Bihar's Real Strength- Its People

Indra R Sharma


Here are two stories of two raw villagers about whom India, particularly Bihar should feel proud. One moved a mountain, and the other one keeps on innovating useful products. The first is an example of perseverance and the second of fertile brains that you find in plenty in India.

The Story of Perseverance

In Gahlor Ghati of Gaya, over four decades ago, a frail, landless farmer, Dashrath Manjhi got hold of a chisel and a hammer to tear open a 300-feet-high hill to create a one-km passage to change the face of his village. Manjhi, then in his early 20s, chiselled and hammered at the rocks for 22 years.

As reported, this feat, part of local folklore now, started out of Manjhi's love for his wife. She slipped off the rocks while getting food for him as he worked in a field beyond the hill and broke her ankle.

His acquaintances and neighbours called him 'pagal' and even his wife and parents opposed his "adventure" when Dasharath sold his goats to buy the chisels and hammer. But all that steeled his resolve. He shifted his hut close to the hill to work all day and night, chipping away, little by little. "I did not even bother to eat," he says today.

In 1982, Manjhi completed the task, which reduced a long and arduous journey from his village Gahlor Ghati to Wazirganj to a walkable distance. One could walk through a clear flat passage - about 16-feet wide - to the other side of the hill.

But his victory was tinged with sadness. His wife, the inspirstion behind his task, was not by his side. "She died of illness. We could not take her to a hospital on time," says Manjhi.
And many youngsters of the village talk of Dasharath story. "We grew up hearing stories of the man who wanted to move a mountain. Today, it's a reality and a boon for the villagers."

Nothing has changed but for this hand-carved passage for the village. Electric poles were put up, but the cables never came. And a five-acre plot given by former CM Lalu Prasad to Manjhi for a hospital still lies barren. Will it change now with a technocrat, surprisingly civil engineer, in the highest chair of the state? I wish it did and Dasharath could see the hospital constructed and named after his wife.

However, Septagenarian Manjhi is hopeful. "I met CM Nitish Kumar recently. He has promised to develop the passage so that even a car can pass and will connect my village to Gaya. And, he told me that he would lay the foundation stone."

Will Nitish Kumar, as he is a busy man, remember the promise made and honour the hero who moved the mountain?

Another equally exciting story goes around Mohammad Saidullah of Motihari district, Bihar.

The Story of Innovative Mind

Mohammad Saidullah has a wonderful innovative mind and a complete devotion to whatever he works on. A dozen environment-friendly and agriculture-based inventions, each named after his late wife Noor, are his proud achievements.

Mohammad Saidullah heard of the devastation of the recent flood in Gujarat and this moved him to make a water rickshaw. He wants to donate it to the state, but doesn't know how to get it across.

The one-month-long flood of 1975 inspired him to develop the water bicycle. "I found it difficult to cross the river to go to the city. It struck me that I could design a bicycle that could float on water and move on land. It took only three days to develop it," he says. The other ideas up his sleeve: a mini-electric powerhouse and a low-cost helicopter.

Son of a farmer, Saidullah, 63, studied up to class 10. His passion has cost him dear. His son has deserted him and he had to sell 40 bighas of land to realise his inventions.

A team from Council for Advancement of People's Action and Rural Technology tested the fodder-cutter operated mini water pump and evinced interest. The Technology Information Forecasting and Assessment Council sent him Rs 25,000 to develop the bicycle. On January 26, 1994, he received an award for his inventions from the district magistrate of East Champaran. The following year he got first prize for a tableau of his innovations at the Republic Day Parade in Patna. In 2005, President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam presented him with the National Award for grassroots innovators for developing the amphibious bicycle.
Since his innovations do not bring in enough income, he supplements it with the honey business. He travels 30 km on his bicycle every day to sell his produce at the market.

Unfortunately, Bihar's leadership over years has failed to use the potentials of its sons and daughters who bring real honours to Bihar. Can't someone take a lead in taking care of these brave and dedicated people of Bihar? Can't someone help Mohammad Saidullah to commercialise some of his inventions or get them patented? Can't Nitish Kumar come out some discretionary grants so that he gets back the land that he had to sell? Can't some NRB (Non Resident Biharis that will be in Patna very soon) financially help the man so that he feels satisfied and happy that the society has taken care of him?