“When we plant trees, we plant the seeds of peace and the seeds of hope.

— Prof. Wangari Maathai

(2004 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate)


The Story of a Green Movement

by Aruna Antarkar

Translated by Nandu Dange

Ameya Prakashan

© Publisher Publisher Ulhas Latkar Ameya Prakashan 207, Business Guild, Law College Road, Pune 411 004. Tel.: 91-20-2545 7571 www.ameyaprakshan.com First Edition July 2008 Prof. Maathai Quote: Source: unep.org Printed at Mudra Cover design Aay’s Advertising ISBN 81-903514-9-4 Price Rs. 95/-

“The Dandakaranya movement is today one of the most significant movements in postindependence India.It is a movement that demands the right of living a healthy and meaningful life. The destruction of the environment is primarily the outcome of the moral degeneration and greed of mankind. A peoples’ mass movement such as the Dandakaranya has the power to erase this social blot.” — Bhausaheb Thorat


The Seed Germinates... The Genesis of Dandakaranya An Apt Name... The Green Army The Beginning A Repeat Performance Dandakaranya Part Two ... Why and for Whom? The Power of Working Together What the Participants Say ... And The Job Was Done The New Dawn ...

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Author’s Note After the biographies of Shahrukh Khan and Hem Malini, this is my third book for Ameya Prakashan. The first two were translations, while this one is independently written. I had expected the first independent book to be different. The story of the Dandakaranya project has fully satisfied that expectation. The subject of the story, its nature, its form has made the writing of this book a happy experience. Looking over the Sangamner area to get to know the details of the project and to meet Mr. Bhausahab Thorat were unforgettable experiences. After that, I now feel that just as doctors are sent for an internship to the rural areas as part of their curriculum, so should journalists. It is in rural areas that the true achievements of mankind are experienced. I must mention Mr. Ulhas Latkar of Ameya Prakashan with sincere thanks for the faith he has shown in me by allocating this unique writing assignment. I benefited from my experience as a journalist with the Maharashtra Times for this chronicle-type writing. This experience was extended when I worked for the weekly Chitralekha. I would like to express my thanks to colleagues in both these periodicals, Ashok Panwalkar, Diwakar Deshpande, Sanjeev Latkar, Pramod Bhagwat, Chandrashakhar Joshi, Prakash Akolkar and others of Maharashtra Times, and to Dnyaneshwar Maharao of Chitralekha. On the occasion of publication of this book, I am reminded of the veteran journalist and my guru the late Shri Prabhakar Padhye, who constantly encouraged me to write books, and my late father, Shri Anant Antarkar, founder-editor of Hans, Mohini and Naval magazines. I dedicate this book to them, and to my mother Smt. Nirmala Antarkar. I am confident she will read the book with the same approach as my late father. I have to make special mention of my elder sister and senior journalist Anuradha Aurangabadkar and her daughter Prof. Amrapali who were both of great help in this book and my earlier ones. — Aruna Antarkar About the Author Aruna Antarkar has been active in the print and electronic media for the last 25 years. She has experience in reporting, editorial and writing work for Hans, Mohini, Naval, Kesari, Maharashtra Times, Saamna, Saanj Loksatta and Chitralekha. Her columns have appeared in all leading newspapers and periodicals in Maharashtra. She has been media executive with the Sahara One channel. She has been the examiner of Maharashtra State Government Film Festival on three occasions. Her general and film-related writing has appeared in Sarvotkrushta Marathi Katha (Vol 13), Flashback, Shatakache Thase, the biography of film director Raja Thakur, and in Ratnakshara.

The Seed Germinates...

lot of people are fond of reading, even today. But the question is how many people are able to learn from the books they read? Although a book is looked upon as friend, philosopher and guide, often the contents of a book remain in the book. Readers who go beyond entertainment, and read serious books, books of social relevance often feel they have done their duty and leave it at that, but there are exceptions. There are very few people who absorb the teachings in a book and bring them into practice. These are the people who matter. Bhausaheb Thorat is an ideal member of this minority. He is a living example of the power of books. He came across a book written about Elzéard Bouffier, a native of the Alps. Bouffier was a nature lover, and he had dedicated his life to the planting of trees. Bhausaheb read the book, and inspired by it, even at the ripe age of eighty three, set himself a target of planting ten million trees in one month. Getting the villagers of Sangamner Tehsil on his side, he exceeded his own target by four and a half times, touching the figure of 45 million.


Bhausaheb Thorat is many things in one: a freedom fighter; a capable Congress legislator after independence; an active promoter of the co-operative movement, who is reputed to act in keeping with his talk; a founder of Sangamner Co-operative Sugar Mill and Milk Co-operative and several other co-operative ventures; past president of the district and state co-operative bank; a magician who transformed the face of the once arid Sangamner district. At present his primary role is that of inspiring the Dandakaranya Abhiyan project, which he looks upon as of prime importance. Sangamner is just another place on the map for most people, but for Bhausaheb, it is his whole life. He was born in village Jorve in the Sangamner tehsil and grew up there. Even after being exposed to places of prosperity such as Japan and Switzerland, he remains deeply attached to his dry, arid tehsil, two-thirds of which is covered by bald hills. Rather than going the political route, he chose to take up the development of the area through the co-operative movement. Besides industrial development through the sugar mill, milk co-operative and the co-operative bank, he has also contributed to the development of education through the schools, junior and senior colleges and engineering college that he helped to set up. The educational and industrial development of Sangamner has changed the face of the tehsil. New jobs were created, bringing about financial stability. Now there are metalled roads, bridges

where needed and modern multi-storeyed buildings. Bhausaheb has the good fortune of seeing the results of his efforts during his own lifetime. At eighty-four, he can well afford to spend his days relaxing in a large home. That is his right, but not his temperament. That is why his penchant for work and his love for the environment came alive after going through ‘The Planter of Trees’, a booklet of just around thirty pages. He took up the Dandakaranya project with great gusto. Diabetes and heart disease tried to hold him back, but Bhausaheb, who had fought the white man in the freedom struggle, was not to be daunted. What was this book that awoke the lion in this man? ‘The Man Who Planted Trees’ is the story of a poor shepherd named Elzéard Bouffier who planted one hundred thousand trees in his dry, arid Alpine countryside. For thirty-five years from 1910 to 1945, he travelled about, planting various seedlings wherever he went, without making any song-anddance about it. The arid village of Varang was in time blessed with an eleven kilometre long green belt. The dead village soon came alive, and people went about their business with a new energy. Bhausaheb was deeply impressed by the achievement of this One-Man Army. His village, even at its worst times was better off than Varang, but Bhausaheb, a true farmer at heart could not bear its lack of greenery. He had


