Padma Shri awardee and a renowned environmentalist from Ranchi Simon Oraon is known as Jharkhand’s waterman who has taken a step forward in doing whatever he can in conserving the earth’s resources. He is somewhat like the mountain man Dasrath Manjhi carve a road out of a mountain to help people commute from one village to the other.
While Manjhi got into limelight after a biopic starring Nawasuddin Siddiqui, most people are unaware of Simon Oraon. Oraon has taught 51 villages in his state the art of water harvesting and forest protection. He plants 1,000 saplings every year, digs up ponds and wells.
Simon Oraon managed to build canals and constructed three dams by drilling through mountains in Bero region of Jharkhand. With his contribution, the Bedo block has become one of the largest vegetable producers in Ranchi district. The block produces around 20,000 metric tonnes of vegetables and exports to neighbouring states of West Bengal and Bihar.
For his contribution to environmental protection, water conservation and rain water harvesting, Simon Oraon was felicitated with the Padma Shri by the then President Pranab Mukherjee.
Simon Oraon is the parha raja which means the chief of 51 villages, according to the tribal institutional provision which is also recognised by the state government. Oraon commands a great respect and easily motivates people towards his cause.
Irony is such that while he is known for his efforts in social causes, Oraon himself struggles on the personal front. Oraon lives in a thatched house, the roof of which leaks during the monsoon. However, he does not have a BPL card.