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Uttar Pradesh doctor spreads smiles, and greenery

Thursday August 04, 2011 12:23:54 PM, Asit Srivastava, IANS

Varanasi: Having successfully treated thousands of cleft-lip patients, including the little waif Pinki Sonkar -- the lead character of Oscar-winning documentary "Smile Pinki" -- a doctor here is now on another noble mission: making the earth greener.

Subodh Kumar Singh, a noted plastic surgeon, gifts saplings to patients visiting his hospital in the Mahmorganj area and makes them aware about environmental issues.

"It's just around a couple of weeks ago I started offering saplings to the patients visiting the hospital. It's a small initiative aimed to make our mother earth and surroundings greener," Singh, who established the G.S. Memorial Plastic Surgery Hospital in 2001, told IANS on phone.

"Patients visit a doctor's clinic for healthy living. The distribution of saplings amongst the patients and their families has been initiated to serve the same purpose. Plantation is the best way to nurture nature and mitigate environmental degradation," he added.

His hospital, which has emerged as one of the finest centres for cleft surgeries in the world, performs more than 3,500 surgeries every year.

"I ask the parents to make a commitment that they would look after the sapling in the same way they take care of their kids," said Singh, 42.

"I wish more and more people are made aware about environmental problems, so that they could become eco-conscious and contribute their bit to the environment. I know the situation cannot be changed overnight, but, don't forget, the journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step," said Singh, who started the saplings distribution July 15.

Singh's hospital, which is associated with Smile Train -- a non-profit organisation with the mission of providing free corrective surgery for children with cleft lip and palate in over 70 countries -- receives most patients from eight states of the country -- Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, Orissa, Assam and Uttar Pradesh.

"On an average, 25-30 patients visit the hospital every day. So, as per an estimate, over 400 saplings have been provided to patients and their families during the last few weeks," said an official of the hospital.

Singh has also roped in various NGOs, clubs and people from various walks of life for his initiative.

He is also planning to undertake a massive plantation drive Aug 15.

"I have named it 'Freedom plantation drive', mainly for two reasons. First, it would be launched on the Independence Day. Second, the drive, to an extent, will provide us freedom from pollution and other environmental problems," he said.

Meanwhile, locals have lauded Singh's efforts.

"First, he devoted himself to treatment of cleft-lip patients, and now he has taken up an additional responsibility. It's commendable," said Anshuman Rai, a science student of Banaras Hindu University (BHU).

Rananjay Singh, a native of Varanasi's Lanka locality who works at a nationalised bank, said: "We all need to take lessons from the doctor...Most of us cite paucity of time as the reason for not getting involved in a social cause, but Subodh should be a role model for all us for shouldering this social responsibility despite having a hectic schedule."

(Asit Srivastava can be contacted at




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