The inhabitants of the Talabaitarani village in the Banspal block of Odisha’s Keonjhar district were at their wit’s end due to the lack of water in the area, which led to repeated crop failure. The erratic rains only added to their misery.
However, Daitari Nayak, a 75-year-old farmer, was determined to resolve this issue somehow. He figured out that a stream that came out from Gonasika mountains could be a source of water and got to work.
Just like Dasrath Manjhi, who moved mountains to build a road in Jharkhand, Nayak carved out a 3-km-long canal, through the mountain. This was in 2010.
Armed with a hoe and a crowbar, the farmer ignored the sneers of his fellow villagers, and quietly dug through the mountainous roads. It was four months before he got any help. His four brothers eventually joined him joined in, and the rest of his village chipped in after the canal was built by the Nayak siblings, with pebbles, mud and rocks they found near their village.
The canal was finally completed in 2013 and has helped irrigate over 100 acres of land in Talabaitarani village for the last five years. The villagers do not face any water shortage and are now growing paddy, maize, mustard and other vegetables.
The old man’s efforts haven’t gone unnoticed. Ashish Thakre, Keonjhar’s district collector, praised Nayak’s grit and determination and said that the district administration would help Nayak and the villagers make the structure a concrete one and possibly build a permanent check dam. The district administration will also felicitate Nayak for his efforts in bringing water to the farms.
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This is not the first time villagers have taken things into their own hands. Left in the margins, a vast community of underprivileged Indians survive on nothing but incredible will and labour. Read here, about how Jalandhar Nayak, another tribal vegetable seller from Odisha’s Kandhamal district, carved a road through hillocks, to send his kids to school.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)