This uninvited wedding guest has a green cause

This uninvited wedding guest has a green cause

Bajpai, a government official and native of Mankapur town in Gonda district, some 150 km from Lucknow, has got around 8,000 saplings planted in the nearly 1,000 marriages he has attended as an uninvited guest since 2001.

"I am quite happy that I have included thousands of people to join my mission of spreading greenery. I just want more and more people across Uttar Pradesh to join me in making the planet greener," Bajpai, a senior technical assistant (STA) of an Industrial Training Institute (ITI), told IANS on telephone.

"I believe we can counter the ill-effects of pollution and climate to a considerable extent just by planting saplings in our houses and nearby places. Environmental conditions would surely improve if we realise our responsibility towards our mother earth," added 42-year-old Bajpai.
Carrying saplings, Bajpai approaches the bride and the groom just before the 'jaimala', or garlanding ceremony, and convinces the duo to plant one sapling each.

As part of his green mission, Bajpai attends weddings not only in Gonda but also in adjoining districts like Balrampur, Kushinagar, Gorakhpur.

"When I first started this exercise, it was quite challenging. On several occasions, I was not allowed to approach the bride or the groom. But I did not lose hope and decided to convince the couple with the help of plants having religious value," said Bajpai.

"I took saplings of mango, tulsi, awla (goose berry) and neem as they have religious significance. My idea to link religion with plants worked and people started joining my mission.

Now I don't have to do much to convince them. I just go and hand over the saplings to the bride, groom and some others and make them pledge to care for the environment," he added.
While some brides and grooms prefer planting in earthen pots - also provided by Bajpai - others plant them in open areas around marriage halls. Some even take it along to carry out the plantation at their home.

Apart from this noble effort, Bajpai himself has planted over 100,000 saplings till date. In 2004, the environment ministry conferred the Indira Priyadarshini Vriksha Mitra (IPVK) award upon Bajpai for his contribution in the field of environment.

IPVK awards are given to individuals or institutions doing pioneering and exemplary work in the field of afforestation and wasteland development.

"I received Rs.1 lakh as the cash prize of the IPVK award. I was quite happy as my efforts were acknowledged on a national platform. At the same time, frankly speaking, I was a bit nervous as I was not sure whether being in a government job, I would be able to continue my mission," Bajpai said.

"Today I am satisfied with myself. With the blessings of the almighty and support of my friends and family, I have continued with my work of planting saplings and sensitising the public towards environment," he added.

Is there any specific reason for choosing marriage venues to distribute saplings?

"Normally a large number of people attend weddings and I get a chance to come in contact with several people at one place and make my point," Bajpai replies.

"I also distribute saplings to school students and organise other programmes related to the environment with the help of NGOs," he adds.

Initially, Bajpai purchased saplings using his own money, but now people make contributions.
Bajpai has also set up an environmental club that invites individuals interested in contributing their bit towards the environment. Students, women, retired government officials and people from different walks of life are members of the club.

"Santosh's efforts to make our surroundings greener are really praiseworthy. We all should acknowledge his efforts and join his mission," said Balchand Tyagi, a retired engineer in Mankapur.

Another local, Vasudev Verma, said: "Santosh is a living example for all those who say they cannot take up a social activity during a job. We all should try to take an initiative to improve the environment and its first step should be a sapling plantation."

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