already done much for his village and the entire area during his lifetime. But his farsighted vision of the future showed him the tragedy looming up not just before his village, but before all of mankind. Man’s materialism was destroying the environment. The amount of rainfall was coming down. Jungles were being lost. Lakes were shrinking. Wildlife numbers were dwindling. In the future, mankind would do everything from his seat through remote control, but the burning question was how he would survive without fresh air and water. There was just one solution: plant more trees. It was urgently needed. Otherwise all the development measures taken thus far would be wasted. When Bouffier planted those trees, he had achieved an important job. He lost his only son, and soon the grief also took away his wife. Bouffier had no longer any reason to live. But rather than succumb to the cowardly temptation of suicidal death, Bouffier bravely took up this activity. He had no reason to think of the health of his village. When he took up this activity, Varang had just half a dozen households. The lonely Bouffier found his family in his trees. He had created it, and was nurturing it. He started this activity at the age of fifty-five, and kept it up till he was eighty-seven. One advantage was the sparse population; there were no cruel humans who destroyed trees and hunted animals. Nature had blessed Bouffier with excellent health and strength.

Bhausaheb, who was inspired by Bouffier was not so lucky. His age and health were against him; he was past eighty, and diabetes had taken its toll. He did not have the time that Bouffier had at his disposal. Bhausaheb was fully aware of this, but he was not prepared to back down. Bouffier had no family, friends or associates to help him. Bhausaheb’s determination was strengthened by the conviction that all of Sangamner would back him. With thousands of pairs of hands to aid him, he could achieve Bouffier’s lifetime’s work in half that time. He wasn’t competing with Bouffier: to him Bouffier was an inspiration. His only adversary was time, but Bhausaheb immediately began to make plans. By coincidence, just shortly before he read the book, Bhausaheb had held talks with the house-owners in his colony. The colony had lost a lot of its tree cover, and it saddened Bhausaheb. He told each house owner, ‘I shall give each of you a sapling. You just have to water it, nurture it.’ A few days later, the book landed up at his house. For some time Bhausaheb ignored the book. Later, his daughter, Mrs. Durga Tambe gave it to him to read. She has inherited her father’s love of reading, as have several relatives. Durgatai is the first lady President of the Sangamner Municipality. She has kept up her reading in spite of the pressures of politics and administration. She also runs a reading club for women. She came to know of ‘The Planter of Trees’ from her young nephew, Rajeev Rajale.


He is fond of reading excellent books and encouraging others to read them. Durgatai saw this book with the unusual name on his table. She picked it up out of curiosity, scanned through it, and then found it impossible to put down. The book has been translated into Marathi by Madhuri Purandare. Durgatai was intrigued with the book. It was unbelievable that such things happen in the world. Love goes far beyond logic, and she fell in love with the book. She followed the family tradition of encouraging others to read, and gave it to Dr. Sudhir Tambe to read. After he had finished, she gave it to Bhausaheb. Bhausaheb’s table always has a dozen books lying on it, and Durgatai placed this one on top of the pile, and kept a paperweight on it to attract her father’s attention. The next day she saw it had been relegated to the bottom. She pulled it out and put it on top. The next day was the same story. This went on far a week, and finally Bhausaheb took it up for reading. The book had formidable competition on the table, with books by Sadhana Amte, Dnyaneshwar Mulay and Dhananjayrao Gadgil. Bhausaheb was naturally fond of reading, and the fondness was nurtured by his guru, Annasaheb Shinde. The stint in jail during the freedom struggle was a blessing in disguise, because that is where he came into a closer relationship with Annasaheb, and his stock of books. He had absorbed a lot of excellent literature in Marathi and English,

and the writings of Marathi saints, from his childhood. Through Annasaheb, he got to read books by Karl Marx and Stalin on the labour movement and Dhananjayrao Gadgil on economics. Also through Annasaheb, Bhausaheb got into the habit of using a dictionary. He got to read ‘Discovery of India’ by Pt. Nehru, and ‘Red Star Over China’ by Edgar Snow. Annasaheb had set up a study circle in the jail, where members would read, take notes, analyse and discuss among themselves, be it a book or an article in the newspapers. The reading of relevant books drew Bhausaheb toward books on socioeconomic matters. He had no idea that ‘The Man Who Planted Trees’ would turn out to be of the same category. He picked up the book out of curiosity, and the book bewitched him. It took him less than half an hour to read the book, but the thoughts it provoked remained with him. He regretted he had read it at night. Had he read it in the morning, he could have discussed it with several people, drawn up action plans. The next moment he picked up pen and paper, and began to put down his thoughts.


The Genesis of Dandakaranya
efore planting could be started, people had to be brought together. That was the biggest challenge. In Sangamner, Bhausaheb is addressed as Dada. Whether it be his colleagues, his workers or villagers, nobody adds a ‘Saheb’ after Dada. The whole town responds when Dada sends out a call. But it wasn’t enough to get people together. It was June and the rains were just a week away, and things had to be organised in time to take advantage of them. Getting people together to act without the usual chaos of crowds was the need of the hour. People were to be brought together and the work had to be completed in a fortnight. Dada was a socialist at heart. He was a Communist party worker for several years. But he had seen the failure of communism in the country. In the semi-urban Sangamner, communism would not work. Cooperation was a more viable option as he had realised long ago, so he took the path of co-operative movements, and succeeded. This one-time communist and now co-operative leader wanted to make the tree planting into a mass movement. A movement that would be run for the people, by the people, that is how he saw it. Since trees would be planted

on common land, it was inevitable that the Forest Department, the Social Forestation department and the Mamledar Office would come into the picture. Dada wanted their co-operation, but expected no funds from them or from the state government. Often funding from such sources gives rise to corruption. Dada did not want the movement to become a limited company and create a bureaucracy. He expected to raise a movement on the efforts of selfless people coming together to work without personal gain, on the lines of the freedom struggle. If he had announced his plans through the media, it was likely that an NGO would have come forward to adopt the tehsil. It would have funded the whole venture. Any suggestion of this sort and Dada’s voice turns hard. It is then that this man who dresses like a typical politician stands out as different from the rest. ‘Adoption?’ he would say angrily. ‘I don’t like that word. This is our tehsil. Why should we give it to anyone else? It is our duty to nurture it.’ Dada’s daughter Mrs. Durga Tambe is the President of Sangamner Municipality. His son Balasaheb Thorat is the State Minister for Agriculture, Government of Maharashtra. But Dada did not want them to make use of their position. He was pondering on what help he could extend from his factory. But he did not want to cripple people with aid. He wanted to get rid of the general tendency to think, ‘The government will help … Dada will take care.’


