One realizes the passage of times only after being told by our old friends and colleagues about how big and grown up our children have become and now when my daughter Srishti is giving her class tenth ICSE board exams, I am also realizing how old I have become! Her environmental education paper is next week and as person interested and involved in environmental issues, I happened to see that her syllabus had Chipko movement as one of the success stories towards striving for a better environment.
Who is Gaura Devi
I don’t know how much more to tell her about Chipko movement at this stage, but the mention of Chipko made me recollect my first visit to Reni village, about twenty two years back along with Gaura Devi, the lady who was the pillar behind the village women to stop forest contractor’s men to stop felling trees by hugging them.
That was the time when as a research fellow, I was looking into the status of the health care delivery system in Chamoli district and had done a lot of background reading and had also read about the Chipko and the role played by the village women in the movement.
In the beginning while staying at Gopeshwar, I had the privilege to meet and discuss social and health issues with Chipko leader Chandi Prasad Bhatt. It was my good fortune to see and meet Gaura Devi at that time in Gopeshwar.
She had come down to Gopeshwar to attend some programmes organized by Chandi Prasad Bhatt. The shine in her face, the confidence in her look and her mere presence on the occasion could be noticed by one and all.
She had been photographed on so many occasions and in many places but never got a copy of the same, she complained. I took this opportunity and called the local photographer immediately and ensured that she gets the copies.
I took the opportunity to visit her village and so early next day; both of us were on the bus to Reni. While paying the bus fare for both of us, she insisted to pay her fare. She agreed only after I lied that the payment was official money for the trip.
In the bus journey to her village, I had so much to know and so limited myself to only questions and listen to her all along the journey. It was nice talking to her and I found her simple and down to earth.
Once reaching the village road head, we walked uphill to reach her home. I could not keep pace with the strong old lady and she had to stop few times, so that I could catch my breath. That day, the village lady health worker was having an informal meeting with few women and it was a great occasion for me to interact with the health worker and the women in the village.
Even Gaura Devi joints the group and I could see the respect, command and leadership qualities in her. To me, Gaura devi symbolized that collective action, strength, leadership and women power in our country.
Gaura Devi is no more, but the spirit of her leadership and women power will always be remembered in all environmental and human rights movement in the country.
Gaura Devi, born on June 3, 1925, is widely recognized as an inspirational Indian environmental activist and a leading figure in the Chipko movement. Her remarkable efforts to protect forests and conserve the environment have made her a prominent figure in the history of environmental activism in India.
The Chipko Movement
The Chipko movement, also known as the Chipko Andolan, emerged as a grassroots initiative in the 1970s in Uttarakhand, a beautiful state located in the northern part of India. This movement aimed to combat deforestation and safeguard the fragile ecosystem of the region. The name “Chipko” translates to “hug” or “embrace” in Hindi, symbolizing the villagers’ act of embracing trees to prevent them from being felled.
Gaura Devi’s Role in the Chipko Movement
Gaura Devi played a pivotal role in the Chipko movement, which gained significant momentum in 1973 when the government planned to allow logging in the forests of the Alaknanda River basin. Recognizing the imminent threat to their natural resources, Gaura Devi and other women activists took a brave stand against this encroachment.
On March 26, 1974, when the loggers arrived in Reni, a village near Gaura Devi’s hometown, she, along with 27 other women from her village, fearlessly stepped forward to protect the trees. By forming a human chain around the forest trees, they adamantly refused to let the loggers proceed with their destructive activities. This act of courage and unity garnered widespread attention and became a turning point in the Chipko movement.
Gaura Devi’s Leadership and Inspiring Legacy
Gaura Devi’s unwavering determination and the success of the Chipko movement led to a significant outcome. The government responded by imposing a 10-year ban on commercial logging in the region, acknowledging the urgent need for environmental conservation. This landmark victory not only protected the forests but also drew national and international attention to the importance of preserving our natural resources.
The impact of the Chipko movement was not limited to Uttarakhand alone. It served as a powerful inspiration for similar grassroots initiatives across India and even globally. The movement acted as a catalyst for the development of sustainable forest management practices and policies, ensuring the responsible use of natural resources. Gaura Devi’s legacy continues to inspire generations of activists and environmentalists, reminding us of the potential of collective action in safeguarding our precious environment.
Awards and Recognition
Gaura Devi’s remarkable contributions to environmental conservation did not go unnoticed. In 1987, she was honored with the prestigious Indira Priyadarshini Vrikshamitra Award for her outstanding efforts in protecting the environment. This recognition serves as a testament to her dedication and bravery, inspiring individuals and organizations alike to work towards sustainability and the preservation of nature.
Gaura Devi’s extraordinary commitment to protecting the environment and her pivotal role in the Chipko movement have left an indelible mark on India’s history of environmental activism. Her courage, determination, and leadership continue to inspire generations of individuals to fight for sustainable practices and the preservation of our natural heritage.
The Chipko movement, with Gaura Devi at its forefront, stands as a powerful testament to the potential of grassroots movements and the ability of ordinary individuals to bring about significant change. It serves as a reminder that every individual possesses the capacity to make a difference and contribute to the well-being of our planet.
1. Who is Gaura Devi?
Gaura Devi is an inspirational Indian environmental activist and a leading figure in the Chipko movement. She was born on June 3, 1925.
2. What is the Chipko movement?
The Chipko movement, also known as the Chipko Andolan, emerged in the 1970s in Uttarakhand, India. It aimed to combat deforestation and protect the fragile ecosystem of the region. The movement involved villagers hugging or embracing trees to prevent them from being felled.
3. What was Gaura Devi’s role in the Chipko movement?
Gaura Devi played a pivotal role in the Chipko movement. In 1974, she and 27 other women formed a human chain around the forest trees in Reni, Uttarakhand, to prevent logging. Their act of courage and unity gained widespread attention and became a turning point in the movement.
4. What recognition did Gaura Devi receive for her environmental efforts?
In 1987, Gaura Devi was honored with the prestigious Indira Priyadarshini Vrikshamitra Award for her outstanding contributions to environmental conservation. This recognition serves as a testament to her dedication and bravery.