40-yr efforts to reduce human-elephant conflict recognised, Assam’s ‘Elephant Girl’ gets Padma Shri
GUWAHATI — Popularly known as ‘Elephant Girl’ (Hasti Kanya) in Assam, 67-year-old Parbati Baruah, whose name was announced for Padma Shri, is India’s first woman mahout (elephant keeper).
Baruah got the award in recognition of her work in animal conservation and dispelling preconceptions to make a name for women in a field that has historically been dominated by men.
Born into the Gauripur royal family in the Goalpara district of Assam, Barua and her father Prakritish Barua caught their first elephant together when Barua was 14 years old in the Kachugaon woods of Kokrajhar district.
She spent 40 years addressing and reducing human-elephant conflicts and fought against gender stereotypes in this profession. Human-elephant confrontations have a long history in Assam, and Baruah was instrumental in developing government regulations to keep them under control.
She developed into a master at taming wild elephants. Her expertise on the behavior of elephants made her well-known not just in Assam but also in nearby states — West Bengal and Odisha.
Baruah also assisted the forest authorities in driving the troublemakers back into the forests from agricultural fields.
‘Queen of the Elephants’ is the title of a book written about her by British travel writer and naturalist Mark Roland Shand, published in 1996. Later, the BBC produced a documentary that was widely praised.
Following at least 40 years of continuous service as a mahout, Parbati committed her life to animal conservation, and she is presently a part of the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Asian Elephant Specialist Group (IUCN).
This is her family’s second Padma honor. The central government earlier also awarded the renowned folk singer Pratima Pandey Barua, her sister, a Padma Shri.
Pramathesh Barua, an award-winning filmmaker, is also related to this family.
Bihar: Bindeshwari Pathak, C.P Thakur conferred Padma awards for sanitation & medicine
PATNA — The central government has conferred country’s second highest civilian award Padma Vibhushan to late Bindeshwari Pathak while Chandreshwar Prasad Thakur was conferred with country’s third highest civilian award Padma Bhushan.
Pathak — the founder of Sulabh International Pathak — died last year. He has been conferred with various awards including Padma Bhushan in 1991 for his exemplary work in sanitation.
He was also the brand ambassador of Swachh Rail Mission and Border Swachh Bharat Mission.
His organisation Sulabh International is an India based social service organisation which promotes human rights, environmental sanitation and non conventional source of energy.
Pathak has also been involved in social reforms in Bihar. He also has Lal Bahadur Shastri National Award for excellence in public administration to his name.
Meanwhile, Thakur was conferred Padma Bhushan for his exceptional work in the field of medicine.
He has been associated with BJP for a long time in Bihar. He has served as party’s state president besides being an MP as well.
Thakur was also a cabinet minister during Atal Bihari Vajpayee government from 2003 to 2004.
His major contribution has been the discovery of meditation for Kala-Azar — a deadly disease which had engulfed the state from 1980 to 2000.