The Haryana government has approved a pension for these venerable residents of Gurugram, a familiar sight to their neighbours who pass them by every day. However, these inhabitants of the Millennium City are not human, though their lives are no less precious — they are the city’s trees that are 75 years or older, and are set to receive ₹2,500 each for annual maintenance and upkeep.
The pension, which will start from November, is part of the Haryana government’s Pran Vayu Devta scheme, an initiative to preserve old trees in the state, said forest department officials aware of the matter, adding that 40 such trees have been identified in Gurugram alone.
Rajeev Tejyan, district forest officer, Gurugram, said they have identified the age of trees based on their girth, and other norms set by the department. “Pension will be paid to ensure proper upkeep of these trees, to provide nutrients and also to motivate individuals and organisations like panchayats and temple trusts to keep these trees in proper shape,” he said, adding that only healthy trees are eligible under the scheme.
According to the forest department, the 40 eligible trees identified are spread across the district and include kadamb, indrokh, banyan (bargad), pipal, neem and jand trees. They are located mostly in government schools, near village ponds, adjacent to temples, while some are also found in the foothills of the Aravallis.
Tejyan said these trees are part of a shared heritage in Gurugram, and need to be preserved. “Also, this will give an incentive to caretakers and plot owners to ensure that trees remain protected, and will motivate others to plant more such trees,” he said, adding that the department has also appealed to residents to look for more heritage trees, and apply for their pension.
Haryana also has a law that prohibits cutting such trees, though it lacks teeth — according to the Heritage Tree Rules, 2021, if any person or organisation cuts, fells or causes any damage to heritage trees, they will be liable for punishment with a fine which may extend to ₹500 or with imprisonment for a term which may extend to one month, or both.
Surat Singh Numberdar, a resident of Manesar who heads the Baba Nyarm Das Gaushala, said the banyan tree at their temple is more than 100 years old. “I have been seeing this tree for the last 65 years, and earlier, it was even bigger. We are taking care of the tree and it will be great if the government recognises such heritage trees and motivates people, especially in rural areas, where these trees are still thriving,” he said.