Social worker and farmer activist Vijay Jarhdhari of Beej Bachao Andolan (Uttarakhand) has been given the prestigious “Indira Gandhi Priyadardarshini Environment Award” by the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India. The award, carrying a silver lotus plaque and cash prize of Rs 3 Lakhs (Rs 3,00,000/-, approximately US$ 5500, at current exchange), was presented to him at a special ceremony in New Delhi on Environment Day, 5 June 2012, when a special biodiversity train was also flagged off. In the next three years, the train carrying the message of biodiversity conservation will travel all over India.
Vijay Jarhdhari has been given the award in recognition of his formation of Beej Bachao Andolan (Save Seeds Movement, a non-formal collective of small farmers and activists) which has, in a sustained pursuit, sought to save local, traditional and diverse seeds, rejuvenate local mixed cropping system Baranaja, popularize millets and other local crops and advocate organic and ecological agriculture, through extensive travels, community dialogues, protest rallies and extensive writings. Special mention is made of the Beej Bachao Andolan team, which has in the last over two and half decades of its existence has, among other things, preserved and documented over 300 varieties of rice, over 220 of bean, 32 of wheat, 12 of finger millet, 8 of pearl millet, over 24 of different pulses and grams, besides a host of vegetables and spices, from all over Uttarakhand.
The award also recognizes Jarhdhari’s involvement in the Chipko Movement (a people’s movement to save forests) of the 1970s and other local forest conservation struggles, including against large dams and hydro-electric projects and mining.
Responding to the conferring of the award, Jardhari said, “This award is recognition by the government of the issues that we have been struggling for in the last over two decades – issues such as conservation and preservation of local seeds, agro-biodiversity and traditional knowledge systems, against large dams, mining, etc. But this award also places on us an even greater responsibility to further intensify our efforts to pressurize the government to effect actual policy and programme changes to address our concerns.”