Friday 24 June 2011

Shrewd Marketer Baba Ramdev robbing Uttarakhand Hills of its wealth

Written by Anil Singh

Baba Ramdev is a shrewd marketer. After making inroads into people's hearts with his yoga, and with the promise of health, he has unleashed a never ending fleecing of one of Uttarakhand's  most precious natural resources -- the forests.

Encouraging people to tap in the benefits of Ayurveda to live a disease free life; Yog Guru Ramdev has established a well run network of retailers, wholesalers and procurers to devoid Uttarakhand woods of their barks, roots, leaves, berries and almost anything which Baba thinks has some medicinal value.

In areas close to Baba's ashrams one can find many wholesalers emerging of late (Baba is their biggest client); whose warehouses are always filled with towering stocks of vegetation  from Uttarakhand hills. Just mention any root or leave, and the wholesaler will promise you to get it available in truck loads, in no time.

If the pace at which, the vegetation from Uttarakhand hills is being robbed continues, the Uttarakhand forests will be devastated in a couple of years. Will it die the climate and the unique culture.

To understand the intensity of this fleecing and the irreparable damage it will do to the Uttarakhand ecology; consider these facts:

Do you know a tree bared of its bark doesn't survive and die,

Do you know uprooting wild plants, to get its medicinal root; not only affects their survival directly (as it's uprooted); but indirectly also, human intervention affects the dispersal of their seeds; and results in mass extinction of the said plant from a particular geography.

Although every part of plant is meant for its living; a tree devoid of its leaves; can't make its food and eventually die.

But it appears, no one, not even those living in the hill state for eternity are understanding the consequences of  this enormous exploitation. The situation has indeed reached alarming levels. For instance, those who have lived in some hilly village of Uttarakhand, may have eaten "small sour-sweet black berries" found in wild, called "Kilmoda" in kumaon region (Picture Left). For ages, people in hills are eating these berries for their unique taste. Now, since Ramdev has told the world that the root of this wild shrub, called "Daroo Haldi"  has medicinal properties; all the roots have reached some wholesaler.

To be frank, I don't buy Baba Ramdev's pitch that Uttarakhand has enough medicinal plants to cure the entire world. For me this nothing but plain rubbish. All he wants is to further his plans of selling medicines and his appeal.

Medicinal plants are found in the Himalayan belt of Uttarakhand, as it has remained largely untouched from thousand of years. And that is how vegetation grows in any forest world-wide. If humans start interfering, not only the forests, but the whole ecosystem gets devastated. Studies have shown that Uttarakhand's unique ecosystem is too fragile to be played with. 

To be honest, and blunt, the fact that Uttarakhand hills have full of medicinal plants; doesn't mean the state has signed some bond to impart wellness to the entire country and the world. More than the medicinal value, the Uttarakhand vegetation is a part of Uttarakhand's fragile ecology; preserving which is of utmost importance.

Just like people from Uttarakhand's Garhwal hills, once saved their forests from timber mafia by embracing the trees under the renowned "Chipko Movement"; people of Uttarakhand should again unite to protect their fragile forests from these Babas and this "Wellness" mafia; by stopping anyone (no matter if he is a fellow villager) to take any plant part outside. 

Youth of Uttarakhand has the biggest role to play.


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