Widely popular as “Eco-Baba” and “Welfare Baba” in India and abroad, Sant Balbir Singh Seechewal (born on 02-02-1962 at village Seechewal in district Jalandhar, Punjab) has multiple achievements to his credit in the fields of environmental conservation, social reform, extension of education and economic development of backward areas of Punjab. His work in all these fields is of gigantic dimensions, generally beyond the capacity of individuals or even organizations.
He mobilized numberless people (Sangat) round the globe for the voluntary kar sewaof rejuvenation of Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s historic river Kali Bein, 160-km long tributary of the Beas, flowing through Doaba, the fertile central part of Punjab, known as the Granary of India. When Sant Seecyewal began the kar sewa in July 2000, the Kali Bein river was on the verge of death due to worst type of domestic and industrial pollution. Sant Seechewal, with the help of his Sangat, has cleared hyacinth and silt out of the bed of river, restored flow of clean water in it and beautified it with flowers and fruit trees, bathing ghats and bricked roads on its banks, transforming it into a picnic spot where the religious pilgrims, students and tourists from India and abroad come daily in large numbers to have a glimpse of its beauty.
With restoration of its water flow thousands of hectares of land have been reclaimed from water-logging in Tehsil Dasuya of Hoshiarpur District, from desertification in Kapurthala district, and from floods in the Mand area of confluence of Beas and Satluj rivers. It has also improved the quality of ground water and promoted recharging of water table in whole Doaba area. Sant Seechewal’s kar sewa of the river, thus, has proved significantly beneficial for the people of Punjab, both economically and environmentally.
One more important offshoot of this kar sewa has been the formation of Holy Bein Project Committee, a joint venture of Punjab Govt. and Sant Seechewal for making the river totally pollution-free by making alternative arrangements for the sewage waters of villages and towns in Doaba on pattern of Sant Seechewal’s recommendations. It is a unique synergy mission in which Punjab govt. provides funds and manual labour is offered voluntarily by public under the leadership of Sant Seechewal.
Sant Seechewal has devised an underground sewerage system which is low-cost and indigenously modeled, but very effective, durable and easy to install. The efficacy of this system has been attested by its practical installation in more than 50 villages and towns. In this system, sewage waters are stored in a pond, treated in natural way and, then, supplied for agricultural use. This process promotes organic farming and saves farmers’ money on fertilizers and irrigation. The farmers of the area who, being crop-less and poor, were compelled to commit suicides, are glad to have a taste of prosperity as a result of Sant Seechewal’s kar sewa of the river.
Convinced by originality of Sant Seechewal’s eco-friendly model of development, Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, the former President of India, came twice (in April 2006 and July 2008) to visit the historical city of Sultanpur Lodhi (in Kapurthala district), one of the main sites of kar sewa of Kali Bein river. In his about 37 national and international speeches, he praised Sant Seeceheal’s kar sewa as a role model for the nation. He counted it as one of the nine greatest achievements of India. Applauding Sant Seechewal’s work as a “Noble Mission,” he extended an invitation to Sant Ji for leading a similar campaign for the renovation of utterly polluted Jamuna river.
Sant Balbir Singh Seechewal has been able to do wonders with the cooperation of masses for whom he has become an immense source of inspiration. His religious appeal also leads people to the service of suffering humanity and conservation of environment. For him, religion is nothing if it does not include service to humanity. He has given a new humanitarian interpretation to kar sewa concept. People follow his clarion call to save environment with religious faith and devotion.
In order to awaken the people for the protection of natural waters sources, Sant Seechewal led an Inter-State Awareness March (in Punjab and Rajasthan) in 2009, in which a large number of people marched along the rivers of Punjab and Rajasthan Canal to make the people aware of the causes of water pollution and solution to the problem. In 2008 and 2011, he organized a large mass movement for making pollution-free the utterly polluted Kala Sanghia drain of Jalandhar.
With a view to eradicate illiteracy, ignorance, superstition, poverty and atrocities against women, he has established schools, technical centres and degree colleges at different places (Seechewal, Talwandi Madho, Sultanpur Lodhi etc.), where not only advanced and technical education is provided at a very low cost to the girls and the poor slum dwellers, but moral and religious values are also taught to the students in order to make them better and balanced human beings. In “Nawan Nankana Charitable School Sultanpur Lodhi” the students of the poor sections of society are provided books, uniforms and stationery free of cost.
