World ‘Madman’ digs for decades to bring water to dry Indian village

06:26  30 october  2020
06:26  30 october  2020 Source:   aljazeera.com

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This Man in India Dug a Canal to Bring Water to His Village . For years, Laungi Bhuiya has been digging on his own in a forest in the eastern Indian state For years, he was dismissed as a madman by the villagers for digging in the forest—an exercise in futility. On September 20, Bhuyia woke up to

The man had lied to me. Victor was breathing still. When he felt me touch his hand, he opened his eyes. I heard the dogs barking and the men laughing, ready now, excited. When they had gone I went and stood alone in the deserted village , and I watched the full moon rising from the dark valley.

Gaya, Bihar – For nearly 30 years, Ramrati Devi had called her husband Laungi Bhuiya “mad” and tried everything, even denying him food, to get him to focus more on supporting their children and less on what seemed like an impossible dream.

a man walking down a dirt road: Laungi Bhuiya is now being hailed as the 'Water Man' and 'River Man' [Courtesy of Jai Prakash/Al Jazeera] © Laungi Bhuiya is now being hailed as the 'Water Man' and 'River Man' [Courtesy of Jai Prakash/Al Jaz... Laungi Bhuiya is now being hailed as the 'Water Man' and 'River Man' [Courtesy of Jai Prakash/Al Jazeera]

The other villagers in Kothilwa, a parched and poor hamlet in a remote corner of India’s eastern state of Bihar, dismissed Bhuiya when he said he would bring water to them one day.

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As most of India deals with the drastic consequences of drought, these villages are reaping the benefits of efficient water management and revival systems. For instance, in the Dahod district, Bhil tribals faced acute shortage of water for decades .

India has long faced the challenge of providing safe drinking water to over 700 million people in more than 1.5 million villages . In areas where the availability of potable water is low and water has to be drawn from surface sources further away, multi- village systems which present a high degree of

Kothilwa is about 80 kilometres (50 miles) from Gaya, the closest major city, and is home to nearly 750 people – most of them Dalits – who live in mud huts.

Dalits, formerly referred to as the “untouchables”, fall at the bottom of India’s complex caste hierarchy and have historically faced social marginalisation and discrimination.

A narrow unpaved road off a highway is the only way to reach Kothilwa, a village tucked into a barren landscape, rocks dotting its red earth, on which nothing except maize and some hardy pulses that need little water grew.

Bhuiya, who owns a small piece of land, always reckoned that if he could dig a canal to redirect the streams running up in the hills to his village – which only had a couple of wells for drinking water that were not enough for irrigation – he and others would be able to grow vegetables and wheat and support themselves.

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Related: Indian Man Single-Handedly Plants 1,360 Acre Forest. Naturally, it took a bit of persuading Unfortunately, after a decade of work, the first attempt at a canal was unsuccessful in bringing The channel provides running water to three other villages that happen to cross its path as well, providing

India News: When work dried up in the big cities during the lockdown, many thousands of men from There’s piped water at last, long-neglected wells have been repaired, and agriculture has become more than a means of subsistence. In other villages , the returnees are digging new wells, repairing old

Therefore, oblivious to his wife’s reprimands and the villagers’ taunts, Bhuiya, now 70, would head up into the nearby Bangetha Hills to dig.

He says he kept at it for nearly three decades, with rudimentary tools and a dogged determination.

“I was always angry with him for not caring about the children. There was never any money, never enough food,” his wife Devi told Al Jazeera.

Soon, Bhuiya came to be known in the village as the “madman” possessed by a dream of bringing water to the village. His son Brahmdeo said the family even took him to the village healers to exorcise him. Three of his four sons had migrated to other cities to find work.

But a determined Bhuiya kept digging. He knew water from the monsoon rains filled the many streams in the Bangetha Hills and that they could be diverted to the village.

For years, Bhuiya headed out for the hills to dig every day – a feat reminiscent of the epic efforts of Dashrath Manjhi, another Dalit from Gaya, decades ago.

