Bihar students sapling coaching centre
Students at a coaching centre in Bihar deposit saplings as admission fees in a unique initiative to conserve the environment. Image Credit: Supplied

Patna: A man from Bihar has been charging 18 saplings as a fee for admission to his coaching institute which prepares students for competitive examinations.

The unique initiative has helped around 500 poor students get government jobs so far.

Rajesh Kumar Suman, 33, started the initiative with the twin objectives to help poor students unable to pay large amounts to coaching institutes and to conserve the environment.

His initiative has seen students deposit around 110,000 saplings to the institute being run since 2008 in Bihar’s Samastipur district. The collected saplings have been planted in several villages of north Bihar which has not only created green surroundings but also provided fruits to the villagers to boost their income.

“There is a scientific logic behind collecting 18 plants from each student as an admission fee. One person inhales as much oxygen throughout his/her life as 18 plants generate. So we collect only such numbers of plants,” Suman said, adding the whole idea is to create green cover and conserve the environment. He said he mainly collects fruit-bearing plants such as mangoes from the students. He says everyone has been working to earn money but very few care for Mother Nature.

The centre is run by volunteers who do not charge money for the preparatory coaching which is carried out two hours in the morning and evening. “All the teachers lending services at the institute are employed somewhere. They are guided by the motto to serve the society,” Rajesh explained. The institute has provided free teaching to around 5,000 students in the past 13 years.

Rajesh, an environment and climate change activist, launched the initiative after finding that villagers were taking more interest in growing two main crops of paddy and wheat, rather than planting trees. On Sundays, when the institute remains closed, he travels across the state to convince villagers to plant more saplings to get sufficient oxygen.

He intensified the campaign especially during the COVID-19 pandemic when people were struggling to get an oxygen cylinder to save the life of their kin admitted to hospitals.

A Bihar citizen currently settled in the US had to pay Rs110,000 for a single 50 litre oxygen cylinder that one of his family members required during the second wave of the pandemic. He later complained to the Economic Offences Unit of Bihar government which arrested a gang of nine people involved in the illegal trade of oxygen cylinders.