There’s a new requirement for people looking to secure a firearm license in the Ferozepur district of Punjab, a northern Indian state which sits at the border of Pakistan. They must first plant ten trees or more. Prospective gun owners must then send photographs of themselves with said trees to district officials, and follow up a month later with proof that the saplings were taken care of.
The rule, which was introduced this June, is an effort to sustain the district’s green cover and combat groundwater depletion. According to the Indian Institute of Technology Gandhinagar, groundwater depletion in Punjab is taking place at an alarmingly high rate.
Two species have been planted so far: kikar and neem trees, both of which are native to India. Officials have received over 100 firearm applications.
“This is our little effort to increase green cover in the area as people in Punjab are crazy about seeking arms licenses. So let them go crazy for plantation, as well,” Chander Gaind, District Commissioner of Ferozepur, told the Indian Express.
Punjab has a known fascination for firearms, born out of the region’s history of violence. Around the late 1970s, a Sikh separatist movement ravaged the area – an insurgency which lasted 14 years. The state’s proclivity towards guns continued long after the movement ended. Most of the gun licenses issued in Punjab were done so during the years of violence which stormed the area. In 2016, The Times of India reported that the state held 20 percent of the total licensed weapons across the country, despite the fact that it accounts for just 2.3 percent of India’s population. The latest figures declare that there are nearly 360,000 active gun licenses across Punjab.
In Ferozepur itself, citizens have about 21,000 licensed weapons. Officials report receiving over 500 firearm license applications each year.
Gaind hopes that this new effort will lead to 12,000 saplings planted annually. This is a chance for citizens in Ferozepur to prove themselves to be more environmentally-conscious – even if the motivation behind it is a firearms license.