Jharkhand’s female tribal crusader, environmentalist and a poor man’s doctor get Padma Shri

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Ranchi: Seventy-seven-year-old Bulu Imam dons many a cap, he is an activist protecting the environment, promoting tribal culture and heritage. Imam, a Hazaribagh (Jharkhand) based environmentalist made it to the list of Padma Shri, 2019. The names were announced by President Ram Nath  Kovind on Friday.  Imam, like many unsung heroes  has been silently waging a non-violent fight protecting environment in Upper Damaodar Valley (Karanpura) area of Jharkhand, for the past four decades.

Coming from one of India’s most distinguished families, which has produced a steady stream of intellectuals for the past two centuries, Imam took up the idea of protecting environment. Bulu’s grandfather Syed Hasan Imam was president of the Indian National Congress in 1918. Bulu said, “The award is going to encourage and inspire me to fight against the powerful mining companies which are directly or indirectly ruining our natural resources.” Imam after taking up the crusade against mining being done at the Upper Damodar Valley (Karanpura) has decided to take up his fight against stone mining done at Ichak and other areas of Hazaribagh district.

He said, “There are more than 300 stone mining units in Ichak area. In the name of development such as construction of highways are other projects every day trees are being cuts and jungles being wiped out. Even the forest of Hazaribagh National Park has not been spared. If we do not protect our forest today our future generations will have to pay the price.”

Similar, is the tale of another environmentalist from Jharkhan -Jamuna Tuddu who too has made it to the list of Padma Shri. The 38-year old woman environmentalist Tuddu has been relentlessly working in East Singhbhum district for over two decades protecting the Jal and Jungle of her area. Tuddu started to protect the forest in her area about two decades ago, when she began living at her in-laws house in 1998. She was upset with the trees being felled in her area in the name of the livelihood of the local villagers. To protect the forest she formed a committee with the help of with the help of some fellow villagers, primarily females, who began working towards creating an awareness about conservation of the environment.

Jamuna said, “In 1998 when I reached my in-law’s house at Muturkhana village under Chakulia block of district, I was upset seeing large scale deforestation going on in the area. The villagers were cutting down Saal trees just for money. I was pained and decided to create an awareness for the protection of trees.”

Initially, there was a small group, which over the years now has 300 committees working for the common cause. Each committee comprising 10 to 15 people work for the protection of environment.

The list of unsung heroes from Jharkhand who received Padma Shri also included “Poor Man’s Doctor” – Dr Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, from Ranchi. Mukherjee serves his poor patients by charging them mere Rs 5 for consultation. Many a time, he even consults for free. Mukherjee, an octogenarian has been treating people for past fifty years running a clinic at the posh Lalpur Chowk of the state capital. Mukherjee who had done his MBBS from Patna Medical College and Hospital (PMCH) in 1957, said, “I had never thought of earning money to lead a lavish life. It is indeed a proud moment for me that the government has recognized my contribution towards the society and selected me for the prestigious award.”

The list of Padma awardees from state also includes senior BJP leader and Khunti MP Karia Munda and mountaineer Bachendri Pal. Both Munda and Bachendri have also received the Padma Bhushan awards.

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