Chandigarh, as we all know, is one of the earliest planned cities in post-independent India and is renowned for its architecture and urban design, which was prepared by Le Corbusier, the Swiss-French architect.
It was during his deployment in Chandigarh, that police constable Devender Sura first fell in love with the city’s verdant roads and streets, and began to nurse the wish to transform his hometown, Sonepat in Haryana, in a similar manner.
While many of us have wished to see more trees and plants across the cities and towns that we inhabit, Sura turned his dream into reality.
For the last six years, he has persistently endeavoured to bring about a wave of green to not just his village, but also of the entire district of Sonepat.
Beginning as a self-driven initiative in 2012, his green crusade reached out to over 152 village panchayats, and today, a network of approximately 2,000 dedicated and passionate volunteers across Haryana are a part of Sura’s team.
“When I first saw Chandigarh after joining the force, I got mesmerised by the beauty of the city and certainly greenery was the core of that beauty. I thought of doing the same with my city Sonepat and decided to follow what Corbusier had done—[plant] one type of tree on one road. Corbusier [chose] Pilkhan and so did I,” said the 30-year-old cop to IndiaTimes.
Even though Sura heads such a huge team, he is the sole person funding the initiative and claims to have spent over 28 to 30 lakhs in the last six years, and despite the strong disapproval from his family, he doesn’t have any qualms about dedicating a significant chunk of his monthly salary to this initiative.
The father of two young children, his household needs are met by the monthly pension that his father, a former army personnel who currently works as a guard at a bank, receives.
A job in the police force isn’t a cakewalk especially if one is placed in the security department. Shuttling between odd working hours and 24-hour long shifts, Sura has managed to find time everyday to keep on going with his initiative.
Sura initially started out by purchasing plants and saplings from private nurseries, but soon realised that this was an expensive route to take. In an effort to find an economical way to continue this initiative, he started purchasing plants in bulk from farmers in Uttar Pradesh, which brought down the expenses by half.
When this also became unaffordable, he decided to live with farmers and learn how to grow plants and nurture them. After spending about two weeks figuring out the technicalities, he set up his nursery across a piece of land, for which he pays a rent of ₹50,000 per year and has supplied plants across the state, ever since.
In Chandigarh, one can find the magnificent Pilkhan tree or Ficus infectoria, in large numbers, and Sura decided that he would also plant it in large numbers.
“Pilkhan grows faster which helps to make the area greener quickly. I too decided to plant it in my city. Pipal is another tree which people love to plant because it too covers a large area and helps in keeping surrounding coolers with its dense its dense shade. Now we have all sorts of plants which we give people free of cost including the medicinal plants,” said Sura.
Sura’s volunteers take the initiative of transporting plants from the nursery and plant them across ashrams, schools, temples, panchayat plots and any other open public space that severely lacks greenery.
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While Sura has been sending plants to other districts as well, he is willing to supply plants and saplings to anyone and everyone and that too for free, as long as they follow one criterion. “I take only one assurance from the person who comes to me for plants—the assurance of keeping the plant alive by taking care of it,” he added.
You can reach out to Devender Sura on Facebook or call at 9253262999.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)