Not just our area, the whole country is in the grip of pollution. The only solution was to grow more trees. That is the primary need of free India. That should be the major movement now. Just as the present generation is responsible to preserve the freedom obtained by the previous one, the next generation has to be responsible to nurture the trees planted by the present one. Dada wants to promote the thought that today’s generation should give the next one a legacy of trees. He wants the movement to remain forever in the hands of the people. Members of any caste or community are welcome to the movement. But Dada is firm that no political group should be involved at the regional, State or Central level. There would be leaders to take the movement forward, but there would be no office-bearers. Dada does not want the authoritarianism that arises out of a hierarchy. Men would come and go, and new men would take their place, keeping the movement running. That is why people working for the movement should be self-sufficient. What does the movement need? Just seeds, labour and dedication. There is no need to raise money from anyone. No participant in the movement will expect any personal profit, allowances or concessions. Each will carry his own food and water to work. Work will be planned in such a way that no one needs to sacrifice his own work or study time. But each will work seven to eight hours as he would at work or at school or college.

‘Nobody can organise people’s work the way Dada can,’ says Adv. Madhavrao Kanawade, Chairman of Sangamner Co-operative Sugar Mill. ‘Every year after Diwali, our Board of Directors takes a small trip. Dada plans it each time. He takes us to such spots where vehicles are of no use. All of us have to walk a lot. He always finds places where plenty of walking is involved.’ People are expected to understand that what is created by the movement will not belong to anyone, but will benefit everyone and future generation. The movement is not meant to extract free labour. This green movement is meant to wake up the sleepers. Once a sleeper awakes, he would stand up, learn to walk and then to run. He must be taught that he has to work for his own development. He should be taught to take responsibility. He must see that the seedling he plants sprouts into a sapling. He must nurture and protect the sapling till it grows into a tree. It would not do to plant just once, the job must be repeated every monsoon. Dada decided to make all these things clear to any person who responds to his call, before that person is absorbed into the movement.


An Apt Name...
ny movement needs a flag to rally people. It also needs an inspiring name. Dada discarded the idea of a flag. But a good name was essential. The goals had been set. Dada was sleepless the night he read the book. Then, early next morning, he hit upon a name, Dandakaranya Abhiyan. When asked why that particular name, he says, ‘Because the Dandakaranya was blessed by the presence of Lord Ram.’ If someone argues that the Dandakaranya in the Ramayan was primarily populated by danavas (evil giants), Dada is not bothered. He has the answer, ‘We are not concerned with the danavas. We give primacy to the fact that Lord Ram was here during his exile.’ The importance of the name Dandakaranya goes deeper than that. Primarily, the Dandakaranya where Lord Ram, Sita and Laxman lived in exile is spread over the present Sangamner and Akola tehsils. When Ram, Sita and Laxman went there, the ascetic Agasti was staying there. It was extremely arid and deserted. Large open spaces had no wildlife of any sort. When Ram asked Agasti Muni the reason for this, Agasti related the following tale:

During the Satyayuga, there lived a king named Ikshwaku. He gave his son, Danda, the countryside between two peaks of the Vindhya range. Shukracharya had his ashram in that area. Once when Danda was passing by, his eye fell on Shukracharya’s daughter, Araja. The king was dazzled by her beauty. He tried hard to persuade her to come away with him. Araja suggested that they wait till her father, who was away then, returned, and then go with his permission. But the king was impatient. He forced himself upon her and satisfied his lust. He then left. When Shukracharya returned, he came to know of the incident. Livid with anger, he cursed the king, ‘Your kingdom will turn to dust. You will perish along with your country and your wealth.’ It is said that within a week, a massive dust storm arose, and destroyed everything in the kingdom including king Danda. The area was named Dandakaranya in memory of king Danda. In course of time, Agasti Muni came there to set up his ashram. He was originally a farmer. He vowed to green the arid area. On hearing of his arrival, his disciple, the Vindhya mountain came over, bowed to him and asked for his blessings. Agasti showered him with fulsome blessings, but made one request, ‘I shall just go away for some work and return. Till then, stay right here as you are.’ The poor Vindhya obeyed, and continue to stand there bowed over. Agasti went to the God of Rain, Varun to ask for rain. On the way he also picked up


some trees that he found. He had kept Vindhya bowed over for a purpose: in those days the Vindhya was taller than the Himalaya. As a result, rain, wind and light could not reach the Dandakaranya. With the Vindhya bowed down, his height came down, and these could now get in. Agasti planted the trees he had brought along. They grew up with the coming rains. The wind also brought seeds that took root, and soon the Dandakaranya was replete with trees, fruit and flowers. Dada intended to turn Sangamner and surrounding areas green the way Agasti did to the Dandakaranya. The area is in the rain shadow. Over one third of the villages are on the plateau. There are thousands of acres of unusable land. Rainfall is uncertain. This area was arid once, the way the Dandakaranya had become. Agasti’s efforts had resulted in its turning green, and Dada hoped to achieve the same in Sangamner and its neighbourhood through the efforts of its residents. That is why the movement was named Dandakaranya Abhiyan. The name also acknowledges the one-time presence of sage Agasti in the Akole region adjoining Sangamner.

The Green Army

he project name had been decided, its objectives finalised, and it was then that Dada thought of going to sleep. It was four in the morning. Dada decided that in the morning he would talk things over with Durga and Sudhir Tambe, Adv. Madhavrao Kanawade and Anil Shinde, respectively Chairman and Managing Director, Sangamner Co-operative Sugar Mill, Bajirao Khemnar Patil, Balasaheb Umbarkar and other colleagues. He then went to bed. But the tree planting idea had so gripped him that he was up in a couple of hours. He then rang up all his close associates. Sudhir Tambe, Dada’s son in law, is a doctor and the promoter of the Jaihind Movement. He and officials working with the Sugar Mill have great experience of organising mass movements. But Dada had not called in these people as relatives and colleagues; he wanted their co-operation on various levels for his project. Dr. Tambe’s Jaihind Movement had a large number of young members. Umbarkar had vast experience in water conservation management. Durgatai would be able to muster women volunteers. She was in charge of the women’s wing of Jaihind.



