A peepal tree planted by Mahatma Gandhi outside his ashram in Wardha district in northeastern Maharashtra is all set to travel places. At least parts of it will. As part of the massive tree plantation drive it has been undertaking for the last three years, the state government has decided to prepare saplings of this 82-year-old peepal tree and plant them at all the 206 shaheed smaraks (martyrs’ memorials) across the state.
A decision to this effect was taken by state Forest Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar recently during a meeting to review preparations for this year’s tree plantation drive. Mungantiwar said the administration has been given directions to prepare saplings with proper scientific procedure and following certain steps of performing a puja. “The entire procedure should be recorded and videographed to ensure transparency. This will ensure that there is no objection of any kind while preparing the sapling,” he said.
That peepal tree is said to have been planted by Gandhi outside Bapu Kuti in Sevagram ashram in Wardha where he had stayed from 1930 from 1948. “We have started the work on preparing saplings of the peepal tree planted by Mahatma Gandhi. The tree has been shown to environment experts and they will decide how to transport it,” said Wardha District Collector Shailesh Nawal.
The saplings, it is expected, would inspire and encourage locals to plant more trees and respect nature.
Since 2016, every year, the state government has been undertaking a mass plantation exercise in July. After claiming to have ensured plantation of 2.81 crore saplings in a single day on July 1, 2016, the state government had announced a target of planting 50 crore trees over the next three years. Last year, it had claimed to have planted 5.43 crore trees in the first week of July. This year, the government aims to plant 13 crore saplings in the month and has been eyeing on planting another 33 crore saplings the next year.
Chief Forest Conservator of the state, Sanjeev Gaur, said experts will decide the best scientific option for creating the saplings. “We are trying to germinate it from seeds instead of taking the grafting route which can be a destructive process,” he said.
He said strong and best sapling of peepal tree can be prepared from the seeds of the tree, extracted from the droppings of birds consuming them. “The plan is to collect the mud containing droppings of the birds found under the peepal tree and germinate it to prepare a sapling,” he added.
The peepal tree gets fruits in the summer so the work would be taken up during the period, Gaur said. “The target of creating 206 saplings, one each for planting at the 206 memorial of martyrs in the state, would be taken up with immediate effect. Additional saplings would be created for anyone else to use it for plantation,” he added.
Meanwhile, the Sevagram ashram is struggling to make the original peepal tree survive from ailments. “The peepal tree planted by Mahatma Gandhi is in danger and there is fear of it collapsing due to ailments,” said TRN Prabhu, President of the Sevagram Ashram.
At present, the tree is being treated with cow dung and urine to keep insects away. “We are planning to approach the Dehradun-based Forest Research Institute to work towards survival of the tree which might split into two and collapse anytime,” said Prabhu.
As an alternative, the ashram is planning to create at least two saplings from the existing tree. “It is a very serious issue and we are concerned about the health of the peepal tree,” Prabhu said.
The state forest department has also asked all the district administrations to gather information about the trees planted by other national leaders, including Lokmanya Tilak, Swatantraveer Sawarkar, Chaphekar brothers, Baburao Shedmake of Chandrapur at their places of stay. The saplings of the trees planted by national leaders will be prepared for the next year’s drive, said an