Many of us know what goes on in the world on a minute-to-minute basis, thanks to the multiple media that connect the world to us and us to the world. However, not many would know how much CO2 India is releasing in the atmosphere every minute or by how much the Ozone layer depletes every minute. The environment often stays in the background.
One college dropout from Bihar is striving to change that and is working towards developing awareness among people with a special focus on school-going children.
Ranjan Mistry grew up in Patna, which is one of the most polluted cities in India. Coming from a small village called Sakauri Bigha about 20 km from Gaya where his family owned a farm, he couldn’t help but compare the atmosphere of the city to the clean air of the village.
“This is probably why I was always drawn to learning more about the environment. I think I wanted solutions,” Ranjan says.
His family was surviving on the farm produce and the meagre salary of his father and there wasn’t much money for the children’s education. Ranjan started teaching tuitions to be able to pay for his education and also joined a group of BIT Patna students who taught children of slum dwellers. Out of a keen interest in the environment, he further pursued a course in Environmental Science.
However, he soon lost interest in the classroom education and dropped out in 2015. During this time, he was selected for a two-month entrepreneurship programme at IIT-Kharagpur. Unaware of the idea of startups, he came across the event ‘Startup Bihar’ organised by Bihar Industry Association.
Ranjan decided to combine his love for the environment, entrepreneurship and teaching, and Plant Eco Circle was born. Ranjan’s first campaign ‘Plant for Bihar’ started during Diwali 2016, where he convinced plant vendors across the city to give their product at a discounted rate to encourage sale and thus boost plantation. He kept track of the sales and conducted awareness drives as well as plantation initiatives.
“Our very first event led to the plantation of over 2,000 trees in the city. About 1,200 trees were planted by the residents and 800 were planted by our team. That was when I realised the importance of spreading awareness. There was no way we could have achieved this without the citizens’ help,” says Ranjan.
The aim of Plant Eco Circle is to empower villagers through educational impact and motivate them to contribute to the protection of the environment as active stakeholders. The organisation conducts workshops, awareness drives and lectures for school and college students in cities as well as villages in Bihar. Mostly taken up as CSR initiatives, Eco Plant Circle tries to succeed the lectures by a plantation drive to achieve the goal of creating proactive youth.
“I decided to centre my efforts towards the villages near Gaya, and I had seen that there was a lack of quality education in these areas. I wanted to combine this with something positive for the environment as well,” he said.
As a part of research for the programme when he visited villages and asked children why they weren’t going to school, he got different reasons ranging from teachers’ absence to parents’ force. To tackle this, he has now started a programme titled Education in my Village, under which qualified teachers are hired to teach children in villages.
Plant Eco Circle has so far been able to spread the initiative to 10 villages.
“We are also collaborating with the organisation Jeevika for a programme called Entrepreneurship in my Village. Under the programme, women working with Jeevika and self-help groups are made aware about different entrepreneurship options and methods to the market for their products like pickles and incense sticks,” he informs.
Plant Eco Circle is also looking at developing ecotourism in the villages near Gaya with the help of Jeevika. The finances for these programmes come from various CSR activities and the expertise and volunteers’ team is provided by Plant Eco Circle and Jeevika. The group has plans to conduct a plantation drive in four cities of Bihar- Patna, Gaya, Muazaffarpur and Chhapra.
“We are doing many plantation drives on a smaller scale, instead of one big event. It’s easy to gather people and plant a lakh saplings. But what after that? What about the maintenance like watering the saplings regularly, protecting them from animals and protecting it from heat and diseases? We want to ensure that all the saplings that we plant survive,” he concludes.
To know more about Plant Eco Circle, visit its official website here.