Saturday, 7 March 2015

Dr (Mrs) Pushpa Srivastava : A Devoted Motivator for Emerging Indian Women Botanists and Tribal Women

Dr. Ichha Purak
University Professor (Retd.)
Department of Botany 
Ranchi Women’s College, Ranchi
Jharkhand, India

"Women empowerment is the strong foundation of a peace loving calm society which is prospective"

India is one of the fastest growing countries in terms of the population and the economics. It is no doubt a developing country in many aspects but to date a majority of the rural population is still surviving below the poverty line and hence suffering from malnutrition.

One of the major causes for malnutrition in India is gender inequality. Due to the low social status of Indian women, their diet often lacks both quality and quantity. Women who suffer from malnutrition are less likely to have healthy babies. 

Our educational curriculum and policies should be framed keeping in mind the applied aspects of scientific knowledge for the benefit of human beings.

On 15th Feb 2015, I received a message on my mobile from 'Indian Botanist' team to submit an article for International Women’s Day 2015 highlighting the contributions of any Indian Women Plant Scientist for welfare of society. Being a botanist, I have the love and the passion for knowing the role of plants in our day to day life and I certainly believe that research in this field can tackle many of the problems related with diet and nutrition. Suddenly the names of some famous Indian botanists came into my mind as Prof. Manju Sharma, Dr. (Mrs.) Pushpa Srivastava and Dr. Suman Sahay. 

On the occasion of International Women’s day 2015 I feel privileged to bring forward the profile of of a very kind hearted lady ( Dr. Pushpa Srivastava) that highlights her academic, research and social activities. She had the firm determination to overcome all the obstacles in the path of her dream to uplift the poor condition of tribal women of Rajasthan.

"Being a Woman is easy, being an admirable woman is an art and science both"

Dr. Pushpa Srivastava
Dr. Pushpa Srivastava was born on 11th of October,1940. She did M.Sc. in Botany (1962) from Osmania University, Hyderabad and obtained Ph.D. degree in 1968 from the same institute on the topic entitled “Studies on the experimental cultures of certain Chloroccales” in the field of algal biotechnology. 

She started her professional career as a Lecturer in the Department of Botany, Osmania University in 1966. Later on she joined as Assistant Professor in the Department of Botany, University of Rajasthan, Jaipur in the year 1971 and continued there till her superannuation in 2002. 

She remained engaged both in teaching and research activities simultaneously. She has worked on eleven research projects sponsored by UGC, CSIR, DST, DNES, and DBT. She has published 151 research papers in national and international journals of repute. Twenty-seven students have taken Ph.D. degree under her supervision. She has also written a book on "Spirulina cultivation using rural technology”.

She visited many countries as UK, USA, Australia, France, Japan, China etc to participate in scientific activities.

She is the winner of three Gold Medals: YSRK Sarma Memorial Gold Medal (1994) for her contributions in the field of algal biotechnology, International Women Scientist Gold Medal award (2010) and life time achievement award Medal (2014).
Dr Pushpa Srivastava receiving Life Time achievement
 award from Dr G Subramanian and Prof V Krishnamurthy

She is the first woman scientist from Rajasthan University to have been awarded Emeritus Fellowship of UGC (2011). She is the recipient of "Galantary Award" (2012), "Honorary Fellowship Award" (2013) and "Women Recognition Award" as "Erudite" (2014).

After superannuation, she has devoted herself to the upliftment of rural women by making their villages as her work field for mass cultivation of Spirulina.

According to her Spirulina (an alga) is the richest source of protein available in the world. It also contains high levels of iron, and therefore, can cure malnourishment and anaemia in children as well as women, especially expectant mothers. It can be safely used as food supplement and acts as health promoter.

More than for any other of her achievements, she is known for developing simplified technology for commercial cultivation of Spirulina, for generating income to illiterate and uneducated less privileged component of the society i.e. ST/SC women in two states, Rajasthan and Gujarat. This "laboratory to land" technology has successfully been transferred to the rural villages - Burthal and Kanadwas in challenging semiarid environ of Jaipur. 85 women below poverty line were trained by her for large scale production of alga –Spirulina. This unit of women used Spirulina for preparation and marketing of various food item i.e, biscuits, papad, snacks, noodles, squash and capsules. The women were able to produce about 25-30 kg Spirulina per month and earn Rs. 1000-3000/month by working just for 3 hrs a day. 

Furthermore, with the successful production of Spirulina for generating income to rural women of Rajasthan, Department of Biotechnology - Govt. of India (Delhi) offered yet another similar project for generating income to earthquake affected victims of Gujarat in 2001. Govt. of Gujarat sanctioned 4000 m2 land in the village - Halvad, in Surendra Nagar district of Saurashtra. A large scale commercial unit was set up by her for the mass cultivation of Spirulina to add income to the women affected by earthquake. 286 women have been trained and production in 630 m2 area came into practice.

Dr Pushpa Srivastava being felicitated in a scientific ceremony
Initially, she used to feed Spirulina to malnourished children and anaemic mothers as it is the richest source of iron and protein of vegetable origin. Later on she took neutraceutical Spirulina into the field of pharmaceuticals. She carried out systematic study on Spirulina administration to patients suffering from hypoglycaemia, hypocholesterolemia, anaemia and arthritis in collaboration with medical doctors. Her study included patients of both the genders (40-70 years) and proved significantly effective in lowering sugar, lipids (LDL and VLDL), cholesterol, and triglycerides in the blood serum and erythrocyte sedimentation rate in the treated patients. 

Presently even at the age of 74, she is writing a book on Spirulina for rural India and is still actively involved for the welfare of rural women of Rajasthan leading a group of about 20 women. 

In one of her article “Algae, a source of employment for rural women” published in Times of India, Jaipur she expresses her concern regarding this welfare project, 
"The biggest question that concerns me today is after me who will take over this work. I often think of closing down the project, but every time I look at the village women, I feel I cannot leave them in the middle of a sea," she concludes.
May God bless her with a healthy and an active life.

REFERENCES

Times of India, Jaipur: Sept 1 2009: “Algae, a source of employment for rural women” by Dr. Pushpa Srivastava.

Satish Kumar, Arvind Pareek and C. K. Ojha, 2006 Current Science , Vol. 91, No. 8, 25 O NEWS 1000 *Based on the National Symposium on Biotechnology in 21st Century: The Challenges Ahead for New Advances Towards Food Security held on 23–24 December 2005 at Jaipur. Meeting Report New advances towards food security.

A Report from Krishna Murthy Institute of Algology, Chennai National level seminar on Recent Trends in Applied Algal Research 21st and 22nd September, 2013.

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