- Bhargaav Jyoti Thakur.
F0REST MAN OF INDIA,…. One man who made a difference
Padmashri Jadav Molai Payeng, a living example of undefined perseverance and patience, the one man who experienced nature at its closest proximity, proved the age old saying “where there is a will, there is a way”. Yes I’m speaking about the Forest Man of India, the environmental activist Payeng who alone nurtured the guts to transform a sandbar of Brahmaputra , near Aruna Chapori (situated at a distance of 5km from Kokilamukh in Jorhat district) into a massive forest, known as Molai Forest at today’s date.
The Forest being named after this green warrior , speaks about the dedication and awareness of the man who stood against every odds just to render himself completely to do the least he could to save the biodiversity and heritage of his motherland. It encompasses an area of 550 hectares and serves as a shelter for Bengal Tigers, Indian Rhinos, over 100 deers and rabbits; besides apes and several varieties of birds , including vultures seasonally migrates to this forest. There are several varieties of trees which mainly includes Arjun (Terminalia arjuna) ,Gulmohur (Delonix regia) ,Himolu (Bombax cuba). Bamboo covers an area of over 300 hectares. A herd of 100 elephants regularly visits here every year and generally stays for around six months.
Starting his career as a labourer who earned his living by working at different sites, probably Molai was unaware about the fact that he would be known as an asset to his motherland. In 1979, when Molai was 16, he encountered that a large number of snakes became the victim of excessive heat after floods washed the trees at the sandbar near Aruna Chapori. It was then he planted about 20 bamboo seedlings on the sandbar. It won’t be either wrong to say that it was then the young boy unknowingly put forward his first step towards his glamorous future,the one which he might not have ever dreamt of in his most pleasant sleep. It was in that very year , the social forestry division of Golaghat district launched a scheme of tree plantaion on 200 hectares of Aruna Chapori. Even Molai was among the various labourers hired for this 5 years long afforestation project. But unlike others , he made his mind to stay back there even after the completion and made efforts to not only protect the plants but also continued to plant trees on his own, a very selfless commitment to transform the entire area into a forest.
It is believed that if your motives are strong and towards mankind , even the almighty raises you towards the zenith. This is what happened with Molai; his efforts became known to the authorities in 2008, it was when the Forest department officials went to the area in search of a herd of elephants that had retreated into the forest after severe destruction of the property in the village ,1.5 km away from the forest. The officials were highly mesmerized to see such a large and dense forest.
Jadev Payeng, by dint of his tireless efforts to single handedly transform a sandbar into a forest gained lot of fame and honour. He was even named as ‘Forest Man Of India’ by Sudhir Kumar Sopory, Vice Chancellor of JNU,in a function arranged by School Of Environmental Sciences ,JNU. In the month of October 2013, he was honoured at Indian Institute Of Forest Management during their annual event Coalescence. And worth to mention, he was honoured wih Pdmashri in the year 2015,the fourth highest civilian award ,awarded to any Indian. In the recent years many documentaries are subjected on Payeng. Among them Jitu Kalita’s ‘The Molai Forest’(2012) and famous Indian documentary filmmaker Aarti Srivastava’s ‘Foresting Life’ are noteworthy.
Molai was a raving revolutionary like so many Assamese of 1980’s; while the rest opted for armed revolutions of many hues , Payeng choosed to plant trees of many shades. The former is slowly escaping into ether, but Pyeng’s Forest stands tall ,defying the annual cycle of floods and constant erosion caused by mighty Brahmaputra. Thus the life story of Payeng is itself an inspiration to the present generation. ‘No matter what is one’s background, one can create a difference . what really matters is one’s devotion and realm of presentation’