photo of Indian woman Garwhal and Kumaon
India glossary


(INDIA 10)






self-taught forester/ farmer


Kot Malla village, Alaknanda Valley, Chamoli


April 1994



Section 1
What is your name?
Sir, my name is Jagat Singh Chaudhry, ‘Junglee’.

What is your age?
I am 44 years of age now.

How many members are there in your family?
Including my mother, we are seven of us - my wife, myself, four children and my mother.

What is the level of your education?
I have done my graduation. Everyone else is educated in the family. My mother can only sign her name.

What were the main sources of income in your family earlier and what are they now?
Earlier the main sources of income were employment and agriculture. The women took the burden of agriculture and the men bore the burden of jobs. Now they are pensions and agriculture.

Is your family originally from this place or have you come from somewhere else and settled down here? Any special history?
My family has a special history. As far as I know we came from Rajasthan around the ninth or eighth century and the earliest ancestors came and settled towards Dhanpur Gadh. There was a copper mine there and their business centred around that. When our numbers grew we began settling down here and there. We have come here from Dhanpur.

Is there - or was there - any special knowledge or art which is known to your family?
Earlier there was special knowledge, as far as I know our great grandfather, my grandfather's father, was a great lover of trees. His name was Sadhu Singh and the mango tree he planted is there in the village till today. After him was my grandfather, Sher Singh, who was so close to nature that he acquired vaksiddhi (the grace of Goddesses Saraswathi) later. People would come to him from distant places with their problems. Then the British Government gave him a certificate for his vaksiddhi and a monthly pension of Rs5 per month.
Section 2
What is the condition of women in your family?
The condition of women was ordinary but earlier in the family women faced quite a difficult situation with regard to grass and fuel wood, as they would have to go quite far for it. Now I have made such an arrangement - with the help of my experiment of 20-25 years - that they are no longer dependent on the forest outside. I have planted my own forest.

Does your village have a special history?
Kot is the name of our village and I have heard from the elders that the court used to be held here. It was the old order, perhaps this village was connected to the King. This is what I have heard.

According to what you have heard or seen, what was the system of panchayat (village council) in your village? And to what extent did people abide by the decisions of the panchayat?
I will take that in two parts. What I have heard... there are people as old as 100 years in our village, whenever I talked to them... In this context, whenever I listen to them I am filled with amazement at how there is such an enormous difference between now and then... That people earlier... this thing of a community spirit that is being brought forth today existed in the people naturally earlier, as I have seen it. For example, for canals and ghul (water channel for irrigation) there is the irrigation department, but earlier there was panchdhaita (one member of each family takes part in community work) in which the ghul would be made and they would get the panal (wooden pipe which brings water to water mill) ready. And what was this panchdhaita? It was as if today we had to bring the panal, so everyone went and did the work without wages. Or if the canal had to be repaired then the entire village went for that [work]. For food, prasad (a dish of flour, jaggery and ghee) would be made and kamolas (earthen storage pots) would be given. The work was so well done that it remains strong even today. Such strong structures that we can't compare them with the work done today.
The other thing was that earlier if a new vegetable was cooked in someone's house then the entire neighbourhood would taste it, whoever lit the fire first would provide ignition for the whole of the neighbourhood. Today it is just the opposite, every house has matchboxes, every household is cooking its own vegetables and although it must have made people self sufficient, all that talk of community is over. Earlier, if a soldier had come then the entire village would gather at his house, not for any selfish motive or any particular purpose but to share joys and sorrows. When a girl was going to her in-laws then the villagers would go a long way to see her off, but today you don't even come to know which girl has come home from her in-laws and when she has returned. One thing is very evident - that there is a lot of difference between our community and personal concerns. People who are a 100 years old, and who are there till now, are in good health but our 20-year old youth suffer from illness.
One must also reflect on the fact that we have distanced ourselves from nature while our elders were so closely allied with it. Their food consisted of so many natural things - timla, bedu (varieties of wild fig), khaina (variety of shrub), the vegetable of guriyal and silk cotton, and the one made of chandra grass and they have eaten lengada. Now it is the time of the cauliflower. As far as community spirit is concerned, we have to call a meeting to get four people to do any work. Earlier when people's buffaloes would go to the channis (simple huts for shelter during grazing season), then two or three villagers would carry provisions, one person would get the milk and many others would carry luggage. They would live in the forest, their livelihood was sufficient and there was plenty of ghee (clarified butter) and milk. Today Parag milk (brand of powdered milk) has reached even the villages. Tell me then what have we, the new generation achieved? There are many schemes such as milk production (dairying), various loans etc, but the truth of the matter is that there are paradoxes everywhere. The new generation is neither prepared to learn from the old one, nor does it quite do the right thing to achieve its desired material gains. It is because of this that our social environment is in a bad way today.
Section 3
What was the spirit behind panchayati decisions in earlier times? And how far were they followed?
What you mention is very true...earlier when there was a decision then people had faith in it. Now, even if pradhan (head of panchayat) takes a decision, people do not believe that it may be the right decision. If you look at law, earlier it was that if Indra Singh (any right person from any village) was to decide then he would make the right judgement because he was the right person with the right kind of thinking. So earlier people had faith in the one who gave justice before they received justice - therefore their justice was acceptable.