She had also organised women’s self-help groups. Dada announced his goal of having ten million seeds planted in the arid lands of the tehsil. The Tambes, Adv. Kanawade, Anil Shinde and others immediately backed up Dada’s project. They liked the idea of the movement. But some were doubtful if ten million seeds could be planted with the rains just round the corner. Their faces clearly showed the feeling that the idea was not practicable. But nobody was willing to say this to Dada. They were familiar with his rock-hard determination, and his reputation for completing anything he took up. Even though sceptical initially, they all agreed to the project. It cannot be known whether Dada in his enthusiasm had sensed the scepticism. He presented his plans. In the first phase from 14th to 20th June 2006, people would be made aware of the project. In the second phase, 23rd June to 2nd July, actual work would be taken up. The next evening, a meeting was called at the Amriteshwar temple in the vicinity of the Sugar Mill. All officials from the tehsil’s co-operative, educational and social organisations, government officials, heads of educational institutions, principals, teachers and professors, office-bearers of women’s self-help groups, and people working in different fields were invited. Balasaheb Thorat was also to be present. He and Dada were in constant telephonic discussions on the project. With less than twenty four hours of notice, all those called came for the

meeting without exception. Dada was running temperature on that day, and had a swelling on his feet. But he came for the meeting in spite of the doctor’s strict orders to take rest. His enthusiasm was clearly showing in his body language. He addressed the meeting, explaining the need for planting of trees. He announced his intention of planting seeds in fallow areas up to the hilltops. He emphasised the need for each resident of the village to be roped in for the project. He explained the origin of the name Dandakaranya. He mentioned a quote from the Dnyaneshwari as the slogan of the movement: Nagarechi Rachawi| Jalashaye Nirmawi | Mahawane Lavawi|Nanavidhe (‘Plan the cities, create water bodies, plant a variety of forests.’) He made it clear that everyone should collect seeds without any help from Government or the private sector. Each activist was expected to contribute at least five kilograms of seeds. He explained a simple method of collecting these. ‘Today onwards, we shall preserve the seeds of every fruit we eat. Any fruit will do. I understand that not all will be able to leave their homes and plant seeds. Housewives, the old and infirm, the sick would not be able to work outside. Such people should plant in their own backyards. They could plant vegetable creepers. They would enjoy the benefits of fresh vegetables every day. They would have the satisfaction of availing of produce of their own efforts. It is not important who does how much of planting; it is necessary that each one plants at least


one seed. Plant wherever you find space around your house. Do the work wherever you are. In this project, there are no masters and no servants. If one is to save one’s village from famine, now is the time to act. Any delay would lead to regrets afterwards.’ Everyone was impressed by Dada’s zeal. All promised co-operation. Seeds began to come in from everywhere to the sugar mill. Various types of seeds came in from villages, social and educational organisations, the Forest, Agriculture, Social Forestation and other government departments. The Mill was entrusted with the job of collecting and storing the seeds, since it was fully equipped to handle the activity. Shortly, a corpus of 110 quintals of seeds was collected. The target was of planting ten million seeds, while the seeds now available were enough to plant around five million trees. So the problem of seeds was solved, the next hurdle to be crossed was the planning of the campaign. There was plenty of seed, but very little time. But Dada was unfazed. He had thought it out well in advance. He had at hand his experience of the freedom struggle and the setting up of the cooperative movement. He had covered the entire Sangamner tehsil while underground during the freedom struggle. He knew each village, hamlet, hill and dale. He had a detailed mental map of each road, river and rivulet. He

divided the villages into eight divisions and decided to send his volunteers there. But they were not just going to make speeches. Dada had seen in the freedom struggle that music and song were most effective in reaching out to the masses, whether educated, semi-educated or uneducated. He had seen the inspiration that the common man took during the rebellion from the folk songs of Shahir Amar Sheikh and Annabhau Sathe. Dada established eight music squads. They were joined spontaneously by such artistes as Prof. Baba Kharat, Dinkar Sawant, Shahir Shivaji Kamble, Prof. Tulshiram Jadhav, the Bidwe brothers, Eknath Bhagwat and Vikas Bhalerao. They wrote out songs emphasising the importance of tree-planting in simple, easily understood language. Their tunes were based on existing folk songs that were already familiar to the people, and on well-known film melodies. A publicity van belonging to the Social Forestation division was roped in for a couple of weeks to go around the villages, and the movement really took off. The freshly composed songs made the Dandakaranya movement widely known and talked about. The pattern of communication was different from that used at the Sugar Mill premises. There were fewer speeches and more of songs. At the beginning there would be especially composed songs. Then the speaker would throw a question to the audience, ‘My friends, do you want you descendants to have


clean drinking water? Do you want your cattle to have plenty of feed?’ When the audience roared, ‘YES,’ the speaker would give them the solution to these problems: ‘Then plant trees! They will be your salvation!’ Each squad covered at least five villages a day. In the time given, 132 villages and 200 hamlets were covered by these eight squads. Dada made use of the most effective speakers at each meeting. Adv. Kanawade has a vast stock of scriptural and folk tales. He effectively conveyed the message of tree-planting through these, as Dada had already realised earlier. While the propaganda exercise was on, planning for the actual action was on. The Forest and Social Forestation departments specified the places where trees could be planted. They had in-depth knowledge of which species would thrive where. Seeds were selected according to the soil type in each village, and the departments marked out belts in the fallow lands and on hilltops for the planting. Dada had thought of the mental state of people who came planting. They should not feel compulsion; they should participate in the programme spontaneously. The right atmosphere was therefore essential. Dada announced a dress code for the work. Men were to wear yellow T-shirts, moss-green trousers, a yellow sling-bag to carry seeds and a yellow cloth for wiping the face and hands. Women were instructed to wear yellow saris.

The colour scheme was planned to gel with nature and with the work at hand. The uniformity led to people feeling a bond with each other. The spirit of unity led to people working with greater zeal. The performing squads were also present to entertain the people as they worked, further encouraging the working hands and alleviating their fatigue. Dada had also planned for mealtimes. One to two in the afternoons was set aside for lunch and some rest. Local villagers were encouraged to arrange for traditional entertainment. Dada had taken care to attend to all the needs of working people. The group that was working was given an appropriate name, the Green Army. Once it was clear that the group were going to number around five thousand, the term Army was appropriate. Then the army was broken up into divisions, each named after a famous warrior such as Chhatrapati and Rana Pratap. Each division was assigned an area. The duties too were assigned: one would dig a pit, another would put in the seed and the third would cover it up with earth. It was unfair to assume that everyone was familiar with farm-work, and duties were planned so that no-one should stay away due to a feeling of inadequacy. Some people, particularly women, would be unable to handle heavy spades and shovels, so the Sangamner Co-operative Sugar Mill produced lighter implements that could easily be handled.


