India: Man carves out 5km-long canal to irrigate parched fields

Patna: A Dalit villager in Bihar carved out a 5 km-long canal single-handedly to bring water to the parched fields in his local area and fight the severe drought.

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55-year-old Laungi Bhuiyan, a resident of Banke Bazar block in Maoist-hit Gaya district, felt heart-broken whenever he saw large numbers of youth from the area migrate to various Indian cities in search of jobs since they had no source of livelihood available nearby.

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Bhuiyan would often go to the nearby forest to tend goats and it was during one of his visit to the jungle that he noticed rainwater coming down from the hills in streams and going to waste. So, he decided to bring this water to his village but the local officials were not interested in the issue.

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He suggested his co-villagers jointly dig out a canal to bring the water to the village so as to irrigate the lands but they too didn’t show any interest. So, he decided to do it single-handedly.

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“I made it a habit to dig out the land every day. I would reach the forest early in the morning and get busy digging out the rocky soil with the help of spade, crowbar and axe while the goats grazed nearby. That went on for over 10 years almost constantly. Eventually, I brought the water to my village and stored it in a pond,” a happy-looking Laungi said.

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Local villagers have now named the 5 feet-long, 4-feet-wide and 3-feet-deep canal after him. According to local officials, the completion of this canal would irrigate some 500 acres of lands.

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“He has done a wonderful job indeed. We are requesting the government to provide financial help to him,” local village council chief Vishnpat Bhokta said.

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For this very act, Bhuinyan is now being compared with Dashrath Manjhi, another Dalit villager from Gaya who literally moved the mountain singlehandedly. Manjhi who died in 2007 fighting the deadly cancer had cut through a rocky mountain constantly for over two decades to make a way for others after his wife Falguni Devi died for want of timely medical help owing to lack of road in 1960’s.

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The incident prompted him to do something to ensure others did not meet the same fate as his wife. For the next 22 years from 1960 to 1982, Manjhi made it a daily routine to cut through the rocky Gehlaur hills in his home district of Gaya using a little chisel and hammer. Eventually, he was able to create a 30 feet-wide and 360 feet-long road which shortened the distance between Wazirgnaj and Atri blocks of Gaya district from 50km to just 10km.

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Such was his affinity from the place that after his death, his body was buried right near the road which he had built single-handedly. He died at the age of 73 in 2007 after a prolonged illness.

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Inspired by his incredible tale, actor-filmmaker Aamir Khan recently dedicated the opening episode of his popular TV show ‘Satyamev Jayate’ to late Manjhi. Another filmmaker Ketan Mehta made a movie on Manjhi’s life titled “Manjhi- The Mountain Man”.

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