Muturkham forests lying southeast of capital Ranchi,used to be the timber mafia’s busy workplace.Untill they ran into the indomitable Jamuna Tuddu.
Nicknamed as the Lady Tarzan,this 32 year old Santhal woman formed a band of 25 tribal housewives under the banner of Van Suraksha Samity.These women patrolled the forest in three groups spreading fear which ensured the trees were not touched by illegal loggers.
Propelled by basic economics that there was no firewood available for the households in the village,Tuddu put her foot down to check this illegal felling of trees. This had also affected the supply of fodder for cattle belonging to tribal people.
Today,anyone caught felling the trees is fined Rs 501.The money is handed over to the forest department to be deposited for their samity funds.The forest which had lost 50% of its green cover like the rest of the state now has around 1 lakh trees.It has species of trees like Kendu,Eucalyptus and Acacia trees and houses several genus of reptiles,avians,wild boars and elephants.
Rewarding the locals for this initiative,the forest department has helped this village with certain facilities. Muturkham now has a smooth road connects it with the Chakulia-Tata Main Road and an overhead water tank ensures 24-hour supply to every household.
Further, There is a well and a check dam on a hill stream. There is a school building, a generator set and machines to make leaf plates.
Tuddu however does not rest on her laurels.Inspite of the risk that they are exposed to given past incidents, she gears up every morning at 6 am with her bow and arrow to protect the rights and the forests of the tribal people.
The state government has recognised the committee’s achievements led by Tuddu with cash awards.Tuddu contested the panchayat polls last year for the mukhiya’s post but lost by just 18 votes.
However,Tuddu has a bigger job.She is the guardian of the forest.
*This story is edited by Mayuri Phadnis.Pics by Ratan Lal