Can the Green Army prevail over the Red Army?

Kanker (Chhattisgarh), Sep.14 (ANI): Bastar has been in the eye of the storm due to the conflagration between the security forces and Naxals.

Yet hidden from this gory picture are processes on the ground which show that even on this hard-fought battleground, some things endure, small steps which promise to redeem the situation, may perhaps transform it.

But very few are aware of a different kind of war-a war against pollution-being waged in Kacche village of Chhattisgarh's Kanker district. The impetus for this has not come from government agencies but by a local company Godavari, engaged in mining in the region.

As is usually the case, every idea or movement has a face and in this initiative, it is Virendraji who works in the company with a penchant for not only clearing up the environment but to preserve the green gold which Bastar has in abundance.

While the impetus has come from an industry that has been much maligned for its thoughtless environmental degradation, it has been the involvement of primary school children in Kacche village which has made this momentous task a sheer joy.

Bringing in large doses of an enthusiasm that is infectious, this has fleshed out into a full-fledged campaign. A campaign based on a return to the original pristine environment, of discarding ideas and habits which degrade it.

Students of standard IV to V move out with enthusiasm to collect polythenes from their environs and burn it. This region is abundant in ponds, and small traditional water bodies, which under the watchful eye of Virenderji and his team are being cleared of this harmful material.

The children display boundless energy in these activities but are also imbibing a serious message in their young minds. This is learning in the most fundamental sense about respecting one's environment, of nurturing it and taking steps to pro-actively protect it.

These are lessons, which are not conventionally part of any curriculum but in a sense equally valuable, perhaps more.

Ideally, this should have come from the adult generation but sadly caught up in the daily grind and coping with the situation of conflict, this lesson has been missed out.

Strange for a tribal community with traditions of a harmony with nature and protection of the environment embedded in their culture. Perhaps the weight of the present circumstances has been too much for them to pay heed to this, a weight now being gladly being borne by the tender shoulders of children in Kacche village.

Children go from house to house and impress upon the people in their inimitable way, the importance of keeping the surrounding clean.

The momentum has caught on in surrounding villages like Parrekoda, where children are taking steps to spread awareness on environmental pollution, on measures to stop it.

Some of them even travel on cycles upto 20 km to reach areas where they want to spread the word.

Virendreji has adopted an innovative approach to engage with these children, his 'Green Army'.

'Nukkad Nataks' or, the street plays are held, which convey the central message into the storyline. Groups of 10-15 children participate in these, which are often held at village public spaces, fairs and other popular events.

For the local communities in Bastar, living in the conflict zone where daily life is itself insecure, compromised, there are overriding concerns. In the midst of this, what Virendraji and his Kacche village team represent is a hope of peace in the region, of harmony between human beings and the environment.

In Chhattisgarh, there are plans mooted by the Central Government to train local youth as seasonal forest guards in Naxal-affected areas. It may give them an opportunity to earn their livelihood in regions where the existing patterns of tribal way of life have suffered.

The Minister of State for Environment and Forests, Jairam Ramesh has stated that this would be part of the "Green Guard Mission"; one of the eight missions to fight climate change.

The Green Army of Kacche village, even if is many years away from becoming potential forest guards, is interestingly and perhaps prophetically in tandem with the times, with processes that are regenerative and productive for society as a whole.

According to Charkha Features, they signify a trend, a departure from the present impasse which is blocking not only environmental concerns but development in this conflict-affected zone, as a whole.

Virendraji and his Kacche village team may be a drop in the ocean, a lone voice in the wilderness but that does not detract from its immense merit. They are perhaps a precursor to a phase when concerns of harmony in the social and environmental realm subsume the divergences in political and economic realm. By Nandini Manikpuri (ANI)

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