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Gandhi's Neem Tree Dying in Bihar's Champaran Due to Neglect

This tree, associated with the Champaran Satyagraha, is dying due to the concrete structure built around it which has cut off the supply of water and other essential nutrients to the tree.
Gandhi's Neem Tree Drying in Bihar

Patna: It is an old neem tree, but has a rich heritage of being associated with Mahatma Gandhi and the freedom struggle. However, the heritage tree in Bihar’s East Champaran district is drying fast due to the neglect and apathy of the government to conserve it in the last few years.

This neem tree, which is over 120 years old, is likely to die soon if urgent scientific measures are not taken by the district administration to revive it as revealed by a report sent by the forest department to the East Champaran District Magistrate Raman Kumar and top officials of the department. In its report, the forest department has stressed the need of urgent treatment for this old neem tree that has historical significance.

According to forest officials, the tree is located near the block office of Tirkaulia, about 10 km from Motihari, the district headquarters of East Champaran. “The neem tree is standing helpless. It is ailing as its leaves are missing even during the ongoing monsoon. The branches are drying too but the stem is still green,” one of the forest official told NewClick.

It is a part of the recorded history that Mahatma Gandhi during his stay in Champaran to lead the aggrieved farmers against the colonial rulers, used to sit under this neem tree, locally known as Gandhi ka Neem. He used to sit for hours to meet and address the indigo farmers, whose revolt Gandhi as part of the Satyagraha movement against British after his return from South Africa in 1917.

“This neem tree which witnessed Gandhi’s Champaran Satyagarsh has been neglected to such an extent that it is drying and reached a stage where it will die if urgent care is not taken,” Ranjeev, an environmental activist said. Ranjeev told NewsClick that in the recent years in Bihar, a method of concretisation has been developed to ‘protect’ the environment. He said, “This neem tree is a victim of the concrete structure constructed around it to beautify. However, the concrete structure has damaged it and stopped the natural water and other nutrients required by the plant to sustain itself.”

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A district forest officer Prabhakar Jha, who has examined this neem tree on the order of DM, said that the concrete structure constructed around the tree is the main cause of its drying up. “The concrete structure should be removed and the nearby soil should be treated. The tree’s stem is still green and it can survive,” he said.

Speaking to NewsClick about the condition of the tree, Tirkaulia police station officer in charge Akhilesh Kumar said, “This is not any ordinary tree, but has a legacy attached.”

Ironically, exactly 10 years ago, CM Nitish Kumar had announced a plan to develop all places associated with Gandhi during his satyagraha movement in Champaran under an ambitious plan of Gandhi circuit to attract tourists. But even after a decade of his announcement, this neem tree is on the verge of dying, which shows the reality behind the government’s seriousness to protect places connected with Gandhi.

Even last year, the state government had spent crores of rupees in the name of centenary celebrations of the Champaran satyagraha.

What is even more surprising is that Nitish Kumar is set to formally launch his much hyped Jal-Jeevan-Haryali Abhiyan from October 2, marking the birth anniversary of Gandhi, across the state. Meanwhile, his government seems to have left this neem tree to face the onslaught of man-made factors.

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“Nitish Kumar had promised the beautification of this neem tree for its association with Gandhi but nothing has happened so far. Instead, the tree is in poor condition,” a local resident Muneshwar Pandey said. A middle aged farmer, Pandey recalls that his father and grandfather used to narrate stories related to this neem tree from the days of Gandhi.

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