H.S. Narasimha Kumar
DAVANGERE: `Salumarada' Veerachari, a blacksmith at Mittlakatte in Davangere district, is on a mission to grow more trees.
He has already planted and fostered over 3,000 saplings of various species. As many as 2,500 of the saplings have thrived along roads, at bus stands and in schools in and around his village. "They are my children. I have satisfaction when I see that they benefit people," Mr. Veerachari says.
When he attends a wedding at the house of a relative or a friend, he gifts seedlings to the bride and the bridegroom. He gave seeds of a flowering plant to Shyamanur Shivashankarappa, Davangere MLA, on the latter's 74th birthday last year.
Mr. Veerachari explains to children the importance of tending plants in their school and at home, and gifts books, pencils and pens to those who heed his advice.
He uses most of his income to take his mission forward. Cash awards go to tending trees, for which he employs workers.
He says his wife and children three daughters and a son were initially reluctant to help him in his mission.
But they have realised that they have an obligation to protect and nurture the environment, and have been assisting him.
"Planting trees is my way of saying prayers, and I pray to God to look after my family," he says. "Many people have bungalows and estates, but I have 2,500 trees," he remarks.
Mr. Veerachari gets seeds and saplings from the Forest Department. He says that when he goes to village fairs for work, he carries saplings with him. "Before starting work, I plant saplings where they will grow into trees and be useful to man and cattle. At many places, people question me, and I explain my mission. I ask them to start planting seedlings." Sometime ago, when officials from All India Radio, Bhadravathi, approached him for an interview, he agreed on the condition that they would plant a couple of seedlings on the radio station grounds.