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A Life Truly Based on Sustainable Development :Dr Padmashri Janak Palta McGilligan

Sustainable development is a guiding principle for achieving human development objectives while preserving the capacity of natural systems to supply the natural resources and ecosystem services that are essential to the economy and society. Dr Padmashri Janak Palta McGilligan is a strong proponent and living illustration of this. She is a resident of Sanawadia village of Indore, MadhyaPradesh. A social worker and the founder-director of the non-governmental “Jimmy McGilligan Centre for Sustainable Development” in Indore, Janak Palta promotes sustainable community development. She was also the former founder and director of the “Barli Development Institute for Rural Women”.

Janak Palta McGilligan was born into a Punjabi family and raised in Chandigarh. During and after her studies, she worked at various places like the Provident Fund office, the High Court, and the Centre for Rural and Industrial Development. She earned a master’s degree (MA) in English Literature and Political Science, Sangeet Visharad in Sitar, an MPhil in political science with distinction, and a PhD in Sustainable Community Development.

She is a co-founder of Jaivik Setu in Indore, a global adviser [member of the advisory board of Solar Cookers International in Sacramento], and the honorary secretary of the Sangini Cancer Care Society in Indore, which aids breast cancer patients since 2007. In addition to serving on the Chitrakoot University management board, Dr Palta has worked with UNICEF as a resource person at IIM Indore, IIT BHU, Prestige Institute of Management Indore, Indus World School, Choithram International School, Pragya Girls School, MGM Medical College, and Indore Dental College and Hospital. Dr Janak Palta McGilligan wrote a book about the Barli Development Institute for Rural Women.

Dr Padmashri Janak Palta McGilligan

Her Quest For Thanking God

At the age of fifteen, after the matriculation exam, one day, she was found unconscious and was taken to the hospital and referred for open-heart surgery. She had been in the hospital for about nine months. Her surgery was miraculously successful at a time when heart surgeries were complete failures. She wanted to thank God for this opportunity.

Three months later, Janak Palta returned from the hospital intending to search for God. She undertook an internal voyage to all scholarly stations while learning and carrying out independent social work. Sixteen years later, she discovered the Baha’i faith and thought it was the best path for her. She worked as a clerk in the public sector, a translator in Highcourt, a lecturer in a college, a U. G. C. workfellow, and a research fellow. But none of these positions led to full-time gratitude to God. She planned to open an institution for rural women, primarily for tribal women, with the assistance of certain Baha’i friends.

Barli Development Institute for Rural Women

Janak had to establish an institute there, overcoming all obstacles. Six thousand illiterate women from around five hundred tribal villages attended education there. They appeared for the exam conducted by the National Institute of Open Schooling and were assigned different jobs there. For 26 years, Janak Palta oversaw the operation of this institution.

Single-Person Army To Eradicate Guinea Worm Disease

She visited every residence in the 302 villages, offering lectures on how to tackle both primary and secondary illnesses. They sealed off the ponds and covered the water sources and helped the tribal people to recover from the guinea worm disease. The people of the 302 villages started to trust her after that and started calling her “deedi”. The Institute received the UNEP Global 500 Award, which gave her the strength to work for the environment.

Meeting a Man With Similar Views

Janak then met Mr Jimmy McGilligan, an Irish citizen. He always shared her views and had serious environmental concerns. They united in their life and continued to establish their novel sustainable development ideas.

The couple who have dedicated their lives to social service

Learning By Doing

In 1998, Jimmy McGilligan built the first community solar kitchen at the institution and trained the villagers. He created solar cookers and gave them to native people. It made their work more manageable. To assist the farmers there, he also developed solar dryers. For rural women, the solar cooker was extremely helpful. They had to travel a great distance to get firewood before. As a result, individuals experienced several health issues and security challenges.

Solar Tea Stalls 

Inspired by Jimmy McGilligan’s new solar technology and training, some folks created tea stalls using this solar equipment to make a living.

Empowering rural women of India

Giridarshan, A Shelter Based On Eco-friendly Policies

In 2010, Jimmy built solar and Wind power stations before constructing a home there. He also made street lights to aid the indigenous residents of the village’s more forested areas. Without assistance from anyone, he built a house. A tragic accident claimed the life of Jimmy before the couple could finish the entire project.

Sustaining Herself

The villagers assisted her in her goal of continuing the initiatives they had chosen upon their retirement. Nandha, one of her students, came to her for assistance. She and her husband worked with her to finish the house.

Jimmy McGilligan Centre For Sustainable Development

After his demise, she continued to work for the environment. The Jimmy McGilligan Centre For Sustainable Development is a live demonstration of sustainable technology, sustainable skills like organic food production, solar food processing, sustainable management, and sustainable lifestyle and practises aligned with cultural and spiritual values. The organization’s primary goal is to empower people, especially youth.

She revolutionized India’s approach to sustainability and energy efficiency.

Sangini Cancer Care Society

In 2007, she underwent four cancer surgeries. As a breast cancer survivor, Janak also tries to raise awareness among cancer sufferers. She founded this group to assist breast cancer patients. According to her, cancer also helped her to grow. The founder of the institution Dr Anupama Negi inspired Janak Palta to keep the Sangini team engaged and energised as they became larger and stronger rather than just keeping them doing their jobs.

Janak Palta is an ideal illustration of a woman working for sustainable living and empowerment. Her house is open to all. Every day, many visitors, including farmers, students, and others, come to her home for a tour to witness how Janak Palta lives sustainably. She teaches everyone how to survive and flourish without contaminating the environment. Her life is fully waste-free, generating electricity and food for herself. She is happy enough to show everything, including her organic farms, sustainable technology and sustainable lifestyle.

The whole nation respects you


She received the Padma Shri, the fourth-highest civilian honour in India, from the Indian government in 2015. She was given honours such as the SCI Order of Excellence (2016), the Green Hero (2017), the Rajmata Vijaraje Sindhiya Social Service Award (2008), the Manav Seva Award, the Sadbhavana Samman, the Paryavaran Mitra Puraskar and so on.


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