What were the main reasons for this?
It is easy to understand… people were self-satisfied and there were few fears and insecurities, every one shared a life-style and there were no paradoxes. They knew we had to stay together and there was no alternative so people were connected to each other on a personal basis. Today people have relationships only for selfish motives.

What did the panchayat do earlier? And what does it do now?
From the point of view of work, the panchayat of today does more work, but the panchayat of earlier times and the panches (five men who lead the panchayat) did more solid work. There is a lot of difference between the ghul they made and our canals today. It is how you look at it, today there is money for everything but earlier there was no money and the inexpensive ghul and chauri (raised seat built around a tree) they made are beyond our imagination now. These are the main differences.

Please tell us any special views you have on the geographical environment?
The geography of our area is extremely beautiful. Our area is divided into two main sections. There are three gram sabhas (village assemblies) across the stream - Ladoli, Diyuli and Kwanli -and there are three gram sabhas on this side- Jasolui, Kot and Kodma. Because the goddess of greenery is Siddhapeeth in Jasoli and it is part of our cultural heritage, you can see the geographical environment… mango, grapes, papaya, guava and oranges are growing here, and it is well endowed with grains also, as wheat, rice, kodo (finger millet), jhangora (barnyard millet) and kauni (proso millet) grow here.
Section 4
You said that there are 6-7 gram sabhas in the region. Do they get together to decide on a community project?
Yes, lately the panchayats of both the regions were held. There was some disagreement over the middle and high school but later an acceptable solution was found. Both the regions were united when it came to an inter-college. Everybody felt that there should be an inter-college here. We made a dharamshala (rest house) at the Siddhapeeth Hariyali Devi after having a general meeting of people from the entire region.

What was the state of education in your region? And how has education progressed?
Yes, this is so. Every village has a school now. Earlier there were only two primary schools but now there are 7-8 primaries, there is a middle school, high school and also an inter-college. The education scenario has changed a lot.

When educational opportunities were limited you completed your graduation, and you and your friends have good ideas... How successful is today's education in this regard?
Today education is very different. In our times, education progressed through cooperation between the student, his guardians and the teachers, and there was a very personal relationship between all of them. This cooperative relationship was essential for character building and definitely characters were built like this. These three factors are also there today, but that personal touch is missing - because of which today's student is struggling, his knowledge is stunted and he is losing his character.

What are your views on the development of education?
For education it is essential that there is intimate contact between the student, the guardian and the teacher, that they play complementary roles, and the structure of education should lay emphasis on character building. We talk of maths and science but without character building all this is a burden.

What were the economic resources of your village? And what are they now?
Earlier the economic resources were mostly cattle rearing, and agriculture was just enough to feed the family. It was not done for commercial purposes. But the main occupation was cattle rearing and there was trading in milk and ghee.

What were and are the traditional industries and crafts of your village?
Earlier there was only dhanpur (copper). Now cattle rearing and agriculture are the mainstay. Other than ironsmiths and Ojhis (blacksmiths) there is also the Tamota (a caste that makes copper vessels).

What are the traditional customs of this region?
There is everything... Pandava leela, Devata puja, Jhumla, Siddhanath, Mangal etc., (traditional folk celebrations involving dance, drama, religious observances) all of this happens here.
Section 5
What were the marriage customs earlier and what are they now?
Earlier, I have heard, the bride's family would take some money and we called it a takka marriage. But now it has all changed; now it is a daan (gift) marriage.