The movement was planned to be inaugurated on 19th June on a hilltop near village Sayakhindi. A sort of dress rehearsal was carried out on 11th June in the village. The divisions, squads, methodology, dress code and implements were again discussed and finalised. The rehearsal had full attendance, indicating that the 19th June programme would be a success.

The Beginning

ayakhindi is five kilometres from the Sangamner Co-operative Mill. Seeds were to be planted on the hill-slopes of Khaneshwar Tambkada, Waryachi Mal, Talyache Ran and Ramgad. The huge Sayakhindi hill was literally covered with thousands of volunteers and villagers. Over five thousand people had assembled there. The project was launched to the tune of a light rainfall, brisk breeze and the sound of temple bells. Dada inaugurated the project by planting the first seed. Balasaheb Thorat, Dr. Tambe and Mrs. Tambe too participated by planting seeds. Young people, women and students, all of the Jaihind Yuva Manch were also participating. Even the old, infirm and the sick who could not actually work were present to lend their support. Work went on throughout the day. All had brought their own implements and lunch boxes. Many were strangers to each other, but at lunch time, people freely exchanged food from their lunch boxes. Mahatma Gandhi’s maxim, ‘Change of work is rest,’ was being amply demonstrated here. People who were otherwise strangers freely chatted and exchanged food. They chatted away without bothering about each others’ names or villages.



The Sayakhindi programme went through without a hitch. At the end of the day there was a short programme of thanksgiving. Dada and Balasaheb Thorat voiced fulsome congratulations to the Green Army. Durgatai and Dr. Sudhir, who had been moving throughout the day from squad to squad, seeing to their needs, also thanked the Green Army. The Dandakaranya Abhiyan had truly begun.

A Repeat Performance

he Sayakhindi response was echoed everywhere. Seed planting campaigns took place in various hill-tops and slopes and wherever possible all over the tehsil between 23rd June and 2nd July 2006. Everywhere the participants numbered over five thousand. There were volunteers, citizens, women and children and even Anganwadi workers. In all, fifty to sixty thousand people participated over the ten day period. Agriculture and Forest Department officials would be present all day. The enthusiasm of people for tree-planting was so great that even cremation grounds were covered by bold youths who volunteered for it. Christian and Muslim graveyards are traditionally covered in greenery, so it was felt that cremation grounds, too should be greened so that the dear ones of the departed would feel a moment’s solace. The initial year’s programme came to a formal end at a grand valedictory ceremony at the Nizarneshwar hill at Konkangaon on 2nd July. A general gettogether was held to commemorate the successful launch of the programme. The Dandakaranya Abhiyan had by now crossed the tehsil borders. The project



was visited and praised by noted journalists and government officials from Nasik and Ahmednagar districts. In the view of Dada, there was an even greater development: Adv. Raosaheb Shinde, younger brother of Dada’s revered Guru Annasaheb Shinde, visited the project. He praised the efforts of the Green Army. The campaign came to an end. The Green Army soldiers retired to barracks after having planted seeds over 28,000 acres in the course of 30 days, with the resolve to do even better the following year. The target of planting of 10 million seeds for this year was not only met, but exceeded, reaching the figure of 45 million. This is a classic example of how organised people power, when properly guided, can perform miracles. If Dada’s achievement is to be compared with anyone, it should be with that of Prof. Wangari Maathai of Kenya. Prof. Maathai has changed the face of Kenya through her ‘Green Belt’ movement. She was awarded the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize for her contribution.

Dandakaranya Part Two ...

he inaugural programme of the Dandakaranya Abhiyan had succeeded beyond expectations. Yet there were a few lapses. The 2007 programme had to be faultless. Dada and all officials and volunteers were vigilant about that.In 2006, everyone had been in a hurry to get ahead of the impending monsoon. If planting was not done in time, seeds to the tune of eleven tonnes would have gone waste. Seeds collection had been in excess of the need. For 2007, the requisite quantity of seeds was collected, around ten tonnes. For a first attempt, waste of one tonne of seeds was nothing much, but one is saddened by the thought that seeds are, after all, living beings. So this was carefully avoided in 2007. People had become highly enthusiastic after the success of the previous year, and they began to energetically gather seed. The requisite quota was met by March-April 2007. More time was thus available for planning. Dada organised a meeting of volunteers, government officials and office-bearers from social and educational organisations at the Amriteshwar temple on 5th June, World Environment Day. Like in the previous year, information of the project was



conveyed to the residents of various villages, and volunteers were called for during the period from 16th to 20th June. Artistes and public relations units of the Social Forestation department did there jobs well. On 19th, a dress rehearsal was conducted with a demonstration of seed planting on the Kapareshwar hill at Khandgaon. Thousands of people participated with enthusiasm. Between 23rd and 30th June, seeding programs were carried out on hill-slopes and open lands in several surrounding villages. Nine tonnes of seeds were planted on 21,700 acres of land covering 170 villages and hamlets. Students from 126 schools and colleges participated in the project. Over 40 million seeds were sown. This year the project was to run in three stages. In stage I, seeds were to be sown. In stage II and III, saplings and branches were to be planted. The Sangamner Co-operative Mill had set up a nursery earlier, and 250,000 saplings were distributed free of cost. At the valedictory get-together of 2007, held at Maldad village in Sangamner tehsil, a collective vow was voiced to nurture the saplings that had been planted. In the first year, it was enough to sow seeds. But now that they had grown into saplings, there was the added responsibility of nurturing them. This involved more effort and time.

