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Odisha’s ‘tree hugger’ guards forest, once protected by her late husband, from wood smugglers

By oneindia staff
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Bhubaneswar, June 18: Rudra Palei of Odisha was one of the few grassroots environmentalists who worked relentlessly to save forests from extensive deforestation throughout his lifetime.

Now, he is dead and has left behind him Rudrabana, a forest in Mayurbhanj's Thakurmunda in Odisha, which is named after him. After Palei's death, it is his wife Bengo, who is the guard of Rudrabana, saving the forest trees from wood smugglers.

odisha tree hugger

The woman in her mid-40s continues with Palei's mission to save the forest that is home to a large numbers of sal trees, the woods of which are sold at a very high price in the timber market.

"Bengo, wife of Rudra Palei, the man after whom 'Rudrabana' forest in Mayurbhanj's Thakurmunda is named, now guards the 'sal' trees after her husband's death & continues his mission to save the forest from wood smugglers. #Odisha," tweeted ANI.

The fearless woman who guards the forest from smugglers, equipped with guns, says that it is a tough and risky job but she can't stop doing her duties which was Bengo's husband sole mission in life.

In spite of any help from the government, Bengo is determined to continue with the legacy of her husband to protect trees from rampant cutting.

As a widow she gets a paltry sum of pension--Rs 300 per month--from the government. To run her household, Bengo, who is also a mother of four children, makes plates from sal leaves and sell them in the market.

Bengo has a big grouse. "The wood smugglers often go unpunished and no step is being taken by the government officials to stop illegal activities of cutting trees," she told ANI.

"Bengo, a mother of four, gets widow pension of Rs 300/month & makes plates from leaves to run her family; says, 'wood smugglers often go unpunished & no step is taken by govt officials to stop their illegal activities' #Odisha," tweeted ANI.

As we recently observed the World Environment Day on June 5, green warriors like Bengo hardly found a mention. It is high time she gets government help to do her "duty" without any fear. Hopefully, the government which asks citizens to protect the environment from fast degradation knows about Bengo's work.

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