A Home Guard in Jharkhand Takes on Global Warming by Planting Trees on Special Occasions

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Shahnawaz Akhtar
is Founder of eNewsroom. He loves doing human interest, political and environment related stories.

Giridih/Ranchi: Chances of him visiting a household uninvited during family events like birthdays, anniversaries, or funerals is very high. Meet Shivshankar Gope, a home guard from Giridih, who makes it a point to visit houses on special days. But his visit has no police-related work nor does he sport his uniform during these meetings for he has only one agenda –  simply motivate the family members to plant a tree in the name or the memory of their loved ones and save world from the danger of Global Warming.

Believe it or not, this 47-year-old home guard pursues his passion in style. He has a full-fledged team comprising him, a researcher and a lyricist cum folk singer.

Speaking to eNewsroom, Gope said, “We just do not plant trees in the name of a child or a person, but also raise awareness about the benefits that we can avail in the long run by planting trees. During marriage functions, our geet (song) highlights the harmful effects of firecrackers on the environment.”

Explaining the reason for zeroing on birthdays, marriages or other functions, Gope said, “During birthday celebrations, marriage functions and funerals there is a huge number of people present. Also, most get emotional during these events. We have realized that on these days if we approach people to plant trees, then they are more eager to listen to us. Hence we visit houses on such occasions.”

 

Gope has been working as a home guard for 28 years now. However, it was in 1988 that he began his journey as the Sampark Vyakti for the forest department. His role was to help the villager’s plant trees under Samajik Vahini programme of the forest department.

“It was by chance that I began planting trees and motivating people. My father-in-law late VK Gopalak had requested the forest officials to give me some work. Till 2013, I helped the villager plant more than 25000 trees under this programme. I also developed two nurseries one with the support of the forest department and another by the land conservation department.”

However, the real turn came in his life when he met Vishwanath Mandal, a teacher who had motivated villagers at a mass level in Giridih and neighbouring area when it came to the conservation of trees.

“He had motivated villagers to tie rakhi to trees (Ped Ka Raksha Bandhan) with a promise to save them. He also used to organize rallies in villages to create awareness about tree plantation. He often organized the Night Vigil, where he motivated people to save the forests. Because of his works, he soon began to be known as Van Devta (Lord of Forest),” informed Gope. Vishwanath, Gope’s mentor died in 2008. He mentioned that through his work toward conservation of trees, he is trying to continue the legacy of his Guru.

In the year 2013, on September 22, which globally celebrated as Daughter’s Day, Gope began a campaign called —Vriksh Ganga Abhiyan to save the world from the danger of Global Warming.

“We convince people to plant a tree on the occasion of the birth of girl child and Beti Bidayi (when a daughter leaves her maternal house for to set up her family after the wedding). We have used this plan to have many trees planted in both the district and state,” he informed.

It’s been almost three decades since the green crusader has been doing it voluntarily. He says with a smile, “There are people who believe that I get paid by the forest department for these activities.”

However, he maintains that he has got support from the common people too, just like Sardar Harcharan Singh and his wife, who have got into an association with Gope and many a time sponsor some of the tree plantation events.

The crusader understands the importance of awareness for tree plantation, recalling an incident, he shared, “Once, the district officials including the deputy commissioner, superintendent of police, judge, bank manager, and several other officials planted one tree each at the complex of Kasturba Girl’s School. But, when they visited the premise after six months, they discovered that the trees had become fodder for the stray animals. Following this incident, we decided to plant trees there. We planted 102 trees in the same area, but only after motivating the warden to take care of the tree. This time, almost all trees grew.”

However, the home guard’s contribution to the society and to make the environment better has not been recognised and appreciated much. Only once, in 2016, Giridih district administration awarded Gope for his exemplary work.

Shahnawaz Akhtar
is Founder of eNewsroom. He loves doing human interest, political and environment related stories.

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