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With the focus of the world on environment this week (due to the  United Nations Conference on Climate Change at Copenhagen ), I thought of writing something positive about the climate change topic.

 Under NREGA – initiated in February 2006 as the government’s most ambitious employment generation scheme for poor people – the authorities are bound by law to provide a minimum of 100 days of employment a year to members of families living below the poverty line. About 44% of Bihar’s population falls into this category.  But how would one implement such a scheme in a state which has the reputation of being the poorest and most lawless state in India? NREGA funds were never utilized completely for the welfare of the people. (This is true in most of the Indian states.)


Mr. SM Raju Image Source: BBC Media

In this scenario,  Mr. SM Raju, an Indian Civil Services officer and an agriculturist by training introduced his ‘social forestry’ program.

 “The poor monsoon this year has led to lower agricultural outputs, while flash floods in some northern districts has made the situation even worse, he said. “So the idea struck to my mind, why not involve families below the poverty line in social forestry and give them employment under this scheme for 100 days?

 Mr. Raju went on to make a blue print of his idea, and obtained support of senior state officials.

 “I told the villagers that they would get 100 days employment in a year simply by planting trees and protecting them. The old, handicapped and widows would be given preference,” he explained.

 Every village council has now been given a target of planting 50,000 saplings – a group of four families has to plant 200 seedlings and they must protect them for three years till the plants grow more sturdy.

 “They would get the full payment if they can ensure the survival of 90% of the

Significantly, his scheme has even stopped the migration of poor labourers from the area in search of employment elsewhere during monsoon time.

 “We never thought we would get employment for planting trees and protecting them,” said Paigambarpur village head Indra Bhusan, whose community – like many others – planted over 30,000 saplings mostly on both flanks of the 14km embankment which criss-crosses their village.

Excellent work!  Read more at http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8257563.stm