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‘My main passion in life is to plant trees’

TreeTake is a monthly bilingual colour magazine on environment that is fully committed to serving Mother Nature with well researched, interactive and engaging articles and lots of interesting info.

‘My main passion in life is to plant trees’

Once I was told by a foreigner that in the future, there would be a lack of oxygen in the air unless more and more trees are planted. Since then, I have made planting trees the mission of my life...

‘My main passion in life is to plant trees’

Selfless Souls

For 78-years-old Dukhu Majhi, an environmental activist from a tribal community in West Bengals Purulia district and Padma Shri awardee, the national-level recognition came as quite a surprise as he never imagined that his passion for planting trees would fetch him such recognition. Affectionately known as Gachh Dadu’, Majhi travels on his bicycle to new locations and vacant spaces to plant and protect the trees. Despite his financial constraints and modest living, Majhi has not stopped his relentless pursuit

Q: How did you become so passionate about planting trees?

Planting trees is my passion. Once I was told by a foreigner that in the future, there would be a lack of oxygen in the air unless more and more trees are planted. Since then, I have made planting trees the mission of my life. I have been doing this for the past so many years. But I never thought that this passion of mine would fetch me such national-level recognition as the Padma Shree. The Padma Shri award has strengthened my conviction to go ahead with my mission of planting trees with renewed vigour. I have been planting trees in my native district of Purulia for the past 12 years. And I will continue doing the same in the coming days as well.

Q: What was the reaction of your neighbours when you embarked upon your mission of planting trees?

The neighbours in my native village of Sindri are also quite elated over my achievement now. However, when I started this mission of planting trees over a decade back, many said it was a mad idea for such a remote corner of the state where earning daily livelihood through agriculture was a matter of struggle. However, such negative suggestions could not distract me from my mission. Slowly, I earned the nickname of ‘tree-freak’ among my neighbours, which further gave me the strength to go ahead with my mission. Now my neighbours admit that my dogged conviction has enabled me to reach such a height.

Q: So who do you credit for your journey as a tree freak so far?

I have seen my father planting saplings and have been following in his footsteps since I was a child. The saplings, when they finally grow into large trees, would provide us with shade and oxygen. Besides home influence, it is often said that a small statement of wisdom acts as an eye-opener to inspire anyone to take up a noble cause as life's mission. And this happened to me too. A word of wisdom from an Englishman that in the future, there would be a lack of oxygen in the air unless more and more trees are planted became an eye-opener for me. Since then, I made planting trees the mission of my time. My mission was not prompted by the greed for recognition.

Q: How and where do you plant trees?

I engage in tree planting activities across various locations such as rural markets, bus stands, roadsides, crematoriums, temple areas, school premises, and health centres to provide shade and shelter to passersby. Additionally, I strategically plants fruit-bearing trees like mangoes and blackberries to offer sustenance to birds, animals, and travelers. Despite facing financial constraints and leading a modest life, I have persisted in my unwavering dedication. I also make a point to safeguard the saplings I plant uniquely by constructing fences using burnt wooden logs or discarded clothes from crematoriums, materials considered untouchable due to superstitions among poor villagers. This way I have planted thousands of trees in Purulia, Bengal’s westernmost district bordering Jharkhand, which is part of the Chota Nagpur plateau. The soil in the region is undulating and barren with a porous layer, which cannot retain water. The land remains mostly parched. But now we have some greenery too. If all of us worked like this, the world would be a better place. There would be a lot more shade and oxygen and we can live a healthy life.

Q: Why did you use discarded items from the crematorium to safeguard your saplings?

Earlier I would erect small fences of bamboo to protect the saplings from cattle. But poor villagers often took the bamboo to use as fuel at home, leaving the saplings unguarded. Then I came up with this idea. I started putting up the fence using burnt wooden logs or clothes discarded at crematoriums. Out of superstition, the villagers never touched them. The saplings remained protected. Filmmaker Somnath Mondal was inspired by my story, leading to the creation of the documentary film, ‘Rukhu Mati Dukhu Majhi.’ This environmental documentary earned the 2023 National Film Award, shedding light on my simple life and innovative tree protection methods, ultimately raising awareness about the crucial role of trees in ecological balance.



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