Guwahati: Jadav ‘Molai’ Payeng, widely known as the ‘Forest Man of India’, had a narrow escape after the boat in which he and two others were travelling in capsized early on Wednesday morning.
According to his daughter, Munmuni Payeng, the incident happened around 6 am on Wednesday when Payeng was en route to the higher grounds of Molai forest to feed cows affected by the floods. “My father was travelling in the boat with my brother Sanjiv Payeng and cousin Dilip Regon when a rise in the river water, early morning fog and the strong current of the river caused the boat to capsize in the middle of the journey,” she told EastMojo.
“Luckily, another person was supposed to get into my father’s boat but he refused to do so and opted for a mechanised boat,” said Munmuni, adding, “He then saw the boat getting capsized and immediately alerted the others.”
Payeng and his family members saw no other option but to hold on to the overturned boat for dear life till help arrived. The strong current dragged the boat along with the people to about 3 km, as per Munmuni.
“Although it was a shock for my entire family, my father was ready to get his work done in the next hour,” said Munmuni, adding: “He is quite strong and an experienced man. I was more scared for the others as they have never faced a situation like this before.”
Meanwhile, Payeng has appealed the Assam government to provide mechanised boats in the area so that people affected by the floods can go about their daily lives.
Popularly known as the ‘Forest Man of India’, Payeng is credited with planting and tending trees on a sandbar of Brahmaputra river turning it into a forest reserve. The forest, called Molai forest after him, is located near Kokilamukh of Jorhat and encompasses an area of about 1,360 acres. In 2015, he was honoured with Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian award in India.
The floods in Assam are taking a disastrous toll in human lives as well as damage to property. Till Tuesday, the death toll was 87 and 26,31,343 people have been affected, as per reports.