What are the main castes in your village and region and what are their occupations?
Mostly, there is the Chaudhary caste in our village. There are some Rawat caste people in Ladoli. There are some Pandit, Oji, Tamota, Lohar and Sonar castes also.

Were occupations divided according to caste?
Yes, like the Tamotas are excellent vessel makers. They make dhols, nagadas, ranasingha (musical instruments) in addition to gagars (for water), patilas (for cooking) and tolas (weights and measurements). The Brahmins are engaged in pujas (prayer rituals) and in farming.

What did people get in return for doing work for the village and what do they get now?
They would get grain for the work they did. This is called dadwar. The iron-smith gets comparatively more grain at the time of reaping the crop. Dadwar is given twice in the year. They got along in this way and our work would also get done. Brahmins would also get dadwar and there was the custom of nali (1 kg). Like nali is given to Dalyaji (person considered to possess powers that can influence the weather through chants and mantras) and Bhutyaur (local deity who protects village land).

What is the status of migration in your area?
This is a very serious matter. The pace of migration is increasing, as people do not want to remain in the hills and are on the road, which leads nowhere, it leads to destruction. There is no programme in the hills with which we can put an end to it. The want to grab the glitter of materialism but very few are actually able to do so. It is essential to put an end to migration and it is necessary to think seriously about the issue.

Is there seasonal migration in this area?
Oh yes. There are kharks (meadows) in our area still. People from our area go to the jungles (forests) and kharks in the summer and in the winter they come back.

What is the pattern of agriculture in your area? And what crops are grown here?
Agriculture is done in the traditional way here. The crops, which grow here, are wheat, rice, mandua, jhangora, kauni (types of millet) and all the pulses.
Section 6
What are the means of irrigation?
Earlier there were the ghuls of our elders, which brought water from quite a distance. Now there are canals even though they are in bad shape which are used for irrigation.

Where were the seeds kept?
Earlier there was a very good method, grandmothers and mothers etc would select good stalks from the field and store them after coating them in earthen pots. Now there is the vikas (literally progress - high yield variety) seed, which is in use. The tradition of storing [and using our own] seeds is slowly getting lost.

Do you think that traditional seeds are good or are the external vikas seeds better?
Today's seeds give a better harvest but these cross-seeds need chemical fertilisers and pesticides, which was not so earlier. The earlier seeds were constant, they would yield a satisfactory crop under any condition. The use of chemicals for new seeds will give a better crop but the question is will the soil remain in good condition?

Is there a change in the soil according to you?
There is a very big change. We had soil earlier, where is the soil today? It has all been eroded. Now you think about it, earlier there were dozens of types of leaves with which manure was made but now the diversity of grasses is lost. Today there is manure but it has no dung, and if there is dung it has no organic substances. So there is a definite change in the soil, earlier there was moisture in the soil, now there is a lack of moisture.

What is the cycle of crops in your region?
The cycle of crops is such that in the irrigated land there is wheat for six months and rice for six months. In the un-irrigated area there is mandua, wheat, pulses etc.

What are the main commercial crops of the area?
There are no commercial crops… the wheat and rice is just sufficient for us but if the dal (lentils) or rajma (a pulse) crop has been good then we sell that. People are paying attention to vegetable produce now. Earlier the natural vegetables were enough, like in one season we would eat the timla and in one season the lainguna, chandra, guriyal, semul etc, now there are no trees so we have to grow our own vegetables. Here mostly potatoes, onion, spinach, fenugreek, coriander etc are being grown.

Are people inclined towards fruit in your region or village?
Yes, they are planting fruit trees now. Much earlier they did not pay much attention to fruits because the crops were good but now many of them are planting fruit trees.
Section 7
What is the status of women in this region in connection with education and occupation?
The status of women in this region is generally okay because the enormous burden of farming, cattle rearing etc, is their responsibility. There is a fair degree of education now.

Earlier in cases of illness in the region what were the systems of vaids (practitioners of indigenous medical) and medicine?
Earlier there were only vaids and natural medicines. What is amazing is that the diseases that are there today did not exist earlier, and the diseases that did exist were cured by herbs and roots. The elders were all vaids in themselves; they knew if there was a wound from a weapon to apply the root of the kulhadkatya (a medicinal plant), and if there was a sprained foot then put maidalakdi (a medicinal plant).

