iNDICA NEWS BUREAU-
Padma Shri Jadav Payeng from Assam has now become a part of the school syllabus of a leading school in the United States.
Payeng’s four-decade-long feat of single-handedly raising a 550-acre forest of barren sandbar will now grace the curriculum of sixth grade Bristol Connecticut school students, in what will be the latest laurel for the 57-year-old Assamese farmer.
“The students are studying about Padma Shri Jadav Payeng as a part of their ecology lesson,” Navamee Sharma, a teacher at Greene Hills School in Bristol Connecticut, told reports on Sunday.
“The primary reason was to inspire and encourage future generations of the country on how a single person can make a huge positive impact in the world if he or she has the right attitude and determination.”
Lauding the honor given on Payeng by the American school, Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal congratulated him and requested the people of the state and country to take inspiration from the work of environmental activists.
In a tweet, Sonowal said, “Inclusion of the ‘Forest Man of India’ in the curriculum of an American educational institution reflects his global reputation. This is a proud moment for Assam. I urge everyone to take inspiration from his work and together strive to protect and conserve our environment and biodiversity.”
Payeng has dedicated nearly 42 years of his life taking care of the Molai woods – a forested area spread over 550 hectares of land. It is located along a barren sandbar of Majuli, the world’s largest river island in Assam, about 28 kilometers from Jorhat town.
The effect of Jadav Payeng’s handiwork is striking, with the lush green of the forest contrasting sharply to the barren monotony of the landscape which it borders. Payeng concedes that he didn’t manage this gargantuan feat entirely on his own as Mother Nature had lent him a helping hand.
The Forest Man claims he only started the process and then let nature take its course. “You plant one or two trees, and they have to seed. And once they seed, the wind knows how to plant them, the birds here know how to sow them, cows know, elephants know, even the Brahmaputra river knows.”
The Forest Man himself only began to attract attention after being introduced to nature photographer Jitu Kalita in 2009. “I was exploring a barren part of the Brahmaputra by boat when I saw something strange,” Kalita remembers, “it looked like a forest far in the distance … I couldn’t believe my eyes.”
Kalita published an article on Jadav Payeng in a local newspaper and from there, the legend of the “Forest Man of India” took on a life of its own. This would ultimately culminate in a 2013 short film titled Forest Man that proved a smashing success at Cannes.
The State took an official interest shortly following this recognition, and Payeng has since received many high honors from his country. In 2015, Payeng was awarded India’s highest civilian honor, the Padma Shri.