Rajendra Prasad Mohapatra

A thick forest cover near Birsinghpur village under Komna block in Nuapada district attracts many nature lovers across the State. The densely wooded forest is rich with many valuable trees and medicinal herbs.

When one will venture towards this verdant wilderness and from among the trees would emerge a fierce and old tribal woman armed with an axe on her shoulder. Well, meet 65-years-old Padmini Majhi from Birsinghpur village who has been protecting around 100 hectares of forest from the timber mafias for the last 30 years.

Padmini is famous in the area as the protector of the forest. Local people lovingly call her Jungle Rani or Forest Queen. The illiterate tribal woman has been keeping a sharp vigil over the 100 hectares of forest land for over three decades now.

Though Padmini is illiterate, she has learnt the utility of jungle from her childhood. From her parents and neighbours, she learnt very quickly that without forest, human beings and other species could not survive. To keep a balance in weather condition, control green house effect and for good rain, conservation of forest is most essential. With this understanding, she dedicated her life for the protection of the forest. Armed with an axe on shoulder, she started guarding the forest from the mafias and local people.

“Earlier jungle mafias were very active in the region. They used to cut down many old and valuable trees from the jungle. However, Padmini has been guarding the jungle and protecting trees for the last three years. She used to walk in the 100 hectares forest throughout the day with an axe. Under her strict vigil, no one dares to cut trees. The jungle has become thick and rich under her strict vigil,” said Ganesh Majhi, a villager.

“All the people of the area owe Padmini a lot. It’s because of her love towards forest and dedication to the protection of trees, jungle in the area has become so dense and beautiful,” said Jackson Majhi, another villager.

Despite all her hard work and dedication to protect the forest, Padmini has not got any support and recognition. She has not yet got any support from any government and private sectors. It is sheer love towards the trees and nature which is propelling her in the mission to protect the forest.

“I am committed to protect the beautiful forest for the greater benefit of mankind. I have been protecting the local forest since last 30 years and continue to do it till my last breath,” said Padmini.

Local people and forest officials are effusive in their praise for Padmini for her selfless service.

“People should learn from Padmini how to protect forest. She is creating massive awareness among people about the utility of jungle. She is an example for the society,” said Komna Forest Ranger Debdutta Sutar.