By: Saroj Thakur
Hamirpur (Nov 30): Some times back when I was walking around the National Institute of Technology (NIT) campus, I was pleasantly surprised by some posters that spoke about a tree, on the verge of being ‘slaughtered’. I was proud of students for coming out in support of a voiceless tree. The colourful posters detailed how the tree had served the people of the campus but now was ordered to be slaughtered as the raising of new infrastructure demanded the small place occupied by the generous tree. In fact, it was the poster that diverted my attention towards the tree. The tree trunk also carried a poster in brilliant hues, ‘Save Me’. I was genuinely concerned for the tree. Had it not provided shade to the villagers when they used this place as a grazing ground for their cattle, long before when there was no building here housing the prestigious institute of national importance?
Even when the college was in its infancy, we would walk, rather run around the forest land and would collect the small unripe mango fruits that the high winds would have un-planted from its branches. I thought of young kids of the labourers playing endlessly under the shadow of this tree. The tree had become such an integral part of the campus that we never even noticed its presence. But it was always there standing proud and green, providing shelter and food to all who came to it. And now it was to be cut. Cutting a tree is a very soft word, it was to be slaughtered! Slaughtered to make way for a concrete structure to be raised at that spot. I wondered why could it not be saved? Could the building plan be not altered a little so that the concrete and the tree could survive together? Had it to be sacrificed at the altar of technology-generated development. But I was happy that someone was speaking for the hapless tree. There were posters on the campus. In fact I was directed towards this unfortunate tree guided by some posters appealing to save the tree.
I am a coward. I could not do anything to save the tree. Rather, honestly speaking, I thought that what the students were doing, would be listened to. I behaved and acted like what almost any other citizen in India would do – let someone else take the risk of offending the powers-that-be. I was hoping against hope that the tree would be saved. Is not students’ power a very effective tool to bring about change of hearts and decisions. I thought that the teachers who teach environment science, quoting much hi-fi sources would come to the rescue of the poor tree. I did my job of taking a few pictures of the posters of the tree and the machines levelling the surface and returned back to my ‘books’.
Recently when I visited the campus once again, I was curious to know of the fate of the tree. Just curious. I looked around where once upon a time used to be a tree. It was not there anymore. There was a huge tree root lying uncared for and discarded at a point not very far from where it used to stand erect and proud! They had slaughtered it, sacrificed it to raise another building to show development.
It is right that trees have to be cut to raise buildings but can we not use architectural planning so that the tree could be saved? And I question the people who give administrative approval for raising a building where trees have to be cut for their reasons. You may say why did I not try to save the tree if I am writing about it today when the tree is not there. It is because, as I said earlier, I am a coward. And I am myself more like a slaughtered tree so how can I say something. And I write about it because there are more trees that may be cut if we remain mute on the topic and watch indifferently the slaughtering of trees around us. Who knows next may be the tree that you grew playing under!
(The writer is fellow at IIAS, Shimla)