Jharkhand’s very own green warrior
Jamuna Tudu is a passionate environmentalist who is associated with plantation of 25 lakh saplings in the past 24 years in Jharkhand. She has also ensured the participation of around 3,000 women in this '’green earth' endeavour. Apart from promoting water harvesting, she has been encouraging women to take to animal husbandry to earn a living. She has also been in the forefront of the fight against the forest mafia in her state. Given her opposition to the Naxalites in her area, she is called ‘Lady Tarzan’ by her admirers…
Q: What made you come forward and take up environmental causes with such a vengeance?
Jharkhand has always found itself on the crossroads of development and conservation. The dense sal forest surrounding Maturkham village in Purbi Singhbhum district is an example of this strife. It was mercilessly plundered for almost two decades by the forest mafia for its precious timber and rare fauna. Then, in the 1980s, Naxalites set up base in the forests. What ensued was a long-drawn battle between the two, resulting in a lot of bloodshed. But amid all this, nobody paid any attention to loss of the precious flora and fauna. I am originally from Odisha. I came to Jharkhand in 1998 after my marriage. A lover of nature, I noticed the harm being inflicted on the forest and decided to do something about it. After a lot of coaxing and discussion, I got the support of the village women. We would go out to recce the forest three times a day to make sure there was no illegal felling of trees.
Q: What major challenges did you face?
Mainly, the men of the village weren’t convinced. They would ridicule us and undermine our work. This didn’t impede me though and I went on to form the Van Suraksha Samiti with a group of five women in 1998. Today, the group, which consists of 50 active foot soldiers, has successfully saved and conserved around 50 hectares of forest land.
Q: But in a region infested with Naxalites, how difficult is it to pursue their cause?
They have never interfered in our work. In fact, they fear us. We run awareness campaigns through various forest committees in Kolhan division, Jharkhand. Around 150 committees formed by me, comprising more than 6,000 members, have joined my movement to save the forests. A lot of young Naxalites have surrendered. We told them of the opportunities they could avail. They are now pursuing jobs. Some have left the region in search of jobs, while others have been employed as private security personnel.
Q: Your efforts in a region as volatile as Jharkhand speak volumes about your deep love for nature:
It all started when I was a child. There was a vast expanse of vacant land surrounding our house in Odisha. My father would plant saplings of trees and other plants, and teach us about their importance. That’s when I fell in love with nature. I have also been instrumental in getting schools built for women and even getting a proper road constructed for better connectivity to the nearest town. I, however, find myself most at peace when I am with nature, something that has earned me the sobriquet of ‘Lady Tarzan’.