Why and for Whom?

o programme can be judged by just two years’ progress, certainly not the first two years. But the Dandakaranya project is an exception. One can safely say that it has been a success from the progress of its first two years. Just as it is unique, it is also very difficult to make it a success. At his age of 84, it was impossible for Dada to execute it single-handed. One generation alone cannot complete the task. It has to be continued generation after generation. The key lies in getting people to participate. This project cannot be executed by putting government staff to work, or through hired labour. It has to be done by the populace in general, through inspired and spontaneous participation. It is a tough task to convince people that this is their own work, to be done by themselves, without aid from the government or any organisation. Dada achieved this mammoth task in a month purely because he was able to arouse the constructive energies of the populace. Sangamner tehsil was familiar with the years of work Dada had already put in. They were aware of his dedication, his contribution to the social good. It was this background that

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inspired the people to complete the given task in a short time. Any movement for constructive work depends on the image of the leader, his reliability, and that is the true strength of the movement. People rallied around Dada at his call, because he is widely trusted and revered. People agree with him because they know that he acts the way he speaks. How does Bhausaheb Thorat evaluate the success of the project? He says, ‘I shall not gauge the success of this project by the number of seeds and saplings planted. According to me what is important is that people spontaneously joined the movement in large numbers. I have always been insistent that people should join in voluntarily, with a conviction that it was the right thing. Dandakaranya is not just a project, or a revolution: it is a people’s movement. It is not tied to any political party. No one person leads the movement. Dandakaranya is a permanent movement. It has to go on generation after generation. That is why I have kept caste-creed-religion out of its ambit. This work can only be taken forward by the common man.’ Dada doesn’t think it is important that some of the efforts went waste, several saplings died in the first year. He says, ‘I had anticipated even more losses. I am a farmer, and such losses are nothing new. Once saplings grow, they will be dug up by dogs, grazed upon by cattle; people will forget to water them. Even after they grow into trees, people will cut them for firewood. All

that is inevitable. That shouldn’t stop us from planting trees. Road accidents take place, but factories still make cars. If man decides, he can prevent accidents. Similarly, if man decides, he can plant trees and protect them. Planting, growing and bearing of fruit is not an overnight process. Man has to wait a long time. But the waiting should not be wasted idly. Saplings need to be protected. If some saplings die, or are trampled upon, new ones need to be planted. They need to be watched and protected. ‘Men should be prepared for all this. The benefits of tree planting will not be immediately available. Maybe the one who plants would not benefit at all. What is the harm? In any case you leave behind your estate in legacy. So can you leave the plants, their fruit, as legacy. If the trees grow, it will give shade, it will create rain, it will provide oxygen. If you want your children to benefit tomorrow, you will have to work today. You will have to sow the seed today and nurture the sapling. Do not expect anything in return. Don’t wait to feel thirsty to begin digging your well, keep your well ready before you are thirsty. Why wait for the ill effects of global warming? We can prevent it by planting trees. So let us start right now. ‘That is the primary thing I want to impress on people. People agreed with my ideas, and put them into practice. That is what I call true success. What remains next is to preserve the enthusiasm of the people. I have made


ready the project plan for the next ten years. People working today will work for the next ten years. By then, fresh people will be inducted who are ready and willing to work. This work is for the benefit of man. The number of trees is not a measure of project success. The number of participants has to grow. This movement has no leaders. The volunteers themselves are the leaders. The youth and students working here today are the leaders of tomorrow.’ Dada pauses for a moment, and then continues, in keeping with his straightforward style of talking. ‘I cannot foretell the future. I have no interest in casting a horoscope of the Dandakaranya project. I only know to finish a job that I take up. When I first put the idea to the people, I had not expected it to be finished so soon. I had not expected to fail, either. That was the right time to begin, and it was done. What more do we want? Just after the Sayakhindi sowing programme, I fell ill. I had to move to hospital in Mumbai. But the work did not stop; the people carried it forward. They achieved the set target, and it gives me great satisfaction. It is just what I wanted. This work must not rely on any one person. Whoever would like to join in, should work as long as possible. The work must not stop because any one person is not present. This job has not been done in a month by one man. It is the collective achievement of a large number of people. People came forward because they were convinced of the efficacy of the project. They worked hard, and that is why the project

was completed. We managed forty five million seeds in place of the ten million targeted. That is the strength of numbers. People coming together can work miracles.’


The Power of Working Together
rojects like the Dandakaranya Abhiyan succeed due to the efforts of people who work on the soil. But they are not the only ones involved. Those who manage from behind the scenes are not visible. But they are equally important for the project moving forward. When people work for a day, and succeed, behind that success is ten days’ worth of background work. Dada himself, Dr. Sudhir Tambe, Durga Tambe, Madhavrao Kanawade, Anil Shinde, Jagannath Ghugarkar, Balasaheb Umbarkar and Keshavrao Jadhav worked round the clock to plan the project. They made a plan of action and after every detail was checked, the plan took concrete shape. It was this plan which enabled the work to go as per schedule. Neither Dada nor Dr. Tambe have studied business management. But both are experts at managing people and workflows. Dada works to the principle ‘Plan today and execute today.’ But he meticulously records details of each job. The planning for the publicity rallies for the project was as important as planning the work of seed-sowing. They were aware that appropriate manpower could only be assembled through effective publicity.

Every day, Dada would draw up the plan for the following day. His trusted assistant Keshavrao Jadhav would collect them, rewrite them in straightforward language, type them out and despatch them to the people concerned. This included handouts for newspapers and other media. This was Dada’s daily routine. When he had to be admitted to hospital due to ill-health he continued to instruct his colleagues on his cell phone. His heart condition rendered it undesirable to talk much. But when Dada refused to see reason, the doctor confiscated his cell phone. Dada then proceeded to write out instructions on paper, and the doctor had to confiscate pen and paper too. But Dada did not give up. He called Keshavrao Jadhav over and began to dictate. Keshavrao was impressed at Dada’s determination of dictating from the sick-bed.


What the Participants say
he two-year period of the project is over. What are the opinions of the people who took part in it? What do the active supporters of the project feel about the project? What did the project achieve, and what lies ahead? Balasaheb Thorat takes time out for the project from the hurly-burly of politics. Ex-Chairman and Director of the Sangamner Co-operative Sugar Mill since 1992, he is carrying forward his father’s social work. He takes pride in the Dandakaranya movement. According to him, ‘This project has proved the uniqueness of Sangamner tehsil. This project will stand as an example for the whole country. Tree planting is the only solution to famine, ill-health and rising temperatures. There is no alternative. Trees will protect mankind from these calamities and make it selfsupporting and prosperous. Jungle produce is always a resource. Today’s saplings will be tomorrow’s trees. That is why tree planting should be part of social life. The Dandakaranya movement should be propagated all over the country. It is a novel movement, which will keep moving forward, because tree planting is

