You could say he barges into weddings, but it's all for a good
cause. Santosh Bajpai turns up uninvited at Uttar Pradesh wedding
ceremoies to make the bride, the groom and their relatives plant
saplings and join his mission to make the planet a little greener!
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
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,
"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
"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
"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
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."
Srivastava can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)