What was cattle rearing like earlier and what is the system like today?
I do not see much difference in the cattle rearing of earlier times and now. Many schemes were made for this area but they were not made systematically or with much thought. There was the dairy project, but if a villager wants to start milk production on a large scale then there is no provision for loans and other resources. If a loan is arranged then the banks do not co-operate.

What were the means of trade in your times and till which point was road transport available?
People mostly went by foot earlier. Our nearest trade centre was Dholtir and people believed in foot travel. Now there are roads to each village.

What were the traditional methods of grinding wheat and husking paddy?
There was the ukhal (stone vessel) for husking paddy, which is there today also, and there were water mills for grinding wheat, which also exist now. But now electric mills in each village have reduced the number of water mills.

Did the people of the region earn anything from tourism (the yatra system)?
The yatra (pilgrimage) system was on foot. The people of the region would go to Badrinath and Kedarnath. Tourism was also there before and sometimes a day would be spent with relatives. There would be many chores and many villages on the way. It was tourism without resources.

What was the availability of fodder and grass like earlier and how was it changed?
What we have heard from people before us was that there was no shortage of fodder in their times. Nature had given them enough but now the jungle is under pressure from the population and it has lessened. Fodder trees have been replaced by pine. The jungle has become commercial and the availability of fodder has vanished.

What is the difference between generations according to you?
It's this difference in thinking. For example, my grandfather would produce a spark using an iron agela (implement probably used like flint stone), cotton and flint stone, while I have a matchbox in my pocket. That is the difference, fire is bought today with money while there was fire without money then. The generation of today wants returns immediately, it talks of science in books while the earlier generation practised it on the ground.
Section 8
You must have learnt of some experiences from the older people…can you tell us about them?
The biggest experience was that they were very close to nature, and this thing of self-satisfaction that I am talking about was there in them. There was sense of co- operation among them. Today each person is isolated and wants to depend on his own resources. It was not like this earlier.

What is the difference you feel in a cash-free system and one, which is, cash intensive?
A system based on money has created paradoxes. A cash-free system does not have paradoxes, it was not like this before. One call would be given in the village for panchayati work that today we have to make the road, and everybody knew that there was no money but everybody went forth in a spirit of selflessness. Today there is money but the paradoxes have sharpened.

What was the state of your forest earlier and what is it like now?
What they elders tell us in that earlier there were dense forests and there were many species in them. But now in the mono-culture pine forests there is no [diversity]. Now people are trying to plant trees for fodder, the people of my village are developing the forest.

What was the system of water supply here?
There was and still is a ghul for irrigation and its water is distributed through panta (taking it in turns). This system was decided once and the ghul would be used through panta by different villages that the water would go to this village until this time and then to the next. We have our own spring for drinking water in the village.

How was the upkeep of the forests done?
People had a deep feeling for the forests and when I asked them the reason for this [they said] that they got their vegetables from the forest as well as grass, fuel etc. There were few forest fires, but if there was one then everybody went in a group to put it out. Today it is just the opposite, if there is a fire today then people are indifferent as nothing which belongs to them is burning, it is the forest department’s. It is a matter of great concern, this growing indifference of the people.

Have you noticed any difference in the climate?
Yes the elders say that they have never seen this before - that when it rains it is for several months and it is dry for many months at a stretch. There is a definite change in the weather.

Anything important you would like to tell us about your area or village?
Well the people of my village have been quite fine from the beginning, they have held good jobs also.
Section 9
Development is sought to be projected in the construction of big dams. What are your views on big dams?
Does the government of today want the development of people in the hills? Or does it want the development of people outside based on what they can get from the hills? They are making these huge dams. I ask you what direct benefit will we get from these big dams? The government can make big dams but it should have some purpose in mind. If they are making these dams because electricity is required for the factories of Delhi and Meerut, and the electricity produced here can be sent there, then what can those places give us? They should tell us what plan of action do they have in mind? The people of the hills have their own concept of development, and what development does the government want by adding materialistic gains to it? All this defies understanding.
On the question of big dams, it would be far more beneficial for us to have small hydroelectric projects. On the one hand the government is making dams and on the other it talks of the environment. It is offering the temptation of electricity in the hills and at the same time it is not allowing the establishment of industry. I don't know very much but I would like to say that if small hydroelectric projects are set up they will be more beneficial for us. Now you see in the name of environment the 66kv line is not being laid, the government or the authorities should tell us what use is this dam to the [people of the] hills.

