Tree Trouble

This year, Goans are being urged to hug a new Valentine – coconut trees

Citizen groups have concluded that celebration is the best way to protest the government's recent decision that the iconic coconut palm is not a tree.

Last month, the Goa government declared that the state’s iconic coconut palm was not actually a tree. It removed the species from the purview of the Goa Daman and Diu Preservation of Trees Act, thus allowing palms to be felled without a permit. In a state where the palm is highly valued and never cut unless absolutely necessary, the decision caused widespread anger. Now, two organisations have devised a unique way to express their unhappiness.

On February 14, they aim to stage a festival-protest titled “Coconut Love, Coconut Valentine”, at which residents of the palm-fringed state can express their love for the “kalpavriksha” (tree of heaven) and register their opposition to the government’s decision to declassify it as a tree.

“Every true Goan who loves our heritage is angry with this government,” said historian Prajal Sakhardande of Goa Heritage Action Group, which has organised the event along with Goa for Giving.

On January 14, the amendment to the Goa, Daman and Diu Preservation of Trees Act, 1984, dropped the tree status granted to coconut palms ostensibly to help farmers to cull old and ailing trees without going through lengthy bureaucratic procedures. But citizens groups spearheading protests against the decision did not buy this claim: they believe it is a ploy to make construction easier for apartments, factories and resorts.

“We feel they [the government] is out to destroy the natural heritage of this place, to aid certain lobbies,” alleged Sakhardande.

Event organiser Armando Gonslaves said that Valentine's Day was the perfect day on which to demonstrate love for the initiative was an ideal way to make their feelings known. “We thought of using the day to show our love for this tree, which has sustained us for so long,” he said.

As part of the programme, several events related to the coconut tree will be held across the state from February 6-14. A photography competition will encourage Goans to pose with a palm tree and post their pictures on social media. “Make the coconut tree your Valentine” is one theme.

Fashion designer Wendell Rodricks, photographer Prasad Pankar, and cartoonist Alexyz will inaugurate the festival by symbolically pinning hearts on a coconut tree.

Gonsalves said the finale is a planned Coconut Valentine festival of sorts at the South Goa seaside venue Zeepop-by-the Sea, which locals will demonstrate a variety of crafts, products, sweets and foods that use the coconut, along with poetry, music and art related to the palm. He has also planned smaller festivals across Goa, including cooking competitions and art competitions for children.

“Already, people have posted song, satire, art and cartoons on social media to express their dismay,” said Gonsalves, who led a delegation last week to the Goa governor on the issue. "And this will continue till the government realises it is wrong and rescinds the amendment.

Support our journalism by subscribing to Scroll+ here. We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

People who fall through the gaps in road safety campaigns

Helmet and road safety campaigns might have been neglecting a sizeable chunk of the public at risk.

City police, across the country, have been running a long-drawn campaign on helmet safety. In a recent initiative by the Bengaluru Police, a cop dressed-up as ‘Lord Ganesha’ offered helmets and roses to two-wheeler riders. Earlier this year, a 12ft high and 9ft wide helmet was installed in Kota as a memorial to the victims of road accidents. As for the social media leg of the campaign, the Mumbai Police made a pop-culture reference to drive the message of road safety through their Twitter handle.

But, just for the sake of conversation, how much safety do helmets provide anyway?

Lack of physical protections put two-wheeler riders at high risk on the road. According to a recent report by the World Health Organisation (WHO), more than 1.25 million people die each year as a result of road traffic crashes. Nearly half of those dying on the world’s roads are ‘vulnerable road users’ – pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists. According to the Indian transport ministry, about 28 two-wheeler riders died daily on Indian roads in 2016 for not wearing helmets.

The WHO states that wearing a motorcycle helmet correctly can reduce the risk of death by almost 40% and the risk of severe injury by over 70%. The components of a helmet are designed to reduce impact of a force collision to the head. A rigid outer shell distributes the impact over a large surface area, while the soft lining absorbs the impact.

However, getting two-wheeler riders to wear protective headgear has always been an uphill battle, one that has intensified through the years owing to the lives lost due on the road. Communication tactics are generating awareness about the consequences of riding without a helmet and changing behaviour that the law couldn’t on its own. But amidst all the tag-lines, slogans and get-ups that reach out to the rider, the safety of the one on the passenger seat is being ignored.

Pillion rider safety has always been second in priority. While several state governments are making helmets for pillion riders mandatory, the lack of awareness about its importance runs deep. In Mumbai itself, only 1% of the 20 lakh pillion riders wear helmets. There seems to be this perception that while two-wheeler riders are safer wearing a helmet, their passengers don’t necessarily need one. Statistics prove otherwise. For instance, in Hyderabad, the Cyberabad traffic police reported that 1 of every 3 two-wheeler deaths was that of a pillion rider. DGP Chander, Goa, stressed that 71% of fatalities in road accidents in 2017 were of two-wheeler rider and pillion riders of which 66% deaths were due to head injury.

Despite the alarming statistics, pillion riders, who are as vulnerable as front riders to head-injuries, have never been the focus of helmet awareness and safety drives. To fill-up that communication gap, Reliance General Insurance has engineered a campaign, titled #FaceThePace, that focusses solely on pillion rider safety. The campaign film tells a relatable story of a father taking his son for cricket practice on a motorbike. It then uses cricket to bring our attention to a simple flaw in the way we think about pillion rider safety – using a helmet to play a sport makes sense, but somehow, protecting your head while riding on a two-wheeler isn’t considered.

This road safety initiative by Reliance General Insurance has taken the lead in addressing the helmet issue as a whole — pillion or front, helmets are crucial for two-wheeler riders. The film ensures that we realise how selective our worry about head injury is by comparing the statistics of children deaths due to road accidents to fatal accidents on a cricket ground. Message delivered. Watch the video to see how the story pans out.

Play

To know more about Reliance general insurance policies, click here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Reliance General Insurance and not by the Scroll editorial team.