> President Murmu confers Padma Shri to Assam’s Parbati Barua for wildlife conservation efforts - নিয়মীয়া খবৰ




President Murmu confers Padma Shri to Assam’s Parbati Barua for wildlife conservation efforts

 President Droupadi Murmu on Thursday (May 9) bestowed the prestigious Padma Shri award upon Assam’s Parbati Barua during the civil investiture ceremony held in New Delhi.

She was honoured with the fourth-highest civilian award in India in recognition of her exceptional work in the field of social work, particularly for her pioneering efforts in elephant conservation and wildlife management.

Parbati Baruah, popularly known as ‘Hasti Kanya’, who gained fame as India’s first woman elephant mahout has been conferred the Padma Shri award for her contributions to animal conservation and overcoming preconceptions to carve out a niche for herself in a traditionally male-dominated field.

Who is Parbati Baruah?

Now 67 years old, Parbati Baruah, who is also known as Hasti Kanya, hails from Gauripur in Assam. Elephants are not new to her. She was born into an Assamese zamindar family with a centuries-old relationship with elephants and started playing with them as a child. In fact, her father, Prakritesh Barua, is an internationally recognised elephant expert.

Initially, her family captured and sold elephants until the government prohibited the practice. It is reported that her family’s clients included the royal families of Bhutan, Cooch Behar, and Jaipur.

At the age of 14, Baruah captured her first elephant in the Kachugaon woods of Kokrajhar district. When asked how she accomplished this, she explained that catching an elephant is not a matter of brute strength. “It’s all about the mind and a little luck.

This encounter fueled her desire to become a mahout, which she achieved in 1972, defying stereotypes. Since then, she has completed a number of conservation projects involving elephants.

She rose to notoriety throughout the years, becoming the subject of a BBC documentary titled ‘Queen of the Elephants’.

When asked why she’s so fascinated with the tuskers, she once said, “Love cannot be explained. Perhaps it’s because elephants are very stable, loyal, affectionate, and disciplined.”

Baruah, speaking of her love for elephants, was also quoted saying, “They love me because I understand their sentiments. One call, and they all come running to me.”

What does a typical day in Baruah’s life look like? She spends her time bathing and teaching elephants, as well as riding them around the forest. She has also stated that she prepares hadiya from rice for her ‘lovers’ (elephants), as they are very fond of liquor.

And her passion for elephants is simply unrivalled. She married a bank clerk, Pulin Das, in the 1970s but did not stay with him for long since he was, in her words, “unable to get interested in my friends.”.

Parbati Baruah’s journey as mahout

Baruah has gained valuable expertise as an elephant mahout and has dedicated herself to mitigating human-elephant conflict. She has also assisted three state governments in tackling and capturing wild tuskers.

One such case occurred in West Bengal’s Midnapore district. A herd of more than 50 elephants had lost their way and was on a destructive route. When state officials were unable to capture them, they called in Parbati Baruah.

With her four elephants and a crew of other mahouts and fodder collectors, Baruah was able to redirect the tuskers, and after a fortnight of effort, the elephants were back on their typical migratory path.

The most difficult time in her career occurred in March 2003. She had to kill an elephant who had gone on a rampage in Chhattisgarh.

She has once been quoted as saying, “My work is to rescue man from the elephants and to keep the elephants safe from man. All the elephant wants is peace and safety.”

The Assam government honoured her as the ‘Honorary Chief Elephant Warden of Asom’ in 2003, recognising her lifelong commitment to elephant welfare.

In addition to her substantive contributions, Barua has been recognised for her documentary ‘Aparajita 2023,’ receiving the ‘Nature’s Warrior’ jury award at the ‘Kolkata International Wildlife & Environment Film Festival.’

Barua’s unwavering dedication and pioneering spirit in the realm of wildlife conservation make her a deserving recipient of the Padma Shri award, acknowledging her as an inspiration and role model for future generations committed to the preservation of India’s rich biodiversity.

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