What are your views on tourism? What should it be like?
It is a simple matter that tourism is an excellent means of income for us in the hills but the tourism that is being talked about, is it going to benefit us or not? You see, now will this tourism not shake up our cultural, mental or our spiritual heritage? People have just brought forth the issue that if tourism develops in the hills then it will bring employment to the people here and it will bring money, and they have limited their understanding of tourism to this. But it is essential to consider that in the name of tourism will the people of the hills become addicted to opium, cocaine, charas (marijuana) etc? Under the cover of tourism, will such enterprises mushroom which will destroy our very culture? If such is the lure of money then it will be a matter of great sadness.

What should tourism be like? That which creates employment, keeps intact the cultural heritage and which involves the common man?
At least in the context of the hills there should be a clear and simple policy... I will talk about tourism in the hills. Now there are four types of tourists who come here. The first are those who are tired of their busy and crowded life in the big metropolis' -Delhi, Bombay, Calcutta - and want to spend a quiet month or two in the hills. The second are those who come on a religious pilgrimage, those who want the darshan (audience with God in a temple or a spiritual leader) of Sri Kedar, Badri, Gangotri, Yamnotri. This religious tourism is the tourism of faith. The third type of tourists are our students and youth who spend their summer vacation at Mussoorie, Nainital, Auli etc. Sports people etc, who are also tourists are fine.
But then there are those who under the cover of their business are giving rise to shady transactions. They probably steal in the plains or somehow reach their goods here and trade in them. In the name of tourism, cameras and watches are being sold. I don't understand how in the village, dhoti (cotton cloth) sellers and utensil vendors are appearing and if we ask them, “Do you have a valid license or an authentic receipt for your goods?” we find that they have nothing. If they manage to dupe the entire village there is no proof. So before promoting tourism we must think about these things so that tomorrow there is not a body blow to the culture of the hills, that we do not have to start a new movement – “Stop such tourism”.
We will have to be very vigilant in the matter of tourism that there should be tourism akin to the ideology the world over, tourism for knowledge, tourism for one's peace of mind. And people who have a vision of tourism for employment... if the right planning is done then would the people lack for unemployment here? Is there a shortage of economic resources here? But there is no planning; there is just this name: tourism’. If tourism is developed properly then there can be economic development here, but if it continues like this then we will get nothing more than carrying the luggage of these tourists. They will give us some money and make fun of us.
Why are the government and administration doing nothing towards the practical implementation of the right kind of development plans for the hills? When we are talking of development and economic growth, then "milk production" is our traditional occupation. What steps is the government taking to encourage that? Only some dugdh utpandan samities (milk production societies) have been made and no work is being done. The milk has decreased, it has not increased; it is available in packets. There is talk of superior breeds of cattle but the system is not right. If the government talks of fodder production, really arranges for good breeds, then the dairy industry can yield handsome returns. This will save the environment and also boost tourism.
Talking of bee keeping, why can't it become a very good occupation? They talk of bee keeping in the hills and they say “get training for it” but despite this, how much honey actually goes out of the hill region? The percentage is zero. If the government decides, then rabbit breeding can be started, cottage industries can be developed and this will lead to economic prosperity and enhance tourism. But this is only if the planning is done right here in the mountains, and resources are made available to people here. Does a poor man have so much money that for one cow he has to run after the patwari (functionary in the Revenue Office) and the district officials? How can he do business like this? The government must think about this.
Section 10
Can you tell us, how much interest have people shown in the government-run schemes for development since independence?
The word that has risen in importance the most since independence is tika-tippani (debate and discussion). Even if a person is doing good work there must be comment and criticism. The idea of for and against has become very strong and politics has reached our kitchen. This is the kind of development that has seen maximum growth and this has destroyed personal relationships. You can well imagine what sort of development will take place in a village or family where personal relationships have vanished.
Section 11
You had said that you have been experimenting with tree farming for twenty years. Can you tell us something about it?
Yes, you could call it an experiment or whatever you like. You have seen it already. To tell you the truth I talk of a mixed forest. Mixed forests should be developed in our mountains. Now what else would my villagers know except pine because the entire forest has pine. Where will they get to see the deodar (Himalayan cedar), so we will have to experiment with planting deodar so that the villagers do not have to go to Joshimath or some other place to see one. All kinds of trees, when fodder leaf trees, trees for fuel wood, trees which will grip the soil will be planted. When trees that will prevent landslides and fruit trees will be planted together, if fodder, grass, medicinal herbs are available at one place, then the face of the hills will be transformed. There is one thing that is for sure, that mixed forests... whatever the books of science say I don't have much faith in that. Because I haven't been planting trees after reading any books, not have I been trained anywhere or had anybody's guidance. Whatever I have done is on the ground and I have experimented and seen that banj (oak), deodar, bans (bamboo), surai (cyprus), angu (variety of ficus), chir (variety of pine), bhimal, timla and sheesham (broadleaf deciduous hardwood) etc will all grow at the same place, if a person is determined. I have preserved 300-400 kafal (small tree with edible fruit) trees. The kafal is being destroyed in the hills. It is not possible to get kafal to eat; it should be preserved. What is being preserved? The pine. Now you tell me after 20-25 years we won't find any soil, only stones.

