Sevaram Malli Parihar

Wildlife Service Awards (2008)

Sevaram Malli Parihar for protecting the threatened Demoiselle Cranes of Kheechan in Rajasthan.

He may have dropped out of school in the eighth grade but his perseverance and spirit have made him a hero in the truest sense. Demoiselle Cranes visit Kheechan in Phallodi in the western Indian state of Rajasthan every year during October-November after a long and arduous migration from Southern Europe, North Africa, and parts of Russia. They usually remain in the area around Kheechan till the end of March. Though Sevaram Parihar works as a building contractor, his life revolves around the injured Demoiselle Cranes he rescues on a daily basis. On noticing that the birds were falling prey to high-voltage electricity poles erected around feeding grounds in the village, he filed complaints with the Deputy Collector of Phallodi. When his request was denied, he threatened to go on a hunger strike and approached the Rajasthan High Court against the Rajasthan Electricity Board (REB). In retaliation, a fine of Rs. 4,27,890 was levied against him by the REB! He fought them with the backing of the Rajasthan Forest Department and won. The hazardous poles were removed. He then went on highlight the problem in the Rajasthan Patrika to garner support to protect the birds. When bird deaths mysteriously began to take place, he requested the Forest Department to conduct post mortems. They had died of pesticide poisoning. Thus began his campaign with farmers to stop using pesticides. He is working now to have all electricity cables passing through Kheechan insulated. He wants the entire crane habitat protected and equipped with watch towers and rest houses so visitors can come to learn about them and enjoy them. And he wants local youth to be trained as guides so that they can help in crane conservation and earn a respectful livelihood. He is an earth hero in every sense of the word.