49-year-old M Yoganathan is a bus conductor from Coimbatore, but is known all over for much larger accomplishments. Over the last 30 years, Yoganathan has planted more than three lakh saplings across 32 of Tamil Nadu's districts.
Yoganathan started campaigning against the cutting of trees in the Nilgiris during the '80s, and has not looked back since. "On my weekly off — Monday — I go plant trees in all educational institutions like schools, colleges and universities," Yoganathan told The News Minute.
Yoganathan has visited over 3,000 schools across the state to organise plantation drives and environmental awareness programmes. He makes sure that every sapling planted by a school child is named after the child, and receives adequate nurturing. He told The Weekend Leader,
“When I ask a child to plant a sapling, I name the plant after the child. Suppose Ramu plants a pungai (Indian beech) sapling, I would name it Ramu pungai and ask the boy to treat the sapling as his sibling and give it water daily."
Due to his frequent absence from work, Yoganathan has been transferred 40 times in his 17 years of service as a bus conductor. He clarifies his position by saying that he never takes leave for personal reasons.
Thanks to the numerous awards he has received over the past several years, his bosses have become more lenient towards him. The awards and accolades Yoganathan has won include an Eco Warrior Award, a State Environment Department Award, a CNN-IBN Real Heroes Award, and a Periyar Award.