young, Baripada was like any other tribal village, with excessive migration, depleting forest cover, poor education and medical facilities. However, the change began from around 1991, when we undertook a tree plantation programme,” Pawar said. With the help of Dr Anand Phatak from the Dr Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram, Pawar gradually made the villagers realise that their survival is linked with nature.

He mobilised the villagers to set up a village development committee, which made certain decisions: ‘No green trees can be felled in the forest and those who do it will be fined. Bullock carts are not permitted inside the forest. Those who steal lumber from the forest will be penalised and those who nab them or help in nabbing them will be rewarded. Firewood can be procured only once a year and should comprise dead branches rather than sturdy trees. Cattle grazing was imposed. Village elders who are deployed as ‘guardians of the forest’ will be paid from the money collected from all the houses in the village.’

Rules were not framed for trees alone. Teachers who failed to turn up to teach at the Zilla Parishad schools as well as parents who refused to send their children to school were fined.
Thanks to Pawar’s foresight and the villagers’ co-operation, Baripada has set an example for the other tribal villages in the district.
Baripada, which earlier had a handful of wells, now has 40. While earlier, residents had to travel over three kms daily to fetch water, now it supplies water to five of its neighbouring villages. While 15 years back, Baripada had only 15 acres of ‘bagayat’ irrigated land, now the area has increased to 120 acres.

“Progress is often equated with someone from outside coming and ‘developing’ a community. When we began the process of uniting the villagers to work towards development, the attitude of the people was that it was the government’s responsibility.

However, gradually with ‘shramdan,’ the forest became denser, the water level increased and agriculture also prospered,” said Pawar, after receiving his award.


Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.

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