The Man who moved a mountain
“My wife, Phalguni Devi, was seriously injured while crossing the hill to bring me water; I worked then on a farm across the hills. That was the day I decided to carve out a proper road through this hill,” he told us.
“My love for my wife was the initial spark that ignited in me the desire to carve out a road. But what kept me working without fear or worry all those years was the desire to see thousands of villagers crossing the hill with ease whenever they wanted.When I started hammering the hill, people called me a lunatic but that steeled my resolve.”
- Dashrath Manjhi
Almost five decade ago, a landless farmer Dashrath Manjhi from Gahlor Ghati, of Gaya (a district of Bihar) resolved to end the difficulties of his villagers by shouldering a near impossible task of slitting a 300-feet-high hill apart to create a one-km passage.
His village would nestle in the lap of rocky hills for which villagers would often face gigantic troubles for crossing small distance between Atri and Wazirganj, the outskirts of Gaya town. He started hammering the hill in early 1959 in the memory of his wife, who could not be taken to the nearest health care center on time for the immediate treatment as the nearest road that connected them to the city was 50km long.
He knew his voice will not create any reaction in the deaf ear of the government; therefore, Dashrath chose to accomplish this Herculean task alone. He sold his goats to purchase chisel, rope and a hammer. People would call him mad and eccentric spirited with no idea of his plans. Unfazed by his critics’ discouraging remarks, Dashrath hammered consistently for 22 long years to shorten the distance from 50km to 10km between Atri and Wazirganj. The day came when he stepped through a flat passage — about one-km long and 16-feet wide — to his dream, ‘the other side of the hill’.
After this impossible accomplishment, Dashrath Manjhi became popular as the ‘mountain man’. On August 17, 2007, he breathed his last after fighting cancer at New Delhi’s All India Institute of Medical Sciences.
The government attempted amends by giving him a state funeral on August 17, 2007 — but, as he well knew, it is his work for the love of his life- Phalguni that will live on longer than any honor.
Today, the villagers have nothing but gratitude for Gaya’s “Mountain Man”, known almost universally now as Sadhuji.
Dashrath Manjhi belonged to Bihar’s Musahar community, regarded as the lowest among the state’s Scheduled Castes. While other Dalits in Bihar had at least some land rights under the erstwhile Zamindari system, the Musahars never enjoyed any such. Nearly 98 percent of the state’s 1.3 million Musahars are landless today. Not even one percent of them are literate, which makes them the community with the country’s lowest literacy rate. For many of them, the day’s main meal still comprises roots, snails or rats, from which the community’s name is derived.
After Manjhi completed his road, he worked tirelessly for the betterment of his community. Among his other efforts, he managed to persuade nearly 50 Musahar families of his village to settle on government- granted land, although most of them were unwilling to leave their old homes. But when Manjhi started living on the allotted land, the rest followed suit. This new settlement is now known as Dashrath Nagar. Manjhi’s other efforts have been less successful. Despite his herculean feat, the Bihar government has given him only token appreciation and insincere help.
Himself landless, he made a petition once for property on which to build a hospital. Then chief minister Laloo Prasad Yadav allotted him a five-acre plot in a village called Karzania — the people of the village never allowed him to take possession as they were using the land as a grazing ground. More recently, the Bihar government recommended Manjhi’s name for the Padma Bhushan. This never materialized, nor did Nitish Kumar’s promised support for a road Manjhi wanted from Wazirganj to Gahlaur. Government sources say the forest department had refused permission for the road, claiming that Manjhi had violated regulations by cutting away at the hill without the department’s permission. The Padma Bhushan was reportedly denied to Manjhi because of claims made by certain quarters in the bureaucracy that he did not actually carve out the hill road single-handedly. The villagers who benefited from his labor were outraged at these reports.
“Where was the forest department sleeping all these years when Sadhuji was creating history to help thousands of poor villagers? We have seen him from our childhood, hacking at the hill day and night as if he were possessed,” said Raj Kumar, a 30- year-old Gahlaur resident. But Manjhi was unfazed. “What I did is there for everyone to see. When God is with you, nothing can stop you,” he told us as we left. “I will keep working for the development of the villages here so long I am alive. I am neither afraid of any punishment from any government department for my work nor am I interested in any honor from the government.” Brave words, but perhaps only what one would have expected from the man.
Sources : http://www.successstories.co.in,