He starts his car every morning and drives around on Hyderabad roads to repair the potholes. He has filled over 1,100 potholes so far and has exhausted his pension in this process. Know more about the selfless changemaker.
Gangadhara Tilak Katnam is a 67-years old retired Railway employee. For someone who has spent a large part of his life in service, the regular course would be to enjoy his retirement and relax with family and friends.
But did we say Gangadhara is a regular man? No. He is a man on a mission. A mission to fill the dangerous, life-taking potholes on Indian roads. Every day, he goes out in a car and wherever he spots a pothole, he makes sure he fills it up.
The backseat of his car always has a few gunny bags full of tar mixed gravel, which he collects from roadsides. Starting his venture with five bags, Gangadhara’s car now carries eight to ten such bags which are emptied whenever a pothole is spotted.
And when he stopped finding the dumped gravel on the roadside, he started purchasing it from the contractors by spending money from his own pocket. Such is his dedication to make Hyderabad roads safer for the commuters.
“One day, I was driving my car when suddenly it fell into a pothole and splashed the muddy water filled in it on to a few street kids nearby. I felt so ashamed. I spent Rs. 5,000 to buy the necessary material and filled that pothole,” recalls Gangadhara.
Since then, he hasn’t looked back and gone on to fill over 1,125 potholes so far. For two and half years, he filled potholes single-handedly and with his own money.
Now many citizens and software engineers are joining in Gangadhara’s “Shramadaan” (voluntary contribution of labour). From June 2012, the GHMC (Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation) started supplying BT MiX material to Gangadhara.
Every day, he starts in the morning for his shramadaan and drives on long routes across Hyderabad to find potholes to repair.
“It had become like an addiction. Even when I was in service, I would leave my office during lunch time, repair a pothole and come back,” he says, recalling the days when he worked with an infotech company after his retirement.
The job was intense and he could not find much time to devote to his mission. That is when he decided to quit his job and take on his mission on a full-time basis.
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Seeing him work on the roadside, no one came forward to help him. But the lack of support from both government and citizens never stopped this determined man from doing what he believed in.
“I became more serious about filling potholes as I witnessed a couple of unfortunate events. A guy on a bike lost both his limbs and an auto collided into a bus causing injuries to the passengers; and both these incidents were caused due to potholes,” he says.
Gangadhara spends Rs. 500 every day on fuel, making sure that no pothole is left unrepaired. The good samaritan believes that if he can do field work at this age, anyone else can also do some or other kind of work to eliminate the “avoidable sufferings” to our people.
The task that he has been doing every day without fail has not been easy. His wife, who was not too happy with his shramadaan, called their son, Ravi, from the US to stop Gangadhara. But when Ravi saw the need of such work, he started financially supporting his father to continue the work. Ravi also developed an app for Gangadhara, which can be used by people to send the locations of potholes to him.
He does not accept any donations or funds and has no employees. His work completely runs on his sheer determination.
“I want the government to take prompt actions because potholes are very dangerous. In Hyderabad, GHMC is utilizing 30 trucks of BT mix material daily to fill the potholes. If transparency is maintained about the daily movement and utilization of these 30 trucks, there will not be any potholes on the roads. It may be the similar problem in other cities/town also and if transparency is maintained in pothole filling, we can save thousands of crores of Rupees nation-wide and can ensure pothole-free roads,” he says.
Gangadhara’s amazing work has surely given us a reason to celebrate the power of a common man.