A banner in hand reading ‘Saasein ho rahi hai kam, aao ped lagayen hum’ (Oxygen is reducing, let us all plant tress) a mask on face, carrying a plant in a cylinder jar on his back, this man roams around town advocating for environment conservation. Rajesh Kumar Suman, has conducted more than two thousand ‘Green Yatra’ in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Odisha, Jharkhand and Delhi. He has been conducting ‘Green Yatra’ for five years.
Rajesh Kumar Suman, is an environment activist from Rosera, a village in Samastipur district of Bihar. Post graduating from Samastipur college, he worked in government service sectors.
Listening to his calling for social service he left his job in Railways. “Today people value my work, because I had a job in the past, it helped me to spread my message”, says Rajesh Kumar Suman on the scenario of working in village.
Emotions and plants.
Using people’s emotion, Suman introduces the importance of environment in their lives. In a first, he attended a wedding with a plant in his hand. Unperturbed by the raging allegations of marketing his business, he increased his attendance with plants on variety of occasions including; Death anniversary, Birthday parties, Wedding anniversaries, Tonsure ceremonies (mundane ceremony) and cultural festivals.
He further floated the idea of offering five mango plants alongside five fruit verities to bridegrooms as part of the wedding ceremony in Hindu tradition. Bringing about a change in the traditional practises in wedding, bride’s family in his village have started gifting mango plants to all the wedding attendees.
“A plant as a gift adds to the environment, bears fruits in future and also marks the occasion bringing in memories from the day, which is less possible with any material gifts,” shares Suman the reason behind his idea of creating sustainable memories for and from nature.
His efforts towards bringing sustainable results, led him to replace bouquet with plants while visiting government officials to propose his environment friendly ideas. “These are small ways of manifesting the ideas into actions,” says the environment activist.
Green Paathshala provides education in return for plants
Green Paathshala provides education to girls, marginalised students and physically abled students free of cost. Matric and Intermediate passed students are prepared for government job entrance examinations. According to Rajesh, every year 60% students crack examinations. Students are trained till they clear the exam.
This initiative is run under Binod Smriti Study Club (BSS club), an organization working towards education and environment. It was founded by Rajesh Kumar Suman in 2008, now run by a team of five people.
As part of the Green Paathshala Initiative, every student is asked to plant 18 trees in return for the classes. “18 trees produce enough oxygen for the survival of one human on earth,” shares BSS club founder about his idea behind the specific number.
On Republic Day and Independence Day, students are gifted mango plants instead of sweet packets. “They name the plant with ‘Tiranga walaa Puadha’ (Tricolour plant),” shares Suman.
“Till date Five thousand students have planted trees under Green Paathshala Initiative,” he adds.
Seeking results from his environmental- educational friendly cause he shares “Students who have cleared out government job are now advocating my ideas of gifting trees in their professional spaces. The view of progression makes me want to do more.”
Social media campaign on ‘Selfie with Tree’
Selfie with tree is a social media campaign under which people have to click a selfie with a tree and upload it on their social media accounts using #selfiewithtree.
Rajesh Kumar Suman started the campaign in 2016 from his village Rosera in Samastipur.
“As part of the campaign, people went ahead to plant new trees in front of their house”, shares Rajesh Kumar Suman.
“Over the years people have started taking interest in the cause, with both young and older generation taking up the Selfie with tree challenge,” says Rajesh on the response of the campaign.
In 2018, Selfie with tree campaign was awarded for their contribution in Environment protection and its promotion by Ministry of Environment and Climate, Bihar government
Minimum of 33% of land area under forest in India is required for maintaining the ecological balance in a country wherein India has only 24.56 percent of its geographical area and Bihar has 7.1 percent of Forest Cover of its geographical area. “Given in time if we don’t plant daily, Bihar might end up with pollution like Delhi bringing in diseases with it,” opines Rajesh on the declining forest cover.
Working towards the cause has adopted Ragi village in Begusarai district and Alampur village in Samastipur district to turn them into Eco village.
“When children see me with plants, they call me ‘Paudha waala Guru’ (master of plants), when people see me wearing oxygen mask, they name me as ‘Oxygen man’, taking selfies with trees has given me the title of ‘Tree man’,” shares Environment activist on how he received the titles following his work.
“Till date we have planted one lakh ten thousand tress in East India India including; Bihar, U.P, Odisha, Jharkhand,” adds Rajesh Kumar Suman.