Hundreds of Gond and Korku tribals from Madhya Pradesh’s Betul and Harda districts gathered at a forest area in Betul district on Monday evening to hold special prayers before their traditional forest deity for good rainfall, bumper fruits and end of drought.
The ritual forms a part of the tribals conscious effort to plant trees to increase water retention ability of soil under a ‘jungle bachao, paani bacho (save forest, save water)’ campaign. They also believe that planting more trees would bring abundant rain.
Anurag Modi, who has been working with the tribals in Betul for over a decade, said: “These tribals believe that country is facing drought because of shrinking green cover and decreasing respect towards forests due to increasing commercialisation and exploitation of nature,” he said, adding that the tribals have planted nearly 10,000 trees in the forest areas over last six years.
“They grow different types of fruit trees in nurseries and then plant them in those areas of the forests that have fewer trees or are completely or partially barren,” Modi said, who had helped the tribals launch the movement by uniting them under the banner of Shramik Adivasi Sanghathan.
On the sidelines of the Monday’s night-long ritual, the tribals also discussed how the movement to grow fruit-bearing trees in the forest could be extended to other villages in the region.
Movement gets support from forest officials
Korku tribal Sumar Lal told HT that after initial skepticism, forest officials have also extended support to their attempts to save the forest cover.
“We don’t encroach upon the forest land where we plant trees. These trees (we plant) will save water and bring more rains. They also give us fruits, which we will sell. Such savings can help us to survive on lean days, especially when crops fail,” said Lal.
District forest officer Betul Prashant Kumar Singh told HT that administration was not opposed to the movement of the tribals as it would increase tree density in the forests in the long run.
“Our only concern earlier was that they should not encroach upon the forest areas. But they have told us there will be no encroachment of forest and we are fine with that. In fact it is a good thing,” he said.
Korku tribe, believed originally to be a hunting, gathering community that inhabited the forests of Satpura ranges, is a scheduled tribe community found mainly in Betul, Harda, Khandwa, Burhanpur and Chhindwara districts of MP. Gond, the largest tribe of Central India, is concentrated in Betul, Hoshangabad, Chhindwara, Balaghat, Shahdol, Mandla, Sagar and Damoh districts of MP.
“Gond” is considered a corrupt form of Kond, which in Telugu means a forest-covered mountain.