Unsung Hero of Ranthambhore II
Armed with an axe for protection & an empty sack for collecting litter, Nathu is all set for another day at work. He does not have any formal training in wildlife or conservation, but to me, he is the biggest conservationist/hero. For him it is not work, as the amount of money he makes from his work is not even sufficient to sustain his family but to him, it provides a meaning to his life. He picks up plastic bags, empty wrappers, empty water bottles & other litter thrown by people inside Ranthambhore National Park.
Ranthambhore fort road, approach road to famous Ganesh temple inside the park witnesses heavy pilgrim traffic both on vehicles as well as foot. On any normal day 500-600 pilgrims use this road, the number multiplies many folds on special religious occasions. The visitors include safari tourists visiting national park & pilgrims from nearby villages and towns. During their visit these visitors generate waste like empty food packets, empty water bottles, empty pan masala pouches, even empty broken glass bottles which are carelessly thrown inside the park. As these areas are also inhabited by herbivores like chital, sambhar, blue bull etc this plastic waste if not disposed can harm these animals & may even result in their death.
Few years back an innovative DFO facing a staff crunch to even perform regular duties came with the idea of getting additional help to get rid of ever-growing plastic waste inside the park & thus Nathu was hired for the job. His job responsibility includes combing both sides of forests from Park entry point till Ranthambhore fort, twice a day, 365 days a year that too on foot picking all the garbage littered by humans. On any given day he does four complete rounds of fort road picking up 5-6 bags full of plastic waste. The quantum though increases on weekends, Wednesdays & other auspicious occasions on account of increased influx.
He has been doing this job for last 6 years & still makes a petty 2500 per month, but does not complain. While he wishes that given the inflationary costs of living, he should get at least 5000 per month but is still not ready to leave his work for a lucrative opportunity outside, do not know many who would do such a thing in today’s world…salute.
Asked him about the difficulties he face in his work & he says” sabse bura lagta hai jab mein road ko saaf karke jaata hoon aur phir se koi plastic phenk deta hai”. I feel bad when i clean an area & someone litters the same place again, why cannot people just understand??? Made a mistake of asking him “who do you think litter more?? uneducated villagers or educated lot??” The answer surely was embarrassing enough, obviously the so-called literate crowd…i surely was looking for corner to hide. Thankfully he was quick enough to point out that pilgrims are more responsible for litter as compared to safari tourists, crediting this to safari guides and drivers as most of them do not allow tourists to throw waste outside the vehicle.
Many a times he has been bitten by snakes & scorpions, even attacked by a leopard once & has had close encounters with tigers every now & then but all these work hazards do not seem to be a deterrence for this green warrior.
Not sure if he is even aware of the significance of work done by him but this unsung hero is truly a great conservationist…
Tigerwalah salutes the spirit of another Unsung Hero Of Ranthambhore.