Since when have you started this experiment?
It is about twenty years, I started in 1974-75 after the death of my father; I started this according to what he had told me.

Where did you get the inspiration to do something like this?
From my father, before he died he said to me, “Beta (son), make our infertile land of some use.” Now I had this problem before me to make that land of some use, where nothing was growing and that too without water. I thought of one thing, that I should first preserve the natural vegetation of that place before anything else and after that trees started to grow there, then grass. Different species over there.

Does that land belong to you or is it government land?
Absolutely my own naap (legally measured) land. The government doesn't let you do anything on its land.

When you first started doing this then what sort of cooperation did you get from your family or the villagers?
Initially there were a lot of problems, which I had to bear. The villagers co-operated to the extent that they did not spoil anything. They watched and I kept working. I would say that the cooperation of the villagers and the people of the area was that they did not destroy anything. Today the family is happy but twenty years ago when my age was right my mother and wife wanted me to take up a job and not get involved in this madness. Whatever little money I had, I put into this and continued to do this with body, heart and whatever resources I had.
Section 12
When you were doing this work of creating a mixed forest then what was the attitude of the government officials?
Their thinking was bookish, that at this height this species will not grow with that species such as banj with bans, deodar with sheesham etc, these were species which had nothing in common. These days I am experimenting with teak and kunair.

What is the height of this place?
4500 ft.

What species have you planted?
You see I have always had one point of view, I can't really talk of experimentation. It's the truth that I always loved trees and I want more and more species to be planted. At present there are 56 species, mainly, banj, kail (blue pine), deodar, chir, surai, kafal, chamakhadeek (ash), tun (mahogany), timla, khadik (a fodder tree), sheesham, ashok (tree with medicinal value), kapoor (camphor tree), asin (a timber tree) etc. Other than these trees there are fruit and flower trees. There is jaitoon (local olive; used for oil), fodder, grass, bushes and herbs.

What herbs have you planted?
If I tell you... the government has actually put restrictions on these herbs. They have a clear point of view that below a certain height these cannot grow. You have seen them... anyway, there are katuki, aracha, belladonna (used to make pain-killer), bajradanti (used in dental products/medicines) etc, which are ready.

What should the forest be like, what is your vision?
There should be every kind of tree in the forest, there should be fodder trees, fuel wood trees and those which keep the soil moist. banj, kafal, ayar (a broad-leaf shrub), burans (rhododendron) will keep our soil humid and their leaves will make humus which will have organic diversity. There should also be fruit trees, and trees that will supply wood for building purposes, and the most important trees are those which will keep the environment clean – broad-leafed ones. The rest for industry, raambans (sisal), bans, ringal (mountain cane) and grass and creepers other than these. Creepers are the main resources for fodder. If you plant a grass creeper once then you get grass all the year round.

Junglee ji, some people from the forest department say that in a pine forest other species cannot develop, what are your views on this?
It is like this, those people who say that this is not possible are also human beings and I have done it right here on this earth and I am also human. How can I say yes or no to anyone? I have actually done it. If someone says it a thousand times that it cannot be done they can keep saying it, but I have done it. I say that it can be done, if somebody says to me that a pine forest has to be made into a mixed forest then I am prepared to give my services free of charge. In 15-20 years I will make that forest into a mixed forest. But I know that no one from the forest department or the administration will say this. Even today, I am prepared to offer my services.
Section 13
What do you have to say about organic diversity?
All this talk of organic diversity in large-scale programmes...we hear about it on the radio and in the newspapers. But I will say only one thing - that all this talk of organic diversity, why is it limited only to paper? What diversity is there on the ground? Where will all this diversity take us if we only have pine needless? We will not plant trees and we want organic diversity. When the leaves of every tree fall on the ground then each leaf has different properties, and each leaf does not contain all the substances, so we need many types of leaves. The question is that when we do not have different types of leaves, then how can we have organic diversity?

