From the central verge on the roads to side curbs, from empty tree guards to open drains, from parks to waste lands, you name it and he has planted trees there across Delhi and scores of places across India.
Till September 30, 2012, Swami Prem Parivartan, 45, has planted and facilitated plantation of 1 crore 5 lakh trees, of which 16 lakh are peepal
trees (Ficus religiosa) that have earned him the moniker ‘Peepal Baba’.
Influenced by his teacher, he said he planted his first set of trees at Pune on his 10th birthday. “My teacher had said, ‘One person should plant at least 20 trees, only then the damage to the environment can be reversed’. I planted four neem trees initially, followed by six peepal trees,” he said.
He continued planting trees all through his school and college days. He generally planted peepal trees and also those that suited the region’s climate and soil condition.
“Though I plant goolar, peepal, pilkhan and also banyan and neem, my favorite is peepal for its medicinal qualities and because it supports a whole ecosystem,” the bike-riding ‘Baba’, who uses Facebook to spread the word, said.
Osho Rajnish had named him Swami Prem Parivartan when he took to asceticism in 1984 but discarded the saffron afterward.
‘Peepal Baba’ said he asks people to plant trees, or help plant trees, on birthdays, promotions, marriages or even during a picnic.
“When I conduct yoga camps with the Indian Army or any educational institution, my guru Dakshina (fees) is always ‘plant trees with me at your own places’.”
He has also volunteered to take care of the trees grown by others. Asghar Ali, 21, a cycle rickshaw puller from Mayur Vihar, has planted about 1,000 trees after he was inspired by ‘Baba’s’ work.
“I water the plants daily during my work hours. It does take my time but I get immense satisfaction,” Ali said.
Another ‘follower’ is Rasham Vohra, a class 7 student of Ryan International, east Delhi. He said, “I ask my classmates to give me milk sachets that I use for growing saplings.”
Summing up his zeal, the ‘Baba’ said, “Trees can live without us but we cannot live without trees.”