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Saalumarada Thimmakka is an Indian environmentalist from the state of Karnataka, noted for her work in planting and tending to 384 banyan trees along a four-kilometre stretch of highway between Hulikal and Kudur. Her work has been honoured with the National Citizen’s Award of India.

A U.S. environmental organisation based in Los Angeles and Oakland, California called Thimmakka’s Resources for Environmental Education is named after her.

Thimmakka is a native of Hulikal village in the Magadi taluk of Ramanagar district in Karnataka. She received no formal education and worked as a casual labourer in a nearby quarry. She was married to Chikkaiah who was a cattle herder but they unfortunately could have no children. It is said that Thimmakka started to plant banyan trees in lieu of children. The name word Saalumarada (of the row of trees in Kannada language) is how she was referred to because of her work.

Ficus (banyan) trees were aplenty near Thimmakka’s village. Thimakka and her husband started grafting saplings from these trees. Ten saplings were grafted in the first year and they were planted along a distance of 4 kilometres near the neighbouring village of Kudoor. Fifteen saplings were planted in the second year and 20 in the third year. She used her own meager resources for planting these trees. The couple used to carry four pails of water for a distance of four kilometres to water the saplings. They were also protected from grazing cattle by fencing them with thorny shrubs.

The saplings were planted mostly during monsoon season so that sufficient rain water would be available for them to grow. By the onset of the next monsoons, the saplings had invariably taken root. In total, 384 trees were planted, and their asset value has been assessed at around 1.5 million rupees. The management of these trees have now been taken over by the Government of Karnataka.

Thimmakka’s husband died in 1991. Today, Thimmakka is invited to many afforestation programs in India. She has also been involved in other social activity like constructing a tank to store rain water for the annual fair held in her village. She also has a dream of constructing a hospital in her village and a trust has been set up for this purpose.

Delhi settled comedian, Vasu Ritu Primlani has been accused by Thimmakka of misusing her name. Ms. Thimmakka had filed a private complaint before the Ramanagaram Judicial Magistrate First Class (JFMC) court on May 9 against a non-resident Indian, Ritu Primlani, for running the organisation named after her for at least 14 years without her consent or knowledge.

In 2014, the High Court of Karnataka adjudicated in Ms. Primlani’s favor, stating that ‘if all the charges against Ms. Primlani were true, they still won’t amount to a crime’, and that this prosecution was because Thimmakka was ‘clearly after money.’ See: State of Karnataka Vs. Ritu Primlani. Ms. Thimmakka had in fact met Ms. Primlani in 2003, when Ms. Primlani had made the effort to visit her, and Ms. Thimmakka had stated she was ‘delighted’ that Ms. Primlani had named an organization after her to honor her.

Ms. Primlani had started the non profit organisation more than a decade prior to the allegations. Thimmakka’s adopted son, Umesh has claimed that the organisation misuses her name to collect donations. Ms. Primlani had visited Thimmakka back in 2003 where photos were taken of her gifting Thimmakka with a saree. Now she is said to have allegedly taken Thimmakka’s finger prints, while she says Thimmakka okayed the non-profit back then in front of a judge.

Following the complaint, policeman arrived at Alliance Francaise and Jagriti in Bangalore, venues where Ms. Primlani was performing her shows, to take her into custody. Ms. Primlani claims that she was to be taken into custody by a male policeman, after dark, which is against the law. She says that a dozen policemen had arrived at the venue though they did not disrupt her show. She claims to be harassed by Thimmakka’s lawyers with written threats, which is an indication of extortion.

Though Thimmakka herself was mostly available for comment, she mentioned her meagre pension of Rs. 400 and has been quoted “What if there is a misuse and my name is tarnished?”. Thimmakka has been of ill health lately and the treatment has taken a toll on her financial situation.