Sapna Keot is a tea estate worker of Mukhar Gaon of the now-proposed Biswanath district. She lends a helping hand to her husband to manage their family affairs. A member of a self-help group, she was enthused to know of the Amrit Brikhya Andolan, and had no doubt that she would be part of the commercial plantation drive launched by the Environment and Forest Department of the State Government. But there was a surprise waiting for her. When she registered herself to be part of it, she, in the process, became the first person in Assam to do so.
“Because I work in a tea garden, I love greenery. Often, we keep on planting trees here and there. The other day when we went to our self-help group meeting, they told us that the Government is launching a scheme to incentivise those who want to plant commercial trees in their courtyard or homestead. I registered myself. I never realised that I will become the first person in Assam to register,” she told Asom Barta over phone.
Assam Chief Minister Dr. Himanta Biswa Sarma had, on August 2, launched an app, a portal, and the Amrit Brikhya Andolan in a ceremony in Dispur. In his speech, he said that the State will go for a record plantation drive of commercial saplings on September 17 in a time frame of three hours to create awareness on tree economy, and the importance of agroforestry in the State.
The Government drive is in tandem with Self Help Groups (SHGs), ASHA workers, Anganwadi workers, and tea garden workers to not only achieve the numbers but also achieve the planned objective. The numbers which the app and portal have registered till the time of filing this report reflect that the approach is working. (Please see box)
The Principal (In-charge) of Hikiyajuli Kuhiarbari Middle English School in Goalpara, Ranjit Kumar Rabha, termed the Amrit Brikshya Andolan as a necessary and important step for protection of the environment. “I am glad to know that the Andolan is one of the ways in which the Government aims to increase forest cover in the State from 36% to 38%. Besides me, there are many others from our village who have registered themselves on the app to plant a commercial sapling in their backyards. I am sure they will benefit from it in the years to come, provided they take care of their pledge and the plant,” he told this reporter.
A Jeevika Sakhi of Haticherra Village in Barkola Development Block of Cachar district Niyoti Roy (51) said that she registered on the portal immediately after coming to know of the ABA from Rashtriya Gramin Jeevika Mission. “When one wants to build a house, she requires wood. Not everybody is able to afford that. By planting these commercial saplings, I think we are taking a firm step towards building our house one day in future,” she told this reporter.
A total of 23 commercially valuable species, including Teak, Boga Chandan, Agaru, Gamari, Hollong, Garjan, Tita Sopa, and Bogi Poma, would be planted during this drive, which will be incentivised by the Government in the form of ₹ 100 per plantation. It will be supplemented by
₹ 200 more after a specific time frame in which the beneficiary has to prove that the plant is still alive and is being taken care of. A “pledge certificate” will also be issued to individuals who will plant the seedlings on the day.
The registration process will end on August 31 after which the seedlings will be sent to various stocking points in districts across the State by the Department. On September 14 and 15, the Deputy Commissioner and the District Forest Officer will distribute these seedlings to the registered individuals, pro bono. The climax of the record drive, which will see nine Guinness records being attempted, will take place on September 17 from 10 a.m. to 1p.m.
A top official of the Forest Department told this newsletter that each member of the self-help groups will plant two saplings. “On the face of it, it seems that we will achieve a plantation of 1.10 crore on the day although we have issued work orders for 1.01 crore saplings. This is besides the 29 lakh seedlings that we have as in-house stock,” he said.