Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Daksha Sorathia, the Forest Queen

Daksha Sorathia, the Forest Queen 

Reservation of job for females in Government jobs in AP was introduced by the NTR, the then CM of AP in 1990s. I was Election Observer (1994) of Nalgonda Parliamentary Constituency, in which 480 candidates contested the election. A newspaper size ballot papers were printed both the sides and used, and the wise people of the Constituency elected their candidate with a margin of 1 lakh votes.  We had extensive tour of the constituency and the peripheral areas. Ramudu was my Liaison Officer, explaining me the administration of AP. The entry of NTR was a turning point in AP administration. His steps of reducing retirement age from 58 to 55 (to open jobs for youngsters), dividing the Tehsils into small small Mandals and placing the Tehdildar, BDO and MO in each of the Mandals, rice distribution to poor at ₹2/kg, education syllabus overhauling, brahmmuhurta meetings with officers, etc, were the steps of making ease of getting government services. But the female reservation in government job was one of the major decisions. The males in administration were happy with the decision, not because of the rise in efficiency level of government services but because of the improvement in the office decorum of government offices. Many of the lazy who were not taking bath regularly, wearing cloths without washing, coming to office without combing heirs, started coming to office with better outlook. Their language, their behaviour, their presentation in offices were changed with the induction of female employees in the offices. Ramudu was explaining.

Gujarat has also introduced 33% female reservations in government jobs much later but included the uniform services of Police and Forest in it. The Forest Department of Gujarat has inducted new force of direct recruit female power as Bit Guard, Forester, RFO, ACF. Initially, there was an apprehension that how would the female employees protect the forest while living in the interior forest areas? It was general impression that they will do the Social Forestry work of raising nurseries and supervise plantation of trees. But many of them have performed so boldly that the males are taking inspiration from them. The CAMPA fund bikes gave us female riders. One of these powerful lot is Daksha Sorathia. 

Daksha Sorathia, a 2013 batch direct recruit Round Forester posted in Satkasi round of Vajpur range of Vyara Division in 2015. Satkasi is rich in forests and it is one of the most sensitive ranges of South Gujarat. Illicit tree cutting is a challenge for the employees as the border of the State ends within 12 kms of the round. Satkasi was known for mass illegal felling of trees, smuggling of logs in Ukai backwaters and Conflict with locals. The forest department staff were working in an extremely hostile environment on a regular basis. One Bit Guard was killed in past, while saving the forests. The area is one of the best patches of forest in South Gujarat with a high density of trees. However it was also highly sensitive in terms illegal cutting of trees and cultivation of crops in forest land. In Addition, Timber Mafia was also operating in those areas, giving the forest department a miss  many a times.

In this scenario, Daksha Sorathia, a girl from Jamnagar, the most western district of Gujarat, was posted in Satkasi, Round (South Gujarat) in 2015, the place approximately 700km away from her native. She took  excellent control of over 1200 hectares of forest area in Satkasi Round of  Vajpur Range. She is an enthusiastic forester, working in the department with dedication, zeal and courage. Girl alone, living in the interior forest area in the staff quarter and protecting forest is a thrilling experience. She is not only chasing the mafias but also undertook a Mass Encroachment removal exercise by evacuating 74 illegal gangs from Maharashtra that were operating in the nearby forest areas.

But she is not only brave but wise too. She has finished her MA with History recently. For the development of local people, she has focussed on Livelihood empowerment via PM skill development schemes, PM irrigation schemes, MGNREGA and various other department schemes. She is changing the mind set of the people. Her extraordinary contribution can be gauged from the fact that she converted a village of Budwada, famous for illegal cutting and transportation of timber into a Conservation Village.

She is working on new generation too. She took school kids of all 14 local villages to forest to explain about Forests and Wildlife and sensitise the upcoming generation about the value of such resources and the need to conserve them.

How could she leave her colleagues behind? She undertook regularly weekly Parde of staff of Forest Department serving under her boasting their morale and self discipline.

She is now an inspiration for all of Tapi Forest Team and was able to create healthy competition among foresters in Tapi Forest Division which led to a drastic improvement in results at ground level. Tapi Forest Team is fully motivated to replicate the success achieved  by Daksha Sorathia in all of the rounds of division, and undertake measures for development of both forests and people.

Sorath, Saurastra is famous for the bravery of the people. Children of Saurastra born with the bravery in blood. Daksha has proved that a female power not only protect the forests from the mafias, but also develop people through livelihood promotion programmes, nurture the upcoming generation by education and stimulate the morals of the staff of the division by setting up example of her great services. Behind her success, there is male force. The male staff are giving her protection and accept her in lead.

After our Three "Lions Queens" (Raseela, Kiran, Darshana) in the West (Sasan Gir), Daksha Sorathia is our "Forest Queen" protecting forest and promoting livelihood in South East end of the State. They are our shining Stars, the symbols of Female Power in Gujarat Forest Administration.

28 June 2016


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