| SM Raju supervises a plantation drive in Tirhut. Telegraph picture |
Patna, Oct. 1: Bihar may not have earned applause for implementation of job scheme, but the Union ministry of rural development has adopted its model of sapling plantation and asked all states to replicate it.
“A roadside plantation model, which has been implemented in Muzaffarpur wherein old, physically challenged, widows and women job card holders were employed under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) in raising roadside plantation, has resulted in high success rate of the drive,” stated a letter issued by the Union ministry of rural development to the states.
The letter added that the “Muzaffarpur model” had succeeded in ushering in a sense of ownership and belongingness among Van Poshaks, the MGNREGA workers engaged in tree plantation.
The man behind the Muzaffarpur model is IAS officer S.M. Raju. As the commissioner of Tirhut, Raju had ensured plantation of 96.4 lakh trees in a day — August 30, 2009.
“Till February 2012, around 2.5 crore plants in Tirhut and Saran commissionaries were planted,” Raju told The Telegraph on Monday. He is at present posted as the commissioner in Munger.
“The concept of social forestry was introduced in 1976 by the national agriculture commission. However, it remained confined to the forest department, which did not have the manpower nor there was any participation of the people,” he said, adding that tagging tree plantation with MGNREGA had made it user-friendly and around four families were engaged in looking after the planted trees, ensuring a greater chance of survival, without having to erect fencing around the plantation.
“It’s like ‘you-save-me, I-will-save-you’ bond between the plant and the local population,” Raju added.
The officer had given a presentation of the model at Lal Bahadur Shastri Academy National Academy for Administration, Mussoorie, in 2010 in front of officials of seven states. “It was adopted by the academy as one of the best practices,” he said.
“After the success of the Muzaffarpur model, it is being extensively implemented in other parts of the state. The scheme is useful particularly in the rainy season when there is very little other activities. It not only ensures 100 days of guaranteed employment, but also gives the local population a sense of pride to be a Van Poshak. In Seohar district even a dress code has been made for Van Poshaks — a green jacket that distinguishes them from other MGNREGA workers. It gives them an identity,” said Bihar’s rural development minister Nitish Mishra.
He expressed happiness over the Bihar model being adopted nationwide. He said the survival of plants is far higher under this scheme.
Under social forestry even elderly people, physically challenged and women can get employment as Van Poshaks, taking care of the plants who otherwise were incapable to do conventional earth cutting works and thus unemployable.