Eco hero

My jungle is my wealth and I am a happy man.

Name: Jadav “Molai” Payeng

Moniker: Forest Man of India

Prophetic: “When I was a little boy, a man read my palm. He said that my life will take the course of Nature.”

Simple start: I belong to the Mising tribe, an indigenous community inhabiting parts of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh.

Eureka moment: My green journey began in 1978, when I was 16. The floods washed away homes leaving behind sand. My parents went away to another village, but I stayed behind. Snakes came into the open in the wake of the floods, but they died owing to the heat on the sandbar. I thought the village too would die like the snakes.

One-man army: For the next 15 years, I lived alone and planted saplings. Gradually the sandbar transformed into a 550-hectare forest, and is now named Molai forest after Payeng.

Life: I live in a small hut in the forest with my wife Binita and three children. I keep cattle and buffaloes and the money I make from selling the milk provides me with an income.

Villains: Sometime back, I lost around 100 of my cows and buffaloes to the tigers in the forest. But I don’t blame the animals. I blame the people who encroach and destroy the forests forcing animals to do this.

Favoured friends: 120 species of birds, including migratory ones; and elephants, rhinos, and tigers that visit from Kaziranga National Park.

My greatest fear: Humans. Poachers have an eye on this forest and its inhabitants

Awards: Padma Shri, 2015

Behind the screen: “Foresting life”, a documentary directed by Indian documentary filmmaker Aarti Shrivastava, William Douglas McMaster's 2013 film documentary Forest Man

Tome talk: Jadav and the Tree Place written and illustrated by Vinayak Varma

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Printable version | May 29, 2020 3:23:40 AM |

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