Women of Balaghat, have come forward and taken a stand to prevent the felling of trees thereby playing a vital role in protecting the forests. The movement continues as the women patrol the forests three times a day. Read more to find out how these women have inspired others to take a step to go green.
The people living in Balaghat mostly belong to the Birsa Munda tribes. They have protected the forest as it is their home, where they live and their source of livelihood. In the Birsa, area of Balaghat district of Madhya Pradesh, the indiscriminate felling of trees has rendered acres of fertile land barren. Two years ago, when the water crossed the head level, the local women came together, wielding lathi, to shoo away those who felled trees.
The foresters who had been assigned to put restraints on felling of trees patrolled in vain and since livelihoods of the tribals were at risk, pressure mounted within the community. The women accepted this challenge and took the lead. The President of the group, Ms Sahu believes that, since the women were tasked with venturing into forests to cut the trees, fetch fuelwood, only women could stop them. Van Devi Suraksha Samiti was formed with 34 members from 4 villages to prevent deforestation by imposing a fine of Rs. 500 on people found with an axe. A member, 52, Kamla Bai said, “sustainable use of the forest by picking fruits and medical plants judiciously, allowing enough time for their replenishment must be the way”.
Sources in the police stated that there are some forest and district administration officials who are involved in granting the permission for felling of trees on land owned by tribals. Former collector of Balaghat, V Kiran Gopal was shunted due to his involvement in the illegal felling of trees and the administration has now identified an additional collector of the district S C Paraste as the main culprit and suspended him with immediate effect for his negligence case. As of now, FIRs have been registered in connection with felling and 36 people have been named meanwhile 24 have been arrested.
The women thus united, adopted leadership roles, and raised awareness towards environmentalism in their society. The movement also turned its face towards the feminism as the women took the lead in forming the samiti and took leadership roles to put away the culprits responsible for disturbing the balance of the ecosystem.