Tulsi Gowda

This section addresses relevant issues and facts about different parts of India through the 6Ws and 1H question answer format.

Tulsi Gowda:

Who is Tulsi Gowda?
Why has she become famous?
When did she start getting interested in trees?
What does she do?
Where does Tulsi live and work?
Why is Tulsi’s work particularly important?
What are the ways in which Tulsi’s services have been recognized, apart from the Padma Shri Award?
How can we take Tulsi’s work forward?
Who is Tulsi Gowda?

Tulsi Gowda is a tribal woman from Honnali village in Karnataka. She is over 70 years old. She is poor and uneducated, yet she is an extraordinary person.

Why has she become famous?

On Republic Day this year, the Government of India honoured Tulsi with the Padma Shri Award, which is the country’s fourth highest honour for civilians.

This honour is given for some spectacular achievement or great service to society. Tulsi won the award because of her immense contribution to environmental conservation. She has planted and nurtured well over 30,000 saplings (some estimates put the number at close to a lakh).

When did she start getting interested in trees?

Tulsi, who belongs to the Halakki tribe, lost her father when she was just two years old. Even as a child she had to work with her mother, a daily wage earner, and could not go to school. While still very young, she was married off, but her husband died soon afterwards. To get over the loss and keep busy, Tulsi began spending time in the forests, taking care of trees. She subsequently made it her life’s work. She has been doing this for the past 60 years or more, without expecting anything in return. 

What does she do?

Tulsi is a storehouse of knowledge about planting, nurturing and conservation methods. She knows the medicinal properties and uses of all the plants and trees in the region. She knows how much water each species requires, and the best time to plant them. She also knows how to save dying plants and trees. That’s why she’s known as ‘Encyclopaedia of Forests’. She spreads this knowledge and also uses it to safeguard the forests.

Where does Tulsi live and work?

Tulsi lives in Honnalli village in Ankola taluk of Karnataka’s Uttara Kannada district.

She has been participating in the sapling plantation programmes organised by the Karnataka Government since she was a young girl. Her interest and dedication were noticed by the State Forest Department officials, who gave her a permanent job as a sapling planter 14 years ago. She has now retired. Her home is a tiny hut. The State Government has sanctioned a small pension for her, which is her only source of livelihood. But she continues to care for the forests.

Why is Tulsi’s work particularly important?

The Western Ghats is a very valuable ecological region in India. It has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is home to around 320 endangered species, and every now and then, a new species of animal, insect or plant is discovered there. It is therefore very important to preserve this region.

Instead, it has been terribly damaged by thoughtless deforestation and mindless cultivation of alien trees that are not good for the ecosystem of these hills, such as the Acacia, a native of Australia, which is attractive because it grows fast and yields good timber. But it consumes a lot of water, affecting indigenous trees and shrubs in the region. Tulsi and others have been arguing against growing Acacia. Now, the Government is discouraging these plantations.

She has also fought off poachers and worked to prevent forest fires.

What are the ways in which Tulsi’s services have been recognized, apart from the Padma Shri Award?

Tulsi was honoured with the Karnataka State Government’s Rajyotsava Award in 1999. She has also won the Indira Priyadarshini Vruksha Mitra Award, the Indavaalu H Honnayya Samaj Seva Award and the Shrimathi Kavita Smarak Award.

Being uneducated, these honours don’t mean much to her. For her, life is about caring for her beloved trees.

How can we take Tulsi’s work forward?

Tulsi was honoured with the Karnataka State Government’s Rajyotsava Award in 1999. She has also won the Indira Priyadarshini Vruksha Mitra Award, the Indavaalu H Honnayya Samaj Seva Award and the Shrimathi Kavita Smarak Award.

Being uneducated, these honours don’t mean much to her. For her, life is about caring for her beloved trees.

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