Often remembered as “Baba of Roads”, Sant Seechewal has built thousands of kms of roads in backwards areas, which has set in a new era of faster economic and social development in this area.
Patron of many sports organizations in Punjab, Sant Seechewal is a great promoter of sports. Regularly does he hold national and international level sports tournaments at Sports Stadium of Seechewal to take part in which teams of Volleyball, Kabaddi, Hockey, Wrestling, tug-of-war and other games come from far and wide. Such sports activities of Sant Seechewal are proving extremely useful in turning youth away from drugs and other evils, making them aware of their positive energy and leading them towards a better and bright future.
A crusader for environment, Sant Seechewal has established plant nurseries at Seechewal and Sultanpur Lodhi where one lakh plants are distributed annually free of cost among the people as Prasad of the Guru, which the people receive and plant with reverence and religious devotion. As a result of these efforts Doaba area is turning into a lush green belt.
Recognizing the significance of Sant Seechewal’s attempts at environmental conservation, U.N.O. invited him to Copenhagen conference on Climate Change. He was also invited to attend Windsor conference on Global Warming.
As a member of Punjab Pollution Control Board, Sant Seechewal has been raising environmental issues at every meeting of the Board and he has enthused the Board with a new life of refreshed activity for putting an end to environmental pollution.
Always ready to help the public in times of crisis, Sant Seechewal has rescued people from floods in rainy seasons, built corroded dikes of rivers through kar sewa and helped in rehabilitation of the flood-hit people.
A saintly figure, Sant Seechewal is not averse to use of science for the benefit of society. He has been using the modern technology (computers, machines such as tractors, cranes, boats, etc.) to complement the manual kar sewa. For spreading environmental awareness among the people, he has started a community radio, Avtar Radio FM 90.4 at Seechewal. He has also established a Multi-Media Museum at Sultanpur Lodhi. Both these projects are proving very useful for spread of awareness among the masses.
Many national and international organizations have showered honours on him for his achievements in different fields of environmental upgradation and public welfare. Internationally renowned magazine Time has acclaimed Sant Seechewal as “Hero of Environment”. He is the only Indian and only Asian to get this honour. Indian media (including Jalandhar Doordarshan, Dainik Jagran, Punjab Kesari, Dainik Bhaskar and many other groups of newspapers) have also felicitated him with their prestigious awards.
During his visits abroad, he was felicitated at Canadian Parliament House, Australian Parliament House and Parliament House of U.K. SAARC countries gave “SAARC Environmental Award”.
The President of India bestowed on him “Nirmal Gram Puraskar” for his distinguished work as the Sarpanch (Head) of his village Seechewal. Punjab Govt. honoured him with the State Award. Punjab Pollution Control Board has also honoured him for his outstanding work in the field of environment.
For his charitable activities, All India Pingalwara Society honoured him with “Bhagat Puran Singh Award”. The Buddhist religious leader Dalai Lama also honoured him at Dharmshala.
Various universities and educational institutions have also honoued him for his unique contribution to environmental conservation. Punjabi University Patiala has bestowed on him honorary degree of D.Litt. for his achievements. Guru Jhambeshwara Univ. of Science and Technology Hissar honoured him with prestigious “Madhu Bhasin Award”. Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur Khalsa College New Delhi gave him “Shan-e-Sikhi Award.” Punjab Academy of Sciences has also honoured him with its Fellowship.
Sant Balbir Singh Seechewal, thus, has made a unique contribution to environmental upgradation (by cleaning and renovating a river and setting up a role model and also spreading awareness among the people for control of pollution through community radio and multi-media museum), education (by establishing educational institutions for the poor and needy), development of indigenous techniques, building of roads and opening the way for fast economic growth in the country. His kar sewa practice has also promoted communal harmony, peace and prosperity among the people. Dr. A.P.J. Kalam is justified when he says that every state of India needs a Sant Seechewal.