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Tree By Tree

Tree By Tree

October 2010: They tell us they want to spend our hard-earned tax money to connect rural to urban India and thus improve the lives of the poor. They also say that by creating 70,548 km. of national highways, the country will magically ‘develop’.

 

Tree cutting near Babanbai Hill, Hazaribagh, Bihar, to facilitate the widening of National Highway 33 – Bulu Imam

 

What they do not reveal is that these supposedly world class highways and their promoters are stealing funds from a languishing network of 31,17,763 km. of India’s major district, rural and other roads, which are used by our much abused aam aadmi

 

One of the reasons that our village economy is in such a mess is because these rural roads are in an abysmal condition. Thanks to the poor condition of the roads, farm produce cannot reach markets in time, sick people cannot reach hospitals in time and children cannot even go to school unless they are willing to walk because buses cannot ply on many non-existent stretches where roads are simply wasted away and were never repaired or replaced.

 

It’s really an old story. Urban (empowered) India is colonising rural (unempowered) India in the way the British did. We steal rural lands for dams, rural river water to slake urban thirst and to water urban parks and fountains. We run hideously expensive urban infrastructures such as highways and real estate developments clean over rural farms that people owned for hundreds of years. And then? Then we ask them not to follow their resources to the city because we do not like their accents, the gods they worship and the fact that in the absence of public toilets they defecate and urinate on our oh-so-precious city streets. And yes, they also have this awful habit of knocking on our climate-controlled car windows, which is truly irksome. Studiously avoiding the gaze of humans who were once self-employed and whose dignity shone on their faces, we mutter to ourselves: “Why can’t they find a job?”

 

And therein lies the rub. They did have jobs. Farm jobs that helped feed and clothe their families. Jobs based on skills passed down by their forefathers. What is more they not only fed their families, but fed us urban dwellers too (still do). And yet we insist on biting the hand that feeds us by stealing their properties between Mumbai and Pune to build an expressway (in an age of climate change we should be taking the train). Between Delhi and Agra for tourists (in an age of climate change they should be taking the train) and to enrich builders. Between anywhere and anywhere, actually, provided there is profit to be made from tax payers’ money by engineers who pour cement on mud and miraculously turn land to cash. sauguskrovinys.lt - Krovinių pervežimas ir perkraustymo paslaugos

 

Which brings us to this tree photographed by Bulu Imam near Babanbai Hill, Hazaribagh, one of only 84,000, that’s 84,000 ancient banyan, peepul, mango, jamun, imli, jackfruit and neem trees that are home to birds, reptiles, insects and mammals of all description. Why? Because someone, somewhere in Delhi decided that a four-lane National Highway 33 between Hazaribagh and Ranchi is good for India even if it is bad for nature and bad for the poor. And so the sad story unfolds of India being colonised backyard by backyard, river by river, lake by lake, wetland by wetland, forest by forest, town by town, tree by tree.

 

What an idea, Sirji!

 

By Bittu Sahgal

 
 
 

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