the need of the hour.’ Advocate Raosaheb Shinde, who has backed the project from the start, and who has worked with Dada in the freedom struggle and in various social movements after independence, says that the Dandakaranya Abhiyan will prove to be historic. It has the capacity to awake and unite the entire country. Trees are essential for human health. Tree planting is therefore a national duty. This movement could be appropriately named the ‘Vande Mataram Abhiyan.’ Dada has dedicated himself to making our country green and productive once again. Man has ruined our rich earth by his carelessness. Such movements are therefore opportunities to atone for his sins and remedy the situation. Dr. Tambe, familiar with environmental studies, says, ‘From the common man’s point of view, this project has been a great help in making villages selfsupporting and self-sufficient. We have planted grass on plenty of wasteland. So far, animal feed had to be bought from outside. Once grass starts growing on a regular basis, the locals will get animal feed at lower prices. In absence of grazing grounds, animals used to break into fields and destroy them. Those losses will stop. Earlier some parts of the tehsil grew premium quality custard apples. With reduced rainfall, this fruit stopped growing here. Now with the renewed green cover, when rainfall increases, custard apples can be grown again. They can be sold outside and the proceeds used for development work


in the village. We are going to consult experts for selecting fruit, flowers and cereals that grow on less water. We also plan the beautification of Sangamner by setting up thirteen parks. Dada aspires to have Sangamner being called a Garden City, and the Dandakaranya Abhiyan will go a long way towards fulfilling this aspiration.’ The officers, staff and workmen of the Amrut Industrial Group are participants in the Dandakaranya movement. Each considers the project work to be his own. Collecting seeds, sorting them and filling up bags are difficult tasks. But these people do them efficiently. They also carry out the difficult work of distributing the proper seeds to the various groups. One is puzzled by the statement, ‘The Dandakaranya movement has improved the ethics of the village.’ Anil Shinde, MD of Sangamner Co-operative Mills clarifies, ‘Earlier, people would cut down trees for firewood. This has now come down. People are reluctant to axe trees that they themselves have planted. The Forest Department thus has much less of a headache. As the grass and tree cover increases, most needs will be satisfied locally, and wanton forest destruction will stop.’ Prof. Baba Kharat, who has a rather sentimental nature and a rich singing voice says, ‘The project has increased Dada’s longevity. His countenance has regained its happiness. Dada is as contented as a small child at the thought of

this project. He talks about work all the time. He constantly has new ideas. Our stage art has got a new direction because of this project. We never knew that our singing and music could be used for social good. It is a happy feeling that one is being useful to one’s village and one’s people. I get inspired in my singing with the idea that a deep subject like the environment can be conveyed to the public through singing and music. We feel pride that our art has broken out of the bounds of entertainment and got associated with an unforgettable occurrence.


... and the Job Was Done
n order to get a first hand view of the Dandakaranya project, we visit Village Kolawade, sixteen kilometres from the Sangamner Mill. The row of hills near the Jaihind Adivasi Ashramshala is covered with a carpet of green saplings, thanks to the materials donated by the villagers. At a signal from Prof. Kharat, hundreds of young voices sing the signature song of the movement. Children from Class I to Class X are assembled on the ground. They know all the songs of the movement by heart. The special school for tribals was started by Dada, and is run by the Mrs. Mathurabai Bhausaheb Thorat Sevabhavi Trust. Dada had received a collective gift of half a million Rupees on his sixty-first birthday. Dada added two hundred thousand of his own, and built this spacious school. It houses four hundred tribal children. The Trust bears the cost of their education, boarding and clothing. The students’ food and workers salaries are paid for by the State government. The school has a modern laboratory, a computer room and a library. Each hall is named after a national hero like Bhagat Singh. Right at the entrance, one sees a map indicating the villages covered in the Dandakaranya

project. How can these children muscle work on the hill-tops? Principal D. V. Varpe explains, ‘These hills and dales are these children’s environment. They are born on the hills or the plateaus, and grown up there. They are immune to the lashing of rain or sun. Deep poverty has made them used to hard labour. They are extremely tenacious and bold. Climbing the hills and planting of saplings does not feel like work to them at all. They look upon it as a picnic. These children planted that hill in front of us in a very short time.’ As he talks, Mr. Varpe looks at the sky. The sky is obscured by the surrounding hills, with just windows showing through where there are gaps. The vegetation is dense enough to block out most of the sky. ‘It is true that all students in the tehsil contributed to the tree-planting drive,’ Mr. Umbarkar tells us. ‘But all did not have to do manual work. We gave such work only to children aged twelve and above. Smaller children were sent round to sing songs in the morning processions, with the permission of their parents. Our work was not compulsory even for adults, so with the children there was no question. Each was free to take up work he is capable of, and that is his contribution.’ Keshav Jadhav adds, ‘All children were not sent to hilltops for planting. Most were sent to village bunds and flat grounds for planting saplings. Some



participated in the propaganda processions in the mornings. Some took part in essay contests on the subject, which is also participation in the project. It is the older children that went to the hilltops. But in general, the children enjoyed the trip as a picnic. Dada always tries to keep a person’s interest alive, make him think by any means. That was followed in the Dandakaranya project also. Some people contributed labour, some contributed intellectually.’ Was there no opposition to the project? Can the project go through unanimously? Is it possible that there was no opposition? Prof. Kharat replies: ‘Nobody showed open opposition. Many probably thought the ten million seeds target was laughable. But after two years of successful running, even the sceptics have been silenced. Many even donated seeds for planting on their own. Varieties they did not have, they collected from us and planted them.’ Mr. Umbarkar answered a long-standing question: ‘By the grace of God and our good fortune, there was not a single mishap throughout the period of work on the hilltops. Once a rock got dislodged and came rolling down the hillside, but it rolled down at a distance without hurting anyone. On another hill, a snake was encountered. The people kept calm and made way for it. The snake too went away without harming anyone. Dada had given strict written instructions that the wildlife on the hills must not be disturbed.’ ‘Nobody here fears ghosts and ghouls, snakes or scorpions. Our volunteers

coolly planted trees in the cremation grounds. While the project was on, in both years the monsoon favoured us. Rain fell even in places where it didn’t earlier, and helped in garnering support for the project. The experience that once tree-planting starts, the rains come, has increased the faith of the public in the project, and the number of participants has gone up. They are now more enthusiastic,’ said Adv. Kanawade. Enthusiasm is all very well, but how can one ascertain whether the movement has taken firm root? What guarantee is there that the movement will be sustained and will move forward? ‘People have joined the movement with full understanding. We are convinced that they fully understand their responsibility,’ says Dr. Sudhir Tambe. ‘Each team is responsible for the care of the trees they have planted. Our volunteers will keep in touch with them round the year. No one is barred from the movement, or compelled to join in. Similarly no one is barred from leaving. But the project plan is such that it is not easy for one who joins to leave. We haven’t paid anyone anything for this work, or held out any temptation. This work is that of everyone in the tehsil, the responsibility of each one. Everyone is feeling the ill-effects of the disturbed balance of the weather. This cannot be combated on an individual level; it has to be a collective effort. That is why this movement is bound to sustain.’


