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Protector of women and hills: Uttarakhand's 'Basanti Behen' spearheads campaign against child marriage 

Widowed at the age of 12, she vowed to do whatever she could to stop the marriage of minor girls. As she grew up, the first thing she realised was to study further, beyond her Class IV education.

Published: 19th July 2020 10:11 AM  |   Last Updated: 19th July 2020 12:38 PM   |  A+A-

Fondly called ‘Basanti Behen’, she goes door-to-door, explaining parents about the irreversible damage a child marriage can cause to a girl (Photo | EPS)

Fondly called ‘Basanti Behen’, she goes door-to-door, explaining parents about the irreversible damage a child marriage can cause to a girl (Photo | EPS)

UTTARAKHAND: Two years back, the Uttarakhand High Court took a serious note of rampant child marriages in the state which resulted in early pregnancies risking the lives of young mothers.

The court told the state to enforce the provisions of the Prevention of Child Marriage Act, 2006. The court also directed the state government to appoint ‘child marriage prohibition officers’ in each district.

For Basanti (52), fondly called ‘Basanti Behen,’ it was the most significant news.

Widowed at the age of 12, she vowed to do whatever she could to stop the marriage of minor girls. As she grew up, the first thing she realised was to study further, beyond her Class IV education.

She is now a teacher and has taken up women’s empowerment, environment and bringing about social awareness in Kausani in Almora district of Uttarakhand and elsewhere.

She goes door-to-door, explaining parents about the irreversible damage a child marriage can cause to a girl.

“Whenever I am able to convince the parents against marrying off their minor daughters, I feel a sense of achievement; as if I have saved a life,” says Basanti.

“She is a great reformer… she has changed the mindsets of so many people who now prefer to look after their daughters in terms of their health and education so that they become independent,” says Amit Upreti, a resident of Almora district.

Parvati Goswami, her friend and a companion in her every mission, says, “Basanti has been a determined woman. She does not rest until she is convinced about the outcome of a task she is set out to do. There are several instances of how she has changed lives for hill folks.

” Basanti spearheaded a forestation campaign along the Kosi river so that traditional water sources are revived. It wasn’t easy as villages fought over sharing the river water.

“I couldn’t believe that the land of Gangotri and Yamunotri is drying up. I decided to take it up with the people,” recalls Basanti.

She explained to them the benefits of planting the oak tree, which is believed to retain groundwater. Her persistence paid off. The drive resulted in an understanding between the forest department, which allowed removal of dry wood, and locals who agreed not to chop off the green wood.

The area is now rich with native species of oak and ‘kaafal’ and natural water sources are revived. Ravi Chopra, an eminent environmentalist based in Dehradun is all praise for her work. “We need more people like her. We need to follow in her footsteps.”

She is now working for the empowerment of local women, whose representation in the panchayat system, she says, must rise.

“That’s a mission, she won’t until she achieves it,” says Parvati. Parag Madhukar Dhakate, conservator of forest, Western Circle of Kumaon division, says he has been following her work for almost a decade. “She has convinced people that they are the guardians of ‘Jal Jangal and Jameen’ (water, forest and land). Forest department officials and locals are now working in tandem.”



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  • A k Sehanobis

    May her tribe increase.
    1 year ago reply
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