This Gudi Padwa, plant a neem and reap its benefits

The State Social Forestry Department has been on a mission for some time now to use the Hindu festivities and their associated rituals to imbibe sensitivity towards trees and environment amongst the people. While it distributed Banyan saplings on the day of Vatsavitri last year and schoolchildren tied giant rakhis to trees on Rakshabandhan, the department is now going to sell saplings of Neem trees through 300 stalls across the state on the occasion of Gudi Padwa .

The volunteers of the National Green Corps (NGC) and National Service Scheme (NSS) will sell these saplings on March 26. Their catchline will be 'Gudi Padwa-Kadunimb Vadhwa' ' (Plant and grow a Neem on Gudi Padwa).

"Under this programme, we are going to sell Neem plants to people at subsidised rates and appeal to them to plant the saplings. About five lakh seedlings of Neem raised in various nurseries of the state will be kept on sale through retail outlets covering all districts in the state. We will also impress upon the people to grow these plants till monsoon and then plant them at a suitable place during the rains. We will help them find such a suitable place too," said Prakash Thosre, Director of Social Forestry, said. He added that it was a small attempt to give back to the nature.

The Neem tree, replete with medicinal value, has special significance during the Gudi Padwa festival, which symbolises the beginning of the Maharashtrian new year. As per the rituals, on this day neem leaves are partaken early in the morning and a special a flag is erected outside the house with a small branch of Neem tied to it.

"The Neem is a precious tree. It can withstand drought situations and is a good insecticide. Besides, it is not too choosy about the soil type it grows on. The medicinal values of the Neem are recognised by Unani medicine and all its parts — the seeds, leaves, flowers, bark and gum — are considered useful. A research by the Gujarat University concluded that Neem was the best tree amongst all others because the total value of Neem fruits, fodder, firewood and timber overshadows other trees," Thosre said.

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