Financial Express Online’s Bulbul Dhawan talked to Dr Prabhakar Rao, Project Director for Centre of Excellence, Aurangabad, Ministry of Tribal Affairs, to understand more about this initiative.
Raksha Bandhan 2021: Raksha Bandhan is an auspicious occasion and a major festival in the Hindu culture, in which a sister ties a thread or Rakhi on her brother’s wrist and the brother vows to protect her in return. Over the years, Rakhis have gotten more and more innovative, colourful and varied. However, they were not the most eco-friendly ones, which made disposal of Rakhis that much more difficult and more harmful to the environment. However, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s Art of Living and Union Ministry of Tribal Affairs as a part of their bigger partnership are encouraging about 1,100 women from 10 tribal villages in Aurangabad to make eco-friendly Rakhis under a project called ‘Vruksha Bandhan’. Financial Express Online’s Bulbul Dhawan talked to Dr Prabhakar Rao, Project Director for Centre of Excellence, Aurangabad, Ministry of Tribal Affairs, to understand more about this initiative.
Raksha Bandhan 2021: Material used for ‘Vruksha Bandhan’ Rakhis
Dr Rao explained, “The Rakhis are being made of biodegradable cotton and seeds of indigenous trees only. For this, we are using small seeds like those of tamarind, kadam and neem. All the species for this purpose have been selected after due consultation with the forest department.”
How are these Rakhis being distributed?
According to Dr Rao, the distribution and sale of these Rakhis is being carried out in Aurangabad and the Art of Living is taking care of that aspect. “The Rakhis are being sold at Rs 100 for a set of three pieces. The Art of Living is only deducting the administrative expenses from the earnings, and everything else is being transferred over to the group of tribal women,” he explained.
Why is the ‘Vruksha Bandhan’ project being carried out?
“The Rakhis that are being made under this project can be buried into the ground after the brother removes it from his wrist post-festival. This would take care of disposing it of, since the cotton is also biodegradable,” Dr Rao said.
The first aim of the project is, of course, to increase the forest cover so that climate change can be tackled in a better manner. The second objective is to reduce the post-Raksha Bandhan issue of Rakhi disposal.
However, there is a third aim as well. The ministry and the Art of Living have tied up to train natural farming to people in these 10 villages, and these 1,100 women are a part of that group. But apart from teaching them about farming, the team decided to teach them about making Rakhis as well. “We wanted them to have a chance at earning additional income through craftsmanship. So, we taught them how to make Rakhis. And these women have artistic instinct so they make it very colourful and in a very beautiful manner,” Dr Rao said.
A bigger problem
The ‘Vruksha Bandhan’ project is not a standalone project being carried out in a vacuum. It is a part of an initiative that has been taken to tackle a much bigger concern.
“The Union Ministry of Tribal Affairs started an initiative called ‘Atmanirbhar Tribal Farmers through Natural Farming’. This initiative was started in October 2020 with the aim of training 10,000 farmers in the art of natural farming in these 10 tribal villages of Aurangabad over a period of three years,” Dr Rao said.
But why was this initiative taken? “The tribal areas had largely been free of chemical-based farming that has been adopted in other areas in the country so far. However, recently, the Ministry noticed the penetration of agro-chemicals into the tribal areas as well, which is a cause for concern. So, they decided to train tribal farmers in natural cow-based farming that can be carried out without the use of chemicals,” he explained.
Though the aim of the initiative is to teach farming, the team has evidently been working on teaching other forms of art and craft as well, likely so that the farmers do not have to rely solely on farming to earn. This could be because the pressure to earn solely from farming might lead to tribal farmers also turning to chemical-based methods, but alternative skills might help in taking some of that pressure away. Regardless of whether that is a motivation or not, these innovative Rakhis are definitely admirable for what they symbolise – eco-friendly products, reversal of climate change and self-reliance of tribal people, especially women.