WEST BENGAL: Riding his two-wheeler with bags of banyan saplings, Shyamal Jana travels across southern districts of West Bengal with the slogan ‘Thakbo Na Ko Bodhho Ghore, Gach Lagabo Bisso Jure’ (will not confine myself to a room, will plant trees across the world).’ Jana, a primary school teacher in East Midnapore district, has set a target of planting 5,000 banyan trees across the state, from hills to the Bay of Bengal, in five years.
He has already planted more than 600 trees in various parts of the state, including the state capital Kolkata, and Dooars in North Bengal. “From childhood, we are taught the necessity of trees in our life, for the environment we live in. However, as we grow up, we forget the lesson. Trees are uprooted for various construction works. But we never replace the uprooted trees with new plantations,’’ says Jana.
But why only the banyan tree? “Banyan is considered a holy tree. People do not collect firewood from it. It shelters many nests because of its giant size. In rural Bengal, a banyan tree in the corner of a village offers shade in scorching heat,’’ he says. In the last few months, Jana planted 595 banyan trees in the state. He has focused on areas in Kalimpong, North Dinajpur, Bankura, Purulia, East, and West Midnapore, and South 24 Parganas districts.
“I consider the entire state as my garden. I want to ensure that my garden remains green forever. The tree is a god to me. Some people tell me that I waste my time and money doing this. I do not care,’’ says Jana. The resident of Kanthi in East Midnapore also planted trees along the seashore in his district and South 24 Parganas to avoid land erosion because of natural calamities.
A few days ago, he planted 30 banyan trees in Baguran Jalpai village in the Bay of Bengal as the area faces severe land erosion because of a swollen sea frequently. In Kolkata, Jana planted banyan saplings in front of the Eden Gardens stadium and in Brigade Parade ground. “For this, I sought permission from the Army as the area comes under their jurisdiction. They appreciated my work,” Jana says. Jana’s wife Monika has assisted him.
“After marriage, I felt bad because my husband would leave home with his motorcycle on holidays with saplings. Later, I realized that the tree is his life. He cannot survive without the plantation. I decided to become a partner in his work,” she says. “When I travel to distant places in north Bengal, I book train tickets and spend on lodging. I do not take any financial help.
But I welcome if anyone comes forward to donate banyan saplings,’’ says Jana. Jana also chose the building in front of the Howrah police headquarters. “The men in uniform welcomed my decision. They came forward to help me to get more saplings from people known to them. I would feel greatly encouraged if people like the cops come forward,’’ said Jana.