But your letters did something else, quite positive. It made us start critically reflecting. You have pushed us to realise that ADATS as an organisation and the coolies as individuals do not have a well thought of position on the environment. You have made us realise that irrespective of who is responsible for the denudation, we could still play a vital cleanup role in our village ecosystems. But to our mind this has no immediate connection with the DLDP. Irrespective of whether we implement a DLDP in the 4 extension areas or not, we have a role in raising the environmental consciousness of the coolies and to initiate positive actions which have demonstrative (pedagogic) as well as ecologically beneficial effects. In this sense you have brought positive “environment friendly” actions into our agenda and made what I can only describe as a subtle cultural intervention. We are no more satisfied with merely convincing ourselves that our action choices are environmentally benign.
The coolies’ position with regard to working on the lands of rich farmers remains unchanged. ADATS’ position with regard to the watershed approach stays the same. But we have already started discussing ways and means by which we can go beyond mere environmentally benign actions. Each and every CSU has started discussing what concrete actions can be taken up to benefit themselves and the ecosystem. The lists they are coming up with are all fairly predictable. They include the planting of fuel trees on the borders of their holdings and on waste lands, planting fruit trees around their homes, no CCF loans for those who want to burn brick kilns, struggling against the Mandal Panchayats who see the felling of mature trees on common lands as a convenient source of revenue, preserving naturally growing plant species on their fields even if this interferes with cropping, sticking to multiple cropping as opposed to groundnut monoculture, a total ban on spraying pesticides/insecticides, etc. But we believe that once such discussions start in earnest, a regular and ongoing contact with outside expertise will increase the quality of their action choices.