This 62-year-old Forrest Gump from Punjab’s Tarn Taran is on a unique journey. Sewa Singh (right) is in love with roads, trees, farms, plant nurseries and water bodies. And while travelling, he never misses a chance to discover young talent and help them realise their dreams.
Singh, who has been campaigning for widespread tree plantation since 1999, claims to have planted 5.5 lakh banyan and peepul trees along roads and in educational institutions, hospitals and other public places across Punjab, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Delhi and Mumbai so far.
The senior citizen aims to grow over 550 plots of forests to commemorate the 550 Parkash Purab of Guru Nanak Dev, the founder of Sikhism. Till date, he has managed to plant 200 such ‘forests’. One of these, with a radius of over 14 km near Khadur Sahib, has trees like neem, jamun, sheesham, banyan and peepul, besides other fruit varieties. Keeping in mind the wildlife, a pond has also been dug.
In 2020, Singh had returned his Padma Shri, awarded to him a decade earlier for environment conservation, in protest against the three farm laws that were later scrapped. As the head of Kar Sewa Khadur Sahib, Singh also supervises the construction and renovation of historical Sikh gurdwaras. Under his supervision, several gurdwara buildings, sarais, roads and bridges were constructed in remote villages. In June 2021, he was appointed a ‘Faith for Earth Councillor’ by the United Nations Environment Programme. He was honoured by former UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon in November 2009 and former President of India Dr APJ Abdul Kalam.
Singh’s work in the environmental sector gains even more importance given the fact that Punjab has the lowest forest cover among all states. One can hardly see a tree in or along the farms that dot the state, while the traditional forest cover has almost disappeared with the redevelopment and the expansion of farmland in the past few decades.
Singh has been encouraging farmers of Punjab to grow trees, and protect the state and its people from rising pollution. A nursery for environmental projects has been established in Khadur Sahib that always has over two lakh saplings of about 50 plant species.
Singh’s organisation has also been helping meritorious students from humble backgrounds gain admission in reputed colleges. Besides grooming civil services aspirants, the organisation also imparts training to aspirants, women included, for recruitment in defence and police services.
The Baba Uttam Singh National Hockey Academy run by the organisation has already given brilliant players like Akashdeep Singh, Varun Kumar, Talwinder Singh and Mandeep Singh and Prabhjot Singh who have represented the Indian hockey team.
(This appeared in the print edition as "Forrest Gump")
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