Seventy-two-year-old tribal Tulasi Gowda from Karnataka received the Padma Shri award on 8 November for her contribution to the protection of the environment. Barefoot and dressed in traditional attire, she received India’s fourth-highest civilian award from President Ram Nath Kovind during a ceremony in New Delhi.
Belonging to the Halakki indigenous tribe in Karnataka, Tulasi Gowda grew up in a poor and disadvantaged family. The Padma Shri awardee never received a formal education, and yet, today she is known as the “Encyclopaedia of Forests”. This is because of her vast knowledge of diverse species of plants and herbs found in the woods.
Since the age of 12, the Padma Shri awardee planted and nurtured thousands of trees. Tulasi Gowda joined the forest department as a temporary volunteer, where she was recognised for her dedication to nature preservation. She was later offered a permanent job in the department.
Today, even at the age of 72, Tulasi Gowda continues to nurture plants and share her vast knowledge with the younger generation to promote the importance of environmental conservation.
On 8 November, President Ram Nath Kovind conferred Padma Awards at the Rashtrapati Bhawan. The 2021 list of Padma Awards includes seven Padma Vibhushan, 10 Padma Bhushan and 102 Padma Shri Awards, of which 29 awardees are women and one awardee is a transgender person.
The Padma Awards have been presented in various fields, such as art, social work, public affairs, science and engineering, trade and industry, medicine, literature and education, sports, civil service and so on.
Ram Nath Kovind presented Padma awards to 73 individuals, some posthumously. Gowda, 72, received the award in the Rashtrapati Bhavan barefoot and received huge praise on social media for her simplicity. She walked barefoot in the historic Durbar Hall of Rashtrapati Bhavan, stopped briefly to greet Prime Minister Narendra Modi, before going to receive the award from the President.