On her 40th birthday, Dia Mirza pledges 40 lakhs to families of forest warriors who died of COVID-19

The actor will donate a lakh each day over a span of 40 days with the hope that contributors will also do their bit to make a collective difference

On her 40th birthday, Dia Mirza pledges 40 lakhs to families of forest warriors who died of COVID-19

Kumar Raviraj Sinha

Actor, producer and champion for nature Dia Mirza turns 40 on December 9, 2021. This year, she is dedicating her special day to the frontline forest warriors who lost their lives during the ongoing pandemic and has pledged Rs 40 lakhs to their families.

In a deeply moving appeal, posted on fundraising platform 'Milaap' and on her social media handles, the actor/activist said, "On my birthday this year, I would like to take the opportunity to request all those who may want to send me flowers or gifts to instead make a donation to WTI to help our Van Rakshaks. There could be no better birthday gift! Your gift will help support the bereaved families of India’s ‘Guardians of the Wild’ who lost their lives to Covid-19 while protecting our natural heritage."

She added, "Beginning with my 40th birthday on 9 December, for the next 40 days, I will donate a lakh each day and hope that you all will (contribute alongside me to the best of your abilities / match or better that amount) as we seek to maximise our collective impact!"

Dia further said, "Our guardians of the wild, our van rakshaks risk their lives in service to nature. They often fall to accidents in the toughest of terrain, inclement weather, attacks by wild animals or poachers. When the second wave of COVID-19 tore through the country leading to nationwide lockdowns, these men and women were out patrolling our country’s forests on foot. Between March and June 2021, when most of us stayed at home, India lost more than 500 of these conservation heroes to Covid-19! Most of them were young, between 30 and 50 years of age, and had committed their lifetime to preserving India's wildlife. The sudden demise of so many young, committed people is not only heart-wrenching, but a blow to nature conservation. The least we can do now is to recognize their service and stand in support of the young families they leave behind, who have suffered the biggest blow."

Wildlife Trust of India’s (WTI) Conservation Heroes Covid Casualty Fund provides an ex-gratia of INR 100,000/- and a scroll of honour to the next of kin of the fallen heroes. Under the scheme, WTI received ex-gratia claims for over 200 pandemic casualties from the wildlife sector across India. Of these, 135 requests have already been processed by WTI, and the next of kin of the fallen heroes have received a scroll of honour and a cheque of INR 1,00,000/- in official handover ceremonies. But there still are 65 pending requests.

Dia, also the ambassador of WTI, concluded, "I appeal to you to join me and donate for the cause. Our target is to raise the remaining amount to cover all 65 families and your contribution can bring us closer to our goal."

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