Tulasi Munda, a tribal woman of an anonymous village in Keonjhar, has now has become a famous name for her selfless service to mankind. She has proved herself as a ‘Holy Basil’ of Odisha, fighting against illiteracy through her Seva Schools of her own.
Tulasi Munda was born on 15 July 1947 in Kainshi village under Keonjhar district in Odisha. Keonjhar was then one of the most backward and underdeveloped pockets in the state. Tulasi as a child, wished to study like other kids. But, the idea of educating girls and women was largely socially unacceptable at that time. Practice of child labour, acute poverty and slavery prevented tribal children from getting formal education.
When Tulasi was 12 years old, she went to Serenda village, around 65 kilometer away from her native village to live with her sister. There she worked in the mines as a child labourer to earn livelihood. Her tiny and tender hands hammered hard stones for construction of road. However, she had deep inclination towards learning.
Subsequently, she decided to achieve functional literacy herself along with everyday’s struggle for livelihood. Accordingly, she learnt Odia alphabets along with some basic communicational skills from the educated persons she met at the work place.
Mean while, Tulasi came in contact with social reformers Malatidevi Choudhury and Nabkrishna Choudhury at Baji Rout Chhatrabas in Angul. Their philosophy of life inspired Tulasi towards volunteerism
Later, she joined the Bhoodan Movement founded by Vinoba Bhave during his tour to Odisha. His dedication towards poverty alleviation and equal rights redefined the work of Tulasi.
Since then she has been educating tribal boys and girls. To start with, she started an informal ‘Evening open school’ for the children of the labourer class.
However, most of the illiterate daily wagers were reluctant to send their wards to the evening school due to their myopic lookout on education. She withstood the adverse situation counseling the ignorant parents through her mass campaign.
Thus, a day came when people suo-motto were attracted towards the noble mission. She had to shift her school to an open ground inside the forest. All the working women were leaving their children in the school, when they were leaving for work.
Subsequently, Tulasi set up a tile-roofed school with the assistance of donors. Even she collected alms and kinds from well-wishers and fetched puffed rice to manage the school’s everyday need.
Now, Tulasi has been able to establish as many as 16 Seva Schools in Keonjhar district to educate more than 20,000 tribal children free of cost.
In 2001, Tulasi was conferred with Padma Shri award by the Centre taking into account her service towards the mankind.
The prameyanews.com, on the International Women’s Day pays glowing tribute to this great woman of Odisha and wishes her a healthy, long life.