Gandhi kin implore Thackeray to save Wardha ashram trees


By Quaid Najmi

Mumbai, Sep 2 (IANS): For the first time, three generations of Mahatma Gandhi's descendents have joined hands to make an emotional appeal to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, seeking help to save the trees at the Sevagram Ashram in Wardha, which were being chopped ostensibly to expand a state highway, one of the kin said here on Wednesday.

They are: Ela Gandhi (from South Africa) Rajmohan Gandhi, Arun Gandhi (both from the US), Gopal Krishna Gandhi (ex-Governor of West Bengal), Tushar Gandhi and his daughter Kasturi, an environmentalist. The appeal comes exactly a month ahead of Mahatma Gandhi's 151st birth anniversary.

"We -- the descendants of Kasturba and Mohandas Gandhi, write to you with folded hands to kindly use your good offices to order the stopping of felling of trees on the road from Wardha to Sevagram," the appeal to Thackeray and PWD Minister Ashok Chavan says.

"We beg you to halt this atrocity on the environment and act of brutal violence against trees, trees which were lovingly planted from the time when Kasturba and Bapu lived at Sevagram.

"These particular trees were planted with a purpose, that they would provide shade and shelter for visitors who arrived at Wardha and made the five mile trip to Sevagram by foot," they pointed out.

Ela Gandhi said trees are a source of water and it is important to do everything in our power to conserve as many trees as possible.

"Can we not find another way to make the road accessible? Does it have to be widened to the extent that the trees have to be felled? I humbly ask you to please consider these issues as they are not only important for you and me, but for generations to come," she said.

Arun Gandhi rued that the government has embarked on a modernisation programme of Gandhiji's monuments, destroying the last vestiges of Bapu's wishes and teachings from the face of India.

He said that Bapu lived a simple life and that was the basis of his philosophy and despised ostentation, but his philosophy and wishes are being destroyed by building ostentatious monuments.

"Bapu gave access to the poorest. He did not care about the rich and the powerful visiting his ashrams. He wanted the poor to come there and find some solace.

"Then there is the question of chopping off trees that all of us planted at Sevagram. When Bapu acquired the land from Jamnalal Bajaj, it was not only barren but was almost a desert," said Arun Gandhi.

Gopalkrishna Gandhi said that during the 1913 Satyagraha march from Natal to Transvaal in South Africa, Bapu had laid down 7 Codes of Conduct, in which the 5th was that "no trees or plants should be harmed in the least".

"When such was the priority he accorded to trees even at the height of a major public struggle, we can well imagine what his reaction would be to the information that trees are to be felled to facilitate travel to Sevagram," he said, urging for a stop to the axing of trees.

"I fully support Tushar Gandhi's efforts to protect the trees that form a precious part of that sacred environment in and around Wardha from where Mahatma Gandhi strengthened the momentum for India's freedom," said Rajmohan Gandhi.

Kasturi Gandhi -- the great-great-granddaughter of Gandhiji, and the youngest signatory to the appeal -- said ashrams should not remain functional for tourism or political gains only but must help bring sustainable progress in local education, health and human resource development.

"But to do this by erasing the landscape's natural wealth, which the people of the region have rightfully inherited, is fundamentally wrong. If nothing else, Gandhian ashrams and their landscapes must serve as examples of socially and ecologically inclusive infrastructure," she said, opposing the mindless hacking of historically and geographically significant trees.

In the first reaction from the Maha Vikas Aghadi government, Power Minister Nitin Raut (Congress) assured that he would do the needful in the matter.

 

  

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