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A village in the western Indian state of Goa is only visible for one month in a year - for the remaining 11 months, it disappears under water . The village of Curdi was nestled between two hills in the Western Ghats with the Salaulim river - a tributary of one of the major rivers in Goa - running through it.

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After 22 years of cutting through Gaya’s Gehlour Hills using only a hammer and chisel, Manjhi in 1982 shortened the distance between his village and the nearest town from 55 to 15 kilometres (from 34 to 9 miles).

Manjhi’s feat earned him the sobriquet “Mountain Man”. The government released a postage stamp featuring him and Bollywood produced a biopic about him in 2016.

“I had heard about him and I thought if he can do it, why can’t I?” Bhuiya told Al Jazeera. “They all thought I was mad.”

‘We used to think he is possessed’

Last month, local journalist Jai Prakash had gone to the village to cover a story about the villagers building their own road to the village when Bhuiya came up to him and asked if he could show him a canal he had dug.

“He had dug a minor canal for irrigation. He said it took him nearly 30 years, so we went on my motorcycle to see it,” Prakash told Al Jazeera.

“In the monsoons, the water had come to the little dam the water department had constructed last year… Laungi Dam.”

As soon as Prakash’s story was published in a local Hindi newspaper on September 3, Kothilwa became a hotspot as journalists, political leaders, social workers and activists began flocking to the village to meet Bhuiya.

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The village of Yelmar Mangewadi in Maharashtra's Solapur district was once a flourishing It went on digging borewells and placing unreasonable demands on the underground water table, until it had 6 Naturally, a time came when all the underground water was sucked up, and the borewells ran dry .

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Bhuiya was able to dig a canal 3km (1.86 miles) long but hadn’t been able to bring it all the way uphill to Kothilwa, and was forced to stop digging a kilometre away from the village.

As news of his efforts spread, Bihar state’s Water Minister Sanjay Jha came to know about it and ordered the extension of the canal till Bhuiya’s village.

The day Al Jazeera visited Kothilwa, a man from a neighbouring village had walked into Bhuiya’s courtyard and was making a speech about the failures of the government.

A placard with an enlarged image of a cheque for 100,000 rupees ($1,365) presented to him by Mankind Pharma, an Indian pharmaceutical company, hung outside the door of his house.

On the same day, Bihar’s former Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi visited the village and promised Bhuiya he would be recognised by the Indian president. Villagers present asked Manjhi for a hospital and a road to be built and named after Bhuiya.

That evening, Bhuyia, resplendent in a white kurta and dhoti with flowers in his hand, went to an auto showroom in Gaya where a tractor decorated gaily with balloons stood waiting for him.

It was a gift from Anand Mahindra, chairman of the auto giant Mahindra Group, who had heard through a local journalist’s tweets that Bhuiya was now dreaming of owning a tractor after having dug the irrigation canal.

“We used to think he is possessed,” his son Brahmdeo said.  “Things have changed now. We have some money we got because of his work.”

Bramhdeo says he now wants a fan, and maybe some clothes and good food too.

Meanwhile, Bhuiya’s wife Ramrati Devi watched as her husband, now being hailed as the “Water Man” and “River Man”, had been whisked away by a crowd of cheering villagers.

They had a good reason to be happy. This year, the village of Kothilwa was able to grow wheat.

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On his motorbike, Mohammed Derbas speeds across a field in northeast Syria, slender Saluki dogs galloping behind. To improve their speed and endurance, he straddles his motorbike and sets off at full speed across the arid fields on the outskirts of his village, the pack of dogs darting after him in a cloud of white dust. © Delil SOULEIMAN Hunting dogs run together in the village of Ad-Derbasiyah in Syria's Kurdish-held northeastern Hasakah province, where many will be exported for racing in the Gulf The dogs he breeds can be sold for one to four million Syrian pounds (around $400 to $1,600 at the black market exchange rate), depending on th

usr: 38
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