Mrs. Durga Tambe says, ‘Leaves, flowers and plants are deeply rooted in Indian traditions, from religious rituals to funerals, from food to medicines. People who use leaves from betel to banyan in poojas need not be told separately of the importance of trees. The movement will definitely sustain.’ On being asked about the participation of women in the movement, she says, ‘We have had about thirty-five per cent participation of women in these two years. Since this tehsil is semi-urban, we feel that this percentage should go up. Women are naturally restricted in terms of putting in field work. But in other ways, women have contributed a lot to the movement. Our women’s self-help groups helped by collecting seeds. Many women have planted kitchen gardens in their compounds and backyards. This was inspired by the movement.’ Dada himself says, ‘The Dandakaranya movement started here, and so the tehsil will get talked about. We have no exceptional cultural activity or game that binds our people together, so the movement will act as a binding force. Having a common thread in society is one of man’s emotional needs. If this need is satisfied by the movement, and it brings fame to the tehsil, I am satisfied. Some have told me that this is the first movement of its kind in India. I am not sure of that, and I don’t feel the need. I feel that it is an important movement in free India. All Indians had entered the freedom movement with a common goal, with national pride and no personal

expectations. Nobody expected publicity, awards or anything else. The Dandakaranya movement is one that is asking for the right to a healthy life. The environment has been polluted not by the bombs in the World War I or the industrialisation after World War II. It is because of the moral downfall, the greed of mankind. The Dandakaranya movement is a means to atone for this social sin.


The New Dawn ...
ell begun is half done. Anyone who has seen the progress of the Dandakaranya project in the first two years would be tempted to say this. But the seed-planting task that has been undertaken is of Herculean proportions. Very often a good beginning could lead to complacency. The volunteers of the movement have to remain vigilant to protect it from this pitfall. It is not just that public memory is short, but public enthusiasm is also short-lived. Many people who have taken part in the movement may have joined because of its novelty. It did not cost any money, and required little time, just a day. Dada’s popularity in Sangamner is unparalleled. It is because of faith in him that many volunteers may be working at this project. But the sustenance of the movement depends on the combined people power. It cannot sustain purely on the initiative of any one group of people. It will move forward only with continuous increase in participants. That is why Dada and Balasaheb have roped in several organisations in the movement. They encourage schools and colleges to hold sapling planting programmes so that right from childhood

the importance of nurturing seeds is inculcated. Special drives are held to distribute saplings to tribal farmers. Various means are used to spread social awareness of the movement. In some villages sapling planting drives are held during local festivals. The importance of tree planting and maintenance is conveyed to the populace during the religious discourses. In others, the credit societies distribute free saplings to their members. In still others, banyan saplings are distributed to women on the occasion of Vatasavitri. The women are told that the banyan tree gives plenty of oxygen. If you can’t participate in planting in the field, then plant saplings in your own garden. They are told the advantage of working for an hour or so in the garden as a means of keeping such ailments as diabetes and blood pressure at bay, and body weight under control. Ladies clubs and other social organisations propagate the advice of gifting saplings in birthdays, house-warming ceremonies and the like. Several schools run the scheme of ‘one child, one tree,’ under which each child is given a sapling on its birthday with the responsibility of planting and nurturing it. Essay competitions, elocution competitions and drawing competitions are held on the theme of the importance of trees in various schools under the Dandakaranya project. Industrial groups such as the Malpani Group organise tree-planting drives to contribute to the project. In another village, the members of the local video and photographers association organise a tree-planting drive.


In short, now tree-planting in Sangamner tehsil is not restricted to June and July. The organisers have spread the awareness that the programme must be run all the year round, every year, even in absence of rain. Dada, with his farsighted view has given a significant message to these people, ‘I shall be with this movement as long as my health allows me to.’ When one sees his age of 84, such a determination is welcome as it is praiseworthy and deserves emulation. It is inspiring for the organisers and volunteers in the movement. It is also a caution that Dada may have to withdraw from the movement at any time due to health reasons. The others should be prepared to take the movement forward in his absence. In order to keep the movement going, Dada has kept it out of the ambit of political or social organisations. He has deliberately kept it a people’s movement, and he repeats this regularly. Dada has given the movement a direction. Now it is up to the coming generations to keep up its momentum. And this should not be restricted to Sangamner tehsil. It should be propagated to the rest of Maharashtra and the rest of the country. The University of Pune has recognised its importance and tied up with the Dandakaranya project to organise tree-planting campaigns through students in various villages. Gradually this movement should spread to other states of the country, for which a plan of action should be mapped out so that in can be implemented

in a short time, the way Dada brought his plan to success within a month of its conception. It is the need of the country, the need of the hour. It should not be difficult to spread this programme throughout the country. In our country, people are familiar with trees right from childhood. Our culture gives an important place to trees, plants and flowers in festivals and poojas. For satyanarayan, banana plant stems are tied to the pooja stand. For Dassehera, apta leaves are exchanged as symbolic of gold. In festivals, garlands of marigold flowers are hung out. Even flowers that have no smell or beauty have a place in festivals. Our saints have said that there is no salvation without trees. Trees and plants are considered to be the relatives of mankind. Trees are an integral part of human life. They provide shade from the sun, food in the form of fruit, fragrance in the form of flowers. They provide material for housing and fuel for cooking. They also have medicinal properties. Trees are showering mankind with great favours. But man has repaid those favours by harming the trees. The earth is now in the state of the once barren Dandakaranya. And man is suffering from his misdeeds. Dada has changed the face of the once drought ravaged Sangamner tehsil. Now the movement he started can engender great change. It would turn out to be the most essential drive in free India. It is significant that this campaign has been started from a small place like


Sangamner. This unique campaign demonstrates how small and semi-urban areas can play a significant role in nation-building. Through the Dandakaranya movement, Dada has appealed to man’s conscience. Man will get an opportunity to atone for his sins through this movement. In other places the movement may not be named Dandakaranya Abhiyan, but something else. But that is immaterial. Dandakaranya is not just a movement: it is a promise taken to plant trees and nurture them. If this is taken forward without laziness or procrastination, it will make man’s life truly fulfilling.


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