Along with the development and conversation of the environment, what are your views on development in general?
Until we link the environment with development we cannot talk of the right kind of development. The thinking of the new generation says that, “You talk of the environment only after taking care of the environment of our stomachs”. Today it is the question of their stomachs, of unemployment, of economic resources. If you talk of the environment on a large scale then they will not come forward - and they are indeed not coming forward. They will not come forward when you will look at the natural environment as related to the environment of their stomachs; or else [all this talk of the] environment will be limited to planting trees. And simply trillions of trees have been planted in the hills by now... on paper so many trees have been planted in the hills that there should be no fields and houses here. But on the ground you can also see, and so can I, that there is not a single tree.
And we have an excellent plan for this; that you should certainly plant trees because they are one of the main factors in the environment, but also focus your attention on trees that will provide earnings, for example there is bhimal, the leaves are useful as fodder, its fibres can be used to make ropes, bags etc, shampoo can be made. The juice of the armora (medicinal shrub) can be made one of the best beauty aids. Trees can lead to economic prosperity, cottage industries can come up. If trees, grass, herbs, creepers etc all grow then won't there be economic development ... there should be pure thoughts in our minds.

You are an experienced young man from the new generation. What message would you like to give the new generation to inspire them?
First of all, the new generation will have to stand on the firm ground of reality. And they will have to think about the early man who was born in the forest, and the forest was his best friend who stood by him through thick and thin. Man grew up in these forests. We should be proud today to say that, “We are the junglee (people of the forest)”. If you talk of being junglee then people call you uncivilised. When the materialistic human being moved towards this materialism - which has no sound basis - then he equated this word junglee with being uncivilised and put a question mark on his own life. Why do they talk of the environment when they are not prepared to become junglee? It is my belief that until human beings become junglee the forests will not develop, and unless they link themselves with the forest there can be no talk of the environment. Only the junglee man can talk of the environment. When one Inter-college gave me the title of junglee, the effect of that was that people said that when somebody asks “Whose son is he?” we will have to say, “Junglee”. Well we are junglee all right, but are those people civilised who dance half-naked in clubs? They are not junglee who are killing people in the middle of the street?
Section 14
You have been doing such difficult work for 20 years. Did you take any funds/ grants?
I never took any funds from anywhere, nor did I even think about it. Whatever I had I put into this. Today I have 30,000 - 40,000 trees - what use is a sum of money?

If you get some funds or some money, what would you do with it?
In today's context if I do get it - first of all it is not possible - but if it does happen, then I will use it to further this environment programme, nothing else.

Tell us some important experience of your life for our benefit.
It is the truth that I am fearless and without self-doubt. I do not fear anything; tigers, snakes, bears, scorpions cannot hurt me. This confidence was born in me by living with nature. The environment in my heart has always been clean, I have been through phases of great neglect and isolation...I have died many times and also come alive many times. I did not lose my confidence while making this forest. It is my experience that if you get involved in this task then the trees will not only grow, they will be forced to grow. I tell the tree that I am prepared to do everything according to your needs, then why don't you grow? Human beings do not respond half as much as trees do, they do not have the kind of feelings that trees have. Today when I have leaves which I am giving to the trees, I am giving grass to the people. There is no harm... in bad times the tree has many enemies.

To what extent has the local population and administration accepted your ideas on the mixed forest?
The population has accepted it quite happily, the administration also says that mixed forests should be planted...The forest department will probably accept it with great difficulty.

What sort of cooperation do you expect from the forest department?
The forest department should convert these miles of pine forests into mixed forests. If they lack resources then they should seek the help of the people. If they approach me then I will give my selfless services. My only selfish motivation is that the migration from this place must be arrested, the self-confidence of the people should grow, the women of this place should become confident. That is my interest. Our self-confidence and self-reliance will grow and the common man will love the forest.