BENGALURU: 107-year-old Saalumarada Thimmakka, this year’s Padma Shri award winner, is happy with the national recognition. But she is upset with the state government for not recognising her green crusade. Though the state government has given her many awards and named a few green schemes after her, Thimmakka is provided with just Rs 500 per month from the government as old-age pension.
The state government had also assured to give her Rs 2 crore cash and a piece of land for her livelihood, but she has not got them till now. “Thimmakka is disappointed by the attitude of the state government and stopped taking the pension for the last one year,’’ Umesh, her adopted son, said. They are managing with the cash awards she gets from private organisations who felicitate her at various events.
Despite her conservation efforts, she has been living a life of near penury. Thimmakka laments that her frequent pleas have fallen on deaf ears. Her house is filled with mementos and little else. When contacted on Saturday, she said, “I cannot eat mementos.’’
Priyank Kharge, Social Welfare Minister, told TNSE that he would take up the issue with Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy. “We will take a call on what facilities can be extended to improve the livelihood of the Padma Shri award winner,” he added.
Fondly referred to as Tree Woman, Thimmakka’s love for trees dates back to several decades. When they remained childless even after many years of marriage, Thimmakka and her husband Chikkaiah started planting banyan saplings and nurtured them as their own children. The duo would walk this stretch to water the plants during summer, a practice Thimmakka continued after her husband’s death in 1991. Today there are 385 banyan trees on a 4km stretch between Hulikal and Kudur in Magadi taluk of Ramanagara district, thanks to Thimmakka’s efforts.
Thimmakka is known globally too. In 2016, BBC included her name in one of the most influential and inspirational women of the world. A US environmental organisation named its centre at Los Angeles and Oakland as Thimmakka Resources for Environmental Education.