Ranjitav Mohanty: The 'Gardener' Of Odisha Who Is On His Mission To Promote Eco-Tourism

Cityzen

Among the eighteen Mahapuranas written in the Puranic genre of Sanskrit literature in Hinduism, Matsya Purana is the oldest and comparatively better preserved than others. It narrates the story of Matsya, the first of ten major avatars of the Hindu God Vishnu. The text describes the mythology of a great flood and how the living beings and the seeds of all plants, as well as the knowledge books (The Vedas) were saved by the Matsya avatar of Vishnu. In other words, it emphasises the importance of life, environment and knowledge in God’s creation.

According to Matsya Purana, “A pond equals ten wells; a lake equals ten ponds; a son equals ten lakes; a tree equals ten sons!”

Enthused by such ancient philosophy, Ranjitav Mohanty of Bhubaneswar decided to ‘Think Green’ since his college days in 1985 and followed his passion through horticulture as his vocation. Today at 49, he is fondly called ‘The Gardener of Odisha’. His flowers and foliage do not crave for ISO-14001 environment management certification; for, the gardens and parks created across the state by him have been certified by birds, bees and butterflies. My City Links visits this green entrepreneur’s 10-acre farmhouse at Kantabada on the outskirts of Bhubaneswar to interview him. Excerpts

While we talk of startups today, it’s amazing that you turned a horticulturist more than three decades ago and paved the way for others – a very unusual startup in the 80s of Odisha, we must say.

Perhaps, I was destined to be an entrepreneur. Even at the age of 10, I used to plant saplings and sell eggs by rearing a few hens at home. At 17, while I was in college, I developed a small nursery at my uncle’s backyard in Bhubaneswar and used to sell saplings. Despite the fact that I never sought financial support from my father, he was highly disappointed by my early leanings to be a ‘mali’, while the other siblings were opting for respectable professions. Rather, I took a loan of Rs. 30,000 from a bank to keep my small enterprise running. Today, what had started as an avocation to suffuse green around, and self-support my education, has turned into a big time business. With my relentless endeavour, I could silence all the doubting Thomases who thought horticulture cannot be a paying business. More importantly, I take pride in the fact that scores of my subordinates have started their own enterprises and doing extremely well in this field. However, my most cherished dream is to set up a training centre for ‘malis’. When materialised, perhaps my father would be the happiest person and shower his blessings from heaven.

Did you trade your academic ambition for your green obsession?

No, simultaneously I continued my studies with my small savings. After graduation in Commerce, I completed my MBA & LLB. But all along I stayed focused on my green pursuit. Even my wife Swetapadma is a post graduate in Microbiology, who worked as a Research Associate in Orissa University of Agriculture and Technology (OUAT) before joining me in this passion-driven profession.

When did you get your first big break?

Well, I got my first big break in 1989, when I bagged NALCO’s contract for maintaining the office and colony premises in Bhubaneswar. There was no looking back thereafter.

What next after NALCO?

Well, thereafter I went on to sign agreements with public sector majors like Rourkela Steel Plant, Airport Authority of India, Indian Oil Corporation, Paradip Port Trust and Paradeep Phosphates, and also government offices including Orissa Mining Corporation and Ayakar Bhavan. My clientele included noted hotels like Mayfair Lagoon, Swosti Premium and The Crown in Bhubaneswar; Mayfair Heritage and Holiday Resort in Puri; and Sea Pearl in Paradeep. The beautiful landscapes and greenery that you see in public parks like Biju Patnaik Park and NICCO Park in Bhubaneswar; Nehru Park in Rourkela; RN Singh Deo Park in Bolangir; and Rungta Children’s Park in Keonjhar are my humble contributions towards a salubrious environment. My present contracts include Ib Thermal Power Station, Bhubaneswar Development Authority and Power Grid Corporation of India. Most importantly, I could set up the first private green house of Odisha, with open air ventilation, almost a decade ago.

What’s your future plan?

Now I am planning to convert my farmhouse into an eco-park with rural ambience. As you can see, it is located on a picturesque plateau in between Deras and Jhumka dams. Far from the madding crowd, people can come here to enjoy the serenity, have sumptuous food and fall in love with greenery around. And I am sure, some of them would take the cue from it and promote eco-tourism in proper perspective.