Published: 02nd October 2017
Green Man: This banker from Tamil Nadu has planted over 50 lakh trees across the country and he's just getting started
Environmentalist and activist Abdul Ghani organises workshops for students encouraging them to plant trees. In the last ten years, he has roped in more than 70 lakh students to help the cause
All it took was one encounter with a ragpicker to change Abdul Ghani's direction in life. While he was working with a bank in Chennai as an executive, his boss called him one day and yelled at him because there was a lot of garbage piled up in front of the office. Initially, he retorted saying it wasn't in his job description, but then he went and found out what the issue was. Apparently, the corporation workers weren't regular. So he found a ragpicker and asked her if she would be willing to clean the garbage every day. He agreed to pay her a monthly wage of Rs 7,000. Since then, he had nothing to worry about. She made sure it was cleaned up every day.
When it was time for her payment, he handed over the cash to her, and she had something to return to me that took him aback. It was a bundle of notes amounting to Rs 40,000. "I was so surprised as to how a ragpicker had so much money. She told me it was the amount she got for trading the garbage. Instantly I fell in love with her attitude. Here was a ragpicker who could have done so much with that money, I wouldn't even have known she was getting money out of it, but she was honest enough to return it to me," says Abdul.
Green gaze: Abdul is also involved in research projects with IIT and IIM students on what innovation solutions can be brought about to plant more trees
From that day on, Abdul wanted to do something to rehabilitate the ragpickers. He went to watch where they were living and was saddened by the unhygienic conditions. "I decided to get all the departments to pile up the trash together and I built a small shed and planted some creepers over it to reduce the stench. Everyone who used to cover their noses while crossing that area was now curious to look at what's inside. This got featured in a lot of papers and I decided to take it to the next level. The ragpickers used to live in the dump yards. They don't have ration cards or any identity. We did a medical screening for all of them and we identified multiple diseases. We slowly rehabilitated them," says Abdul.
Motivate much: Ghani believes that APJ Abdul Kalam was his inspiration behind his mission to plant trees
One day, he got to meet Abdul Kalam at the Raj Bhavan, when he was sharing with a couple of activists the importance of trees. He challenged all of them to start planting trees. Abdul was so encouraged to take that up as his next mission. Along with Actor Vivekh, he started an organisation, and in the last ten years, met over 70 lakh students and with their help planted over 50 lakh trees across the country.
Abdul now organises workshops and conferences on global warming and other environmental issues. He is also involved in research projects with IIT and IIM students on what innovation solutions can be brought about to these issues. "A majority of the issues we face today is because we are selfish. We are not concerned about our future generations or about our neighbours. We need to ensure that our resources like water and air are kept